Saturday, June 14, 2008

Reflection on Nicole's collaboration

On the eve of my departure from Minnesota, Andrea reminded me: "Now remember, Nicole is twenty. She has spent the last year with her peer group and now she's trading them in for 9 weeks for a group that is all at least 10 years older than her. Plus, for the first 5 weeks she's the only woman in the group."

All true. But really, that's only the beginning of the abrupt transition Nicole has experienced the last 5 days. She's gone from 102 degree humidity to very dry and sometimes below freezing. From near sea level to 13,000 feet. From an English enviroment to 95% Spanish. From a house full of comforts to a backpack. From vegetarianism to carne, pollo y cerdo. From a peer group she knows and trusts to a group that, except for me, are all new people to her, and people that already have worked together for 7 years -- she is the only newcomer. And she has had to drastically recalibrate her relationship with me, going from office, library, and email collaboration to sharing daily supplies, every meal, and most hours of the day.

That is a massive transition.

Which is why I'm so delighted that Nicole is veritably bounding through it (albeit with breaks for oxygen between bounds -- this city is high -- so high that Nicole battled an Old Faithful-level geyser of a nosebleed this morning). At our first research team meeting a couple days ago, she jumped right in proposing a schedule for the following day's fieldwork -- and no one even asked her to! Cesar and I added our input and it was done.

Here are just a few obserations I jotted down in my notebook a couple days ago on how Nicole's collaboration is making our group function better:

1) Building a strong team dynamic. Through her participation in Macalester's Lives of Commitment program, Nicole has come to value reflective and intentional community building, and at her instigation we began a daily team meeting, which is usually right after dinner. This was Nicole's idea, but the basic structure is based on the Montessori group trip model pioneered by Doug Alecci and Lake Country School. First we talk about what we did and learned during the day, with an emphasis on things that went well and positive experiences. Second, we discuss what needs to be improved, including conflicts within our group. Third, we plan out the next day, with an eye to building on whatever we learned from the first two parts of the meeting. Finally, we conclude with thank-yous and compliments.

2) Nicole keeps us on schedule. I grew up a house where if it took you 17 minutes to get somewhere, you left 17 minutes before you wanted to arrive, and you were neither early nor late -- just right on time. At least this was my Dad's approach. It drove my Mom crazy. I take after my Dad on this one.

A not atypical exchange between me and a flight attendant: "Am I at the right gate? I don't see any people." "That's because they're ALL already on the plane... waiting for YOU."

Yet I've never missed a flight, which just seems to encourage me. But Nicole won't have it. Killing time during our Miami layover, I wanted to hike one last stretch of beach, but she insisted we head back, and a good thing since it took three slow buses to return to the airport (and we were hardly willing to spend $32 on a cab). Nicole is good at focusing on what needs to get done and keeping things on task.

3) Keeping me/us in check. Nicole and I are intense people and we approach most things in our lives with a lot of intensity and not much balance. It's part of why we were drawn to work together. My extreme nature manifests in most arenas of my life (work, play, politics, health, relationships, spending habits, itineraries, values and ethics, correspondence, and much more). This pretty much worked fine until I became a parent, at which point it all pretty much imploded. In 2007-08, Nicole and I each (separately) realized we needed more balance in our lives (she's 13 years ahead of me on this one). But while I'm still in a bit of denial, she's clearly more accepting of this reality and is assertively and helpfully insisting that Cesar, she, and I all do such radical things as eat regular meals, sleep relatively normal hours, take breaks during the day (gasp), and even (shudder) take the occasional day off.

All told, just five days into our time abroad, Nicole's essential contributions to making our research team function better are already evident. But... do we have to take breaks?



jerryolive said...

Take the breaks Paul. You have the same 1440 minutes in the day as everyone else.

Start today on this Father's Day. Observe what fathers are doing with their children on a Sunday. Reflect on your father and grandfather. Feel the role of father today.

This is the perfect day to start smelling the roses.

Zack said...

Welcome to Bolivia, Pablo and Nicolle! Great to live vicariously through your high-altitude, socially-conscious research. Keep up the good work!

Sarah said...

Nicole sounds awesome - I'd love to meet her! And yes, take breaks, eat, and sleep!