Business Academy Aarhus

The “Experts in Teams” course at BAAA is an extra-curricular course focused on innovation and interdisciplinary teamwork.

How is the course set up?
General framework

At Business Academy Aarhus (BAAA) Experts in Teams is inspired NTNU, but the method has been modified to suit our general strategy, focus and goals. The overall frame for Experts in Teams at BAAA thus consists of several elements:

  • The academy’s strategy and development contract, which focus on interdisciplinary competencies and innovation
  • The academy’s practice-based education programmes where students regularly participate in collaboration with companies to apply theory in practical settings
  • The academy’s goal of fulfilling the needs of companies who look for employees with effective interdisciplinary and intercultural
Course Setup

BAAA has worked with Experts in Teams since 2013. The frame for the course is a real-life challenge presented by a company. Through an innovation process, the students work together in interdisciplinary teams to solve the challenge. In 2017, the course consisted of an extracurricular activity made up by four modules (Friday afternoons) and a two-day workshop, where approx. 100 students participated.

Each of the four modules has its own theme:

  • Module 1: Kick-off
  • Module 2: The team
  • Module 3: The innovation process
  • Workshop: The highpoint
  • Module 4: Leaning outcome and evaluation

Module 1-3 and the workshop begin with a lecture for all students, while the following innovative teamwork takes place in the so-called ’villages’. Each village typically contains five to six teams and each team comprise five to six students. Each village is connected to one of the case companies, and the different villages thus have different company challenges and different winners for best solution to the challenge. In 2017, students were divided into three villages, there were three case companies, three challenges and three winners.

The Expert in Teams at BAAA course setup as of 2017.

Examples of case companies

The 2 following videos represent the 2 case companies RAA and 9days that participated in the Experts in Teams programme at EAAA in 2018. The 2 videos is an example on how to present the case and innovation challenge to the participants/students.

Participants

Students from all the academy’s faculties have the possibility to apply for Expert in Teams. In addition, students are invited from selected partner institutions abroad.

Output

The output is the presentation during the workshop’s final day. Here, the companies visit each exhibition stand made by the teams in the villages for 10-15 minutes. Students are encouraged to include the following in their exhibition:

  • A short pitch presenting their idea/concept/proposal (max. three minutes) when the company arrives at their exhibition stand.
  • A poster illustrating their idea/concept/proposal.
  • A PowerPoint or Prezi presentation.
  • Handouts or flyers.
  • A prototype made out of paper, cardboard, clay etc.
  • A mock-up of a website or app.
  • …what they find illustrates their idea best.

Based on the exhibition, the companies announce the winner for best idea among the five/six teams in the villages. The winning teams are awarded.
The ideas are among others evaluated based on innovation height, potential, realisability and how well the elements from the overall theme are reflected in the idea.

All students who have completed the course receive a diploma containing a confirmation of completion and acquired competencies, and it is recognised as an extracurricular activity in their final diploma.

Learning Objectives

The learning objectives are inspired by NTNU with the aim that students utilise their and their team’s personal skills, practical experience and theoretical competencies. In further detail, the learning objectives consist of:

  • Knowledge about:
    • Interdisciplinary teamwork, group dynamics, and facilitation.
    • The different stages of the innovation process.
    • Techniques for idea generation and idea development.
  • Skills – the students must be able to:
    • Communicate and apply his/her own knowledge in an interdisciplinary setting.
    • Develop and present innovative solutions to specific company challenges within the development of new business opportunities and growth.
    • Observe and reflect upon the team’s working process, how the team deals with personal and professional differences, solves tasks, and manages disagreements/conflicts.
  • Competencies – the students must learn to:
    • Reflect on his/her own experiences and develop his/her own practice based on his/her experiences.
    • Collaborate with people with other personal, academic, and professional backgrounds to solve development oriented tasks.
    • Work systematically with creativity and innovative processes.
Involvement of micro, small and medium-sized companies

The academy has adapted the Experts in Teams course from NTNU to the context of the academy, namely, by the involvement of micro, small and medium-sized companies. Experts in Teams at the academy has presented the students various real-life cases which challenge primarily small companies. A previous case has involved the development of a micro company’s organic poultry farming with concern for the environment. Another case has been about the development of new, sustainable packaging for a dairy company.

