#5 What Makes an Effective Team “Effective?”

Notre Dame Football. Apollo 11. Apple. Google. Ford. Navy SEALS.

All of these teams are effective ones, but what makes them effective? There are so many different combinations of team makeups. Teams may be composed of extraverts, introverts, programmers, analysts, entrepreneurs, and leaders; just to name a few. But what makes these individuals successful in a team setting?

Nowadays, teamwork and group projects are the new norm. People who once sought peaceful solitude are now being brought into teams to work collaboratively. We have long known that teamwork is required when working with others. However, collaborative work has become incredibly important in the workplace, especially at Google. Google decided to conduct research in order to figure out what exactly makes successful teams so successful.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” — Aristotle

They aptly named their research, Project AristotleThe researchers decided to undertake the observation of over a hundred teams for more than a year. They found that the composition of a team does not really affect the team’s effectiveness. They observed effective teams made completely of friends and teams made of complete strangers. They could not really make any conclusions.

The researchers continued to look for patterns when they came across a common idea shared amongst psychologists and sociologists: “group norms.” These group norms would be “unwritten rules” where everyone would act accordingly. These unwritten rules seem to come about due to group dynamics and interactions. Google noticed that some teams would communicate through open and unorganized meetings while other teams would communicate in organized and regimented meetings.

The “who” part of the question was no longer important. The “how” part of the question would emerge later on in the research. How do group norms and behaviors contribute to a team’s effectiveness? The researchers eventually found that what differentiated a good team from a bad one was how the individuals treated one another within the team.

More specifically, they found that members of good teams spoke evenly in terms of time. This would allow for their collective intelligence to grow, making them more effective. The researchers also found that good teams were highly sensitive to social cues. This means that members were able to know how another member was feeling based off of their tone of voice, expressions or other nonverbal cues. These two variables actually fall under a different term: psychological safety. Good teams would feel a sense of safety when taking risks by suggesting new or contrasting ideas.

Teams with a high sense of psychological safety perform better. They feel more energized after a meeting with the team. They feel a sense of accomplishment rather than frustration. Good teams listen to one another, feel deeply, share experiences, connect, and understand.

When we think of teams like Apollo 11, Navy SEALS, and of course, the 1970s Notre Dame Football Team, we think of a machine. If the parts are oiled, they can work together to create something big. It is important that each part is maintained and looked after.

Good teams listen and good teams feel.


Resources: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/what-google-learned-from-its-quest-to-build-the-perfect-team.html?smid=pl-share

#4 Sea Turtles and the Great Barrier Sea Wall

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” – Native American Proverb 

Climate change is a true phenomenon that is posing a threat to global ecosystems and populations. Climate change is a topic that is especially important to me as I have seen the effects of this issue during my time volunteering with a local Delray Beach conservation group, Sea Turtle Adventures. As a volunteer, I spent much of my time learning about the different species of turtles.

I learned how to differentiate between species based on the shapes of their tracks. I also learned how to spot a “false crawl,” which occurs when a sea turtle goes to lay her eggs but instead returns to the ocean without laying her eggs. False crawls can be affected by many different factors including the presence of seawalls.

Sea turtles find the southeastern United States especially attractive for laying eggs. According to a study, 90% of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) nest on Florida beaches. However, about 25% of beaches along Florida’s east coast are protected by some sort of seawall or bulkhead.

Although seawalls are designed to protect the land from the dangers of storm surges and strong waves, they also have negative effects on wildlife. Seawalls increase the intensity of longshore currents which in turn increases beach erosion. Seawalls also increase the slope of the shore which can cause problems for sea turtles and their hatchlings.

Sea turtles are affected greatly by these massive protective structures. Suitable nesting sites may be made inaccessible, sea turtles may abandon their nesting attempt, the mortality of clutches (groups of eggs) may increase, and nesting habitat may be lost due to long-term beach erosion (Schroeder and Mosier 1998).

A group of researchers published a study in the “Journal of Coastal Research” on the effects of seawalls on nesting attempts made by loggerhead sea turtles. The researchers found that seawalls reduced nesting success and increased the likelihood of nests being washed away during storm events (Rizkalla and Savage 2011).

The reliance on seawalls will continue to intensify as the sea level continues to rise due to global warming and climate change. As a result of the increasing temperature, severe storms are also predicted to worsen which will decrease the hatching rate of sea turtles.

More research is needed on the impact of seawalls, as the study I referenced is now seven years old.

….

Thank you for reading! As a Jupiter native, this issue is near and dear to my heart. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section. Also, if you want to be updated when I post something new, type your email into the subscribe section

With love,

Darby


Resources:

Rizkalla CE, Savage A. 2011. Impact of seawalls on loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) nesting and hatching success. Journal of Coastal Research. 27(1):166-173.

 

#3 When in a Coffee Shop

When in a coffee shop, free smells of rich espresso float around the room. Concentrated eyes are glued to screens or books. Smooth jazz fills the air to mute the sounds of typing fingers and the odd tick of the refrigerated coolers. Soft laughter is exchanged between groups of friends. When in a coffee shop, I feel at home.

When I was little, my mother always had a cup of coffee in her hands. She always raved about her morning coffee and would quibble with her best friend over what coffee chain was superior. Eventually, I adopted her views on the beloved novelty. When I reached high school, I found myself spending more time in local Jupiter and West Palm coffee shops: whether it was to meet up with friends or to study.

When I moved to Gainesville, my love for coffee shops followed me. I still find myself spending quite a bit of time in local shops like Wyatt’s. Places like Wyatt’s and Subculture have always been a place where I can go to pound out some work or do some relaxing reading. I have also engaged in so many different conversations with local customers that have widened my view of my two different homes: Jupiter and Gainesville.

