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Building a Winning Team

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

Building a winning team was not part of a strategic plan of building Fab Lab ICC. Indeed, there was no strategic plan, however there has been and still are "planning-on-the-go."  

Yet, we've ended up with a great team; growing in number and learning to work together more effectively every week. As I look back over the last three and one-half years, I believe I can see some things that happened that have led to this winning team we have at Fab Lab ICC right now. Some of it was done intentionally, much just happened and some is being learned as we move forward. This method has not involved looking at a single resume, yet I would put our results up against the most regimented hiring best practices. 

Started With the Why 

First, we always try to convey our "why," inspired by Simon Sinek's TED Talk (You Tube: Simon Sinek, Why). In the beginning, our "why" was to help people learn to make something. After the first few months, we started to see the increase in people's self-efficacy (a psychological term for a special kind of