Tackling Teamwork in Tanzania

As we’ve all come to know, group work inherently comes with peaks and valleys, high fives, handshakes and deep-seeded displeasure. Fisher makes a huge push for group work in the first-year curriculum. Whether it is the first-year core teams or this GAP project, group projects are part of every single class Fisher class. Fisher has adopted the “early and often” approach. We all learned about group dynamics throughout the year, formally and informally. Interestingly enough, we didn’t actually learn about it until second term, second semester in Dr. Tanya Menon’s Organizational Behavior course (not a coincidence, I’m sure). Most of the learning came from previous work experience along with trial and error from the first semester and a half.

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Our first week in Tanzania – still in the honeymoon phase.

Under normal circumstances, or in MBA talk – tons of homework, papers, projects, tests and group meetings, teams fall apart. It’s not what Fisher or any group wants, but it is reality. Take those normal stresses and toss in 24-plus hours of air travel, jet lag, culture shock and three weeks of close range, daily contact and you’ve got yourself a pressure cooker. The opportunities are amazing. The deadlines are strict. The potholes surround you (literally and figuratively).

None of us have traveled together, and you don’t really know someone until you’ve shared a bathroom (I’m sure a wise man or woman said that somewhere). Just like orientation period and the first few months of class, everyone is on their best behavior. No one wants to rock the boat. On one hand, it’s only three weeks together – we can do that, right? On the other hand, oh, crap – we’re here for 21 days, spending every waking hour together in a country we’ve never seen, eating food we’ve never had, talking to people who don’t speak the same language? Again, peaks and valleys, people.

Enjoying some traditional tea in a Maasai village.
Enjoying some traditional tea in a Maasai village.

All in all, we did just fine. We encountered multiple stomach ailments, a few cases of insomnia and jetlag, a deep-seeded desire for familiar food and reliable Internet, but hey, that’s nothing. As we work on the final critiques and edits for our final report, we can look back and say we successfully carried out what we set out to do from day one. We know the wealth of information we received will directly impact GWI’s efforts to better water access in rural Tanzania. The difficulties we encountered along the way are indeed potholes, but they’re also opportunities to grow as a team and gain insight into your teammates. When you strip it all away- the comforts of home and the familiarity of the routine- much more shines through than the buttoned up exterior many offer in class. I think I can confidently speak on behalf of all GAPers when I say, this is an amazing opportunity and an absolute must for future Fisher students looking to grow as business leaders in today’s global environment.

Our last picture before we went our own separate ways. Asante sana, Tanzania! Thank you, team GWI!
Our last picture before we went our separate ways. Asante sana, Tanzania! Thank you, team GWI!