In my opinion, these cozy shops have brought coffee-lovers and workaholics together more than the typical Starbucks or Dunkin’. There is something unique that local shops offer that the large chains lack—a sense of community. Not only can you get your ‘morning joe,’ you can also engage with the local community.

Next time you go out to get coffee, consider trading in your Venti Caramel Macchiato and cake pops for a simple latte from a local shop. Hopefully, when you are there, you can feel some of the very things that I feel as I sit in my local shop. You can also feel good about supporting local coffee suppliers and the local economy.

With love,
Darby

#2 Designer Food: Organic vs Genetically Modified

As agricultural production has evolved, terms and phrases like ‘organic’ and ‘genetically modified organism’ have entered our vocabulary. What are these modified organisms we see labeled in supermarkets?

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been used since the production of insulin. The purpose of genetically modifying something is to bring out desirable traits while eradicating the undesirable traits. However, some people have become increasingly suspicious of these modified foods we now unknowingly purchase and consume.

Two Types of GMOs: First Gen vs Second Gen

First generation GM products are produced to benefit farmers as they are resistant to pests and disease. First generation products are essentially produced to increase yield and to save money. Second generation GM products benefit the consumer due to their improved nutrition, flavor, and taste. The market for second-generation GM foods has grown with the increased interest in improved nutrition. However, the market for organic foods, foods which have not been modified, has grown as well.

Willingness to Pay for Foods with Different Levels of GM Content

A recent study was published in the Journal of Food Distribution Research on the topic of consumer’s willingness to pay (WTP). The objective of the study was to determine consumer WTP for foods produced with different traits: first-generation GM, second-generation GM, and organic. The second objective was to examine WTP for non-GM foods with a tolerance level for GM ingredients that may have entered the production process. To gather results, the researchers conducted a survey from two universities. They asked questions regarding knowledge of GM and organic foods, opinions regarding labeling (which is another issue in itself), and confidence in the ability of agencies to ensure the safety of the food supply (Bernard et al. 2009).

The researchers found that consumers were willing to pay the most for organic foods like milk and cereal. It is also important to note that the consumers were more concerned with the GM content of fresh foods and therefore willing to pay more. The second highest value for WTP fell under the second-generation GM category most likely because of improved nutrition. The consumers were not as concerned with first-generation GM foods because paying more would not benefit them directly, as the producers would be benefitting the most.

Furthermore, the researchers found that 52 percent of the students were unsure if they had eaten GM products. This statistic may be a result of the inadequate labeling of genetically modified foods. About 44 percent were sure they had eaten GM products while only 5 percent believed they had never eaten GM products.

Additionally, the researchers found that students were most concerned about pesticides and fertilizers while they were least concerned about non-GM foods, most likely due to the low awareness of GM-content in the food supply (Bernard et al. 2009).

Threshold Levels for GM Content

The researchers suggested that a one percent threshold would be a reasonable limit for GM content in non-GM foods. Consequently, foods beyond the one percent threshold would have to be labeled as GM.

This differs greatly from the standards that China has set. In China, there is a zero-tolerance threshold. In order to be non-GM, there cannot be any modified ingredients in the product. A zero-tolerance policy would be unrealistic in the United States as about 80% of maize, cotton, and soy, are of GM varieties (Maghari and Ardekani 2011).

The Benefits and Dangers of GMOs

Benefits

Resistant to pests and plant disease

Allows for nutritional enhancement

Allows farmers to increase production yield

Tolerant to droughts

Dangers

Can introduce risks to food security

Can be harmful to the environment

Can allow for the emergence of superweeds and superpests

Can contribute to the loss of biodiversity

Increase antibiotic resistance

Increase food allergies

(Maghari and Ardekani 2011).

The Debate on Genetic Modification

The debate over the production of GM foods falls between agri-biotech investors and independent scientists, environmentalists, farmers, and consumers. The investors believe that the new technology can solve issues of food and resource scarcity. Those against GM foods warn that GM products introduce new risks to food security, the environment, and human health. Maghari and Ardekani suggest that biotech companies proceed with caution when producing new GM foods as human health and the environment may be at risk.

 


References

Bernard JC, Gifford K, Santora K, & Bernard DJ. 2009. Willingness to pay for foods with varying production traits and levels of GM content. Journal of Food Distribution Research 40(2): 1-10.

Maghari BM & Ardekani AM. 2011. Genetically modified foods and social concerns. Avicenna Journal of Medical Biotechnology 3(3): 109-115.

#1 My First Semester at UF

Summer term at the University of Florida consists of frat parties, girls puking on sidewalks, getting soaked on the way to class, sprained ankles, constant coffee, sweating through shirts, and of course, class.

Before going to Gainesville, I was really worried that I would absolutely hate it. Even though it is always sticky, hot, humid, and full of mosquitos, I have grown to love it. Being on campus warms my heart. I absolutely love being surrounded by so many like-minded people (maybe except for the girls puking on sidewalks).

I went into my first semester at UF not really knowing what I wanted to study or major in. I only took two classes during this term: an argumentative writing class and a wildlife issues class. Both classes were incredibly enriching and only excited me more for the Fall term when I would be taking four classes. I also finished these classes having more an idea of what I want to study during my four years here.

While I wasn’t in class or studying, I was out trying to get involved. Within the first couple of weeks, I applied to one of the school’s literary magazines to become a prose editor. I ended up getting a position within the magazine and will be joining the team this fall. I also got involved politically. I started volunteering with the Amol Jethwani campaign for the Florida House. Working with Amol and the team has been incredible. I have gone canvassing in the Florida heat and phone banking in the small campaign office.

Being here, at the University of Florida, has afforded me so many opportunities in such a short time. I cannot wait to see what the Fall semester has to offer.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them down below.

With love,
Darby