"However, we often talk about how to be a good team lead, but not a lot about how to be a good team member."
Her long and diverse professional journey by now condensed Triin Jassovs main focus: to creatively collaborate. Using formats as hackathons, workshops, research and event conception, Triin is expressing and sharing her urge to stimulate creative team dynamics. During her participation at the 72U Creative Residency, she could reflect on her own philosophy from the inside – being part of a team. Meanwhile, she was enjoying the task to deliver creative solutions within the urban context of Amsterdam. f
What might the future of city making look like? One answer may come from an unexpected place: the advertising agency 72andSunny Amsterdam. During this series of interviews, we will explore the ‘hybrid city maker’ talking to the makers, artist, and thinkers that were involved in the creative residency 72U that lived within 72andSunny Amsterdam.
Hi Triin, how would you like to introduce yourself?
When I finished my gymnasium I moved away from home to Denmark, where I studied international business. I think ever since this move I have been a nomad – I have lived in different places – and quite like it. My life used to be about travelling, creating start-up companies, and understanding your identity within all these different contexts. One of the companies was about building user experiences, digital tools. It was a time tracker for teams and the another one was a project management team calendar. That was a moment that I got very interested in teams. I discovered that most of the teams are dysfunctional, so I wanted to understand, why, and how they can work.
Is dysfunctional referring to an efficiency level or a human level?
In teamwork, it is about making a team succeed and delivering really great results as a team. Of course, also the human level is very much involved.
So, what next with these insights?
I decided to facilitate creative workshops for teams and for ideation and made some hackathons. Hackathons are a workshop format where you have a time frame of 24 hours, you have a problem and in the end, you have to deliver an app or a prototype. You have to go through the whole process from the idea to the execution. I also have been collaborating with the Digital Design School Hyper Island, to figure out a digital tool how to help teams to function. It is online, it is called hiteamweek.com
What is your role in the workshops?
We try to facilitate the process of how to empower people to be creative in a team. You have to experience and feel the value of team collaboration. You have to understand that it is something that you wouldn’t achieve individually. In order to do that you also need to understand how to actually work with your team: there are a lot of things, a lot of practical aspects. People have to understand clear goals and they have to be communicated clearly. Another step must be to let everyone express what he or she thinks because you have to involve everyone from the beginning. If it is only the team lead, to state the goal, I am quite sure, if you would ask the people, they will have different explanations, what they believe to be the goal. Different people or even departments will have different ideas, what the goal and benefit will be for them. If you don’t include everyone and make sure that everyone understands the overall success from the beginning, you can have a ‘fun time’. The main thing for me is to give a push, to start reflecting on these dynamics and think of new ways.
What is your personal drive that brought you into this ‘team realm’?
This goes way back, back to when I was in the fifth grade and started to play basketball. I was in a team, playing competitions, and at some point, I was even at the national youth team of Estonia. In basketball you realize that if you want to win or proceed you can be as good as you want to individually, but if the team doesn’t work and doesn’t understand each other, you will never going to win.
I think that was the first time I have realized, that I need to figure out how it does work. But in the end, I understood that everywhere you go, we always work in teams, at least at some level. However, we often talk about how to be a good team lead, but not a lot about how to be a good team member. That’s exactly what I experienced in most teams I’ve worked with: no one really knew how to be a good team member. And since no one is doing something on this matter, I decided to become a researcher on that.
How do you connect your basketball experiences to your work of today?
When I was still playing basketball, I’ve also taught a bit of basketball. Later I applied certain basketball exercises to general team building. For example, when I was working in Denmark we played a game, where there were two teams and one basketball. The challenge was that two people had to play together, bonded by a hula-hoop. These two people, when they wanted to move or get the ball, somehow needed to collaborate and move together and at the same time they needed to communicate with the bigger team. What is necessary on that level is also needed in other team situations.
You are participating at the 72U Creative Residency here in Amsterdam. Most of the projects you are collaborating with are linked to urban matters. Do you see a relationship between the city and your work?
It doesn’t really matter in which context you build experiences. Whether with people in public space, or people using a tool, or people working in a professional team, whether it is connecting people with technology or people with people – these elements have one underlying aspect: it’s all about people. Everywhere you need human collaboration and you need human teamwork. Everything is based on that in the end, so that’s where it starts. The things that you learn within one team you can apply to other relationships, whether it’s in public space or in the office. You can even imagine cities and countries as companies, as a big team.
The work of Vitor and Ivana [red.: other members of the 72U Creative Residency] is related very closely to the public space. I feel very inspired and connected with that. Mainly, since it is about building an experience and interacting with the crowd around you. Again – the crowd can be seen as a team, and here the circle becomes connected.
How do you relate to the term creative hybrid that is used in the 72U Creative Residency?
I think we can all very well identify with it. For me, one of the most difficult questions coming from people around me is: ‘So, what do you actually do?’. And I do a lot of things, I draw, I sketch, I paint, I cook, play basketball, design user experiences, I’ve been a translator, working with immigrants, then I have studied marketing and worked in that field. So there is all this — and a lot of new things come up all the time — which make this title perfect for me. And even more refined I would call myself a creative collaborator. This collaboration can take place with teams or with different industries. The central question always is: how can you bring this great collaboration going, using creativity and generating creativity? About the residency I like that it is not very well defined. You don’t go to an office with a clear role. I think that is what I needed, that’s why I applied and now I am here.
Within this context, which of your facets do you find most contributing?
Right now we are in the middle of the conceptual work, not yet the technical elaboration. This is of course very much about the team and the facilitation of our creativity. It is about how to make sure, that we give each other enough feedback that we are all fine, but not to leave out the tension — sometimes conflict needs to be there. Sometimes it is also challenging to understand, that if something in the team goes wrong it is not only my responsibility. But still, I can inspire, that when something is going a bit rocky, you cannot just step out or step back, to wait that someone else is doing something about it, but that it is also my responsibility to take it up. I think we are still finding a good balance in how to perform the way that we all feel satisfied, and all feel that what we create relates to us.
Where you also attracted to the program because you have to deliver the creative stuff?
What is creative to you?
Creative as in the real making part. Creative as in creating.
Yes, I didn’t apply for this opportunity to study the teamwork. I came here to be creative, to create and deliver solutions — within the context of a great collaboration with the agency and the cool companies and people involved in Amsterdam. I think I have always been working creatively. I have been in a business environment most of the time, but especially in the start-up context, you have to deliver and be creative all the time. But, there is not a lot of time to just wonder around and ideate. Ideas have very little value because you have little time. What I like about here is that there is more room to experience and experiment. Another really inspiring part is the collaboration and input from the agency 72andSunny itself. It was nice to see how their brain works, how to create a strategy from their perspective. It is basically learning every day.
Can you share a project around the urban context that inspires your own practice?
I am also a big coffee fan. That project from the United States is about coffee and how to connect coffee to people. It is a roaster place, where they roast high-quality coffee. They also take in local homeless people and teach them everything about the coffee. They even have this metaphor with the coffee: the way how you treat coffee, from beans, that you have to burn a little bit while you roast them, and that’s what gives the coffee the actual quality, is according to how people develop. The coffee place teaches them everything about the coffee, and once they are integrated, they can stay, or move on. What they basically do is giving the people back some dignity — and eventually, you give them back their hope and life. In my eyes, that is a perfect combination, and also something that I want to do: combining your passion, something that you are good at, with a nice edge how you can help others, and even making money with it.