Teamwork & Collaboration

“This incredible exchange of energy goes on onstage, where you’re almost transported. For me, the spark comes, very emotional, from the shared experience of what I’m singing about…I tend to be too self-conscious and judgmental when I’m alone. The audience is more unconditional, as if the channel is more open.”

Bonnie Raitt, quoted in “Creators on Creating” (Barron, 1997).

Collective creativity is powerful.

Working in teams and collaborating – whether inventing projects, designing new experiences, or brainstorming solutions – enhances my research and my work. I have been fortunate to both participate in and lead diverse interdisciplinary teams to tackle a variety of challenges. Part of what inspires me is helping teams to work better together, to enhance collective creativity.

Below are a few examples of some teams I have been a part of.

International Collaboration: IAI Global Change Research

As part of an Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) seminar, I joined a transdisciplinary research team of scientists, policy makers, and NGO staff to promote practices and policies to protect native grasslands. We represented Canada, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, and Ecuador and worked to break down both geographic and disciplinary boundaries to create change. Working with this team, I realized the power of technology to build connections while largely collaborating remotely, as well as the importance of creating a common language while working towards a shared goal. Connected to this work with IAI, I published an academic journal article with two IAI colleagues on food loss and food waste.

Community of Practice: Canadian STEM Teachers

In January 2019, I established a community of practice that invited STEM teachers from across Canada to convene in Ottawa to help shape future directions in education and professional development. The following year, we reconvened – doubling in size, extending our collaboration over multiple days, and finding more ways to continue supporting each other throughout the year. This endeavour has brought together diverse voices in education to broaden perspectives: preservice teachers, K-12 classroom teachers, postsecondary faculty, non-profit organizations and education policy makers all came together in this community. Parts of the video below, which highlights the national Teacher Training program I lead, were filmed at the 2019 inaugural meeting with teachers from this community of practice.

Distributed Teams: edacity – Future Career Paths

One program that I launched in early 2012 was edacity, a program focused on postsecondary paths and careers in STEM. As the lead of edacity, I managed three distributed teams across the province (Lethbridge, Red Deer, and Fort McMurray, Alberta). Creating a sense of connection while working apart can have challenges, so we maximized tools for remote communication and collaboration. In each of the three hubs, we built local advisory groups of industry representatives, postsecondary faculty, and career mentors to support youth transitioning out of high school. These collaborations helped us to create both local and province-wide networks with relevant STEM skills training for youth to help them transition into life beyond graduation.


Burstiness is like the best moments in improv jazz. Someone plays a note, someone else jumps in with a harmony, and pretty soon, you have a collective sound that no one planned. Most groups never get to that point, but you know burstiness when you see it.

Trevor Noah + Adam Grant, 2018


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