Organisation and support structures

Apart from the facilitators, the Experts in Teams course at the academy involves the following support structure:

  • Project coordination: Experts in Teams belongs to the Research and Innovation department at Business Academy Aarhus. Two project coordinators develop the overall framework for the course so that the master facilitators are able to develop the specific contents of the course and execute it.
  • Contact with companies: The senior lecturer and company liaison officer at the academy is responsible for the contact with the case companies and drafting of company challenges.
  • International guest management: In 2017, one intern under the Research and Innovation department has contact with external guests who came to participate or overserve the workshop. The intern also created a programme for guest students and visiting partner institutions
  • Research: In 2017, two researchers from the Research and Innovation department at the academy have been connected to Experts in Teams, since the academy was developing a facilitation model based on the experienced of Experts in Teams, among others.
How do students improve interdisciplinary teamwork skills?

Interdisciplinary teamwork is a cornerstone in Experts in Teams at the academy. ‘Interdisciplinary’ in this context defined as the possibility for learning about other educational backgrounds and working actively with this interdisciplinary setup in a team.

Students from different educational backgrounds are put together in a team in which they create a solution for the company challenge using their different competencies, skills and experiences. The teams are made as interdisciplinary in composition as possible. Ideally, maximum two students are from the same subject area in each group.

Through lectures, exercises and tools, the students are made aware of benefits and challenges in interdisciplinary teamwork and how to heighten its efficiency.

The students’ feedback on Experts in Teams at the academy confirms that the course has contributed to the enhancement of students’ cooperative skills with people from other educational as well as cultural backgrounds and who they didn’t know beforehand. The students furthermore state that they have become more aware of their own educational, theoretical and personal strengths and limitations.

The demand from Danish companies for interdisciplinary teamwork competencies is high, and Experts in Teams at the academy thus contributes to the education of attractive and competent future employees by equipping them with interdisciplinary competencies.

How do students improve innovation skills?

Business Academy Aarhus has worked actively with innovation and entrepreneurship for several years. Innovation has become an integrated part of most study programmes, and the academy continues its work with increasing innovation and entrepreneurship in the programmes.

It is against this backdrop that Experts in Teams takes place. Experts in Teams has added the interdisciplinary mind set, facilitation and reflection to the academy’s existing understanding of innovation.

During Experts in Teams the students work with generating new ideas based on a company’s current challenges. Selected educators (master facilitators) facilitate the groups, give lectures on innovation processes and make exercises with the students in order to enhance innovation.

Inspired by, among others, the method of Design Thinking, the teams work to present the prototype (or other type of visualisation) of their ideas to the company. The academy makes various material available for the students to use (e.g. cardboard, clay, tape, scissors) and the students are encouraged to find and bring relevant material. A part of the students also chooses to make mock-ups for websites or apps.

How do students work with reflection?

Since 2017, the academy has prioritised reflection exercises as an integrated part of Experts in Teams. The exercises have been developed for module one to three, and master facilitators have been provided with materials about how to introduce the exercises.

The students have for instance reflection on their own role in the team, the different work approaches in the team and the team’s joint competencies. These exercises have worked as a way to increase the effectiveness of interdisciplinary teamwork and the students’ competencies hereof.

Furthermore, master facilitators reflect in joint sessions on the Experts in Teams process via the so-called ‘Learning Loops’ in order to develop their role as facilitators.

How do we work with facilitation?

The academy’s work with facilitation in Experts in Teams is highly inspired by the method of NTNU. The academy appoints a number of master facilitators (nine in 2017), who work as teachers at the academy. They have the responsibility for their assigned village (three facilitators per village) and the processes in their village. Furthermore, the master facilitators participate in the development of the Experts in Teams lectures. In 2017, the master facilitators additionally participated in a competency development workshop in cooperation with NTNU. It is not a requirement that the master facilitators hold knowledge of the specific theme of the year.
A smaller number of co-facilitators (five in 2017) also participates in the course and assists the master facilitators.

Overview of tools

Interdiciplinary teamwork tools and exercises: Competency triangle, collaboration agreement, reflection book.

Innovation tools and exercises: The innovation process (red, yellow and green), pitch.

Reflection tools and exercises: Reflection book, learning loops.

Get an appetizer of the 20 efficient team tools for the facilitation of teamwork in our tool book here:

Danish version: Danish tool book

English version: English tool book

If you are interested in the rest of the tool booklet, then please contact Ulla Haahr, ulha@eaaa.dk 

Contact person

Ulla Haahr

Project Portfolio Manager
Email: ulha@baaa.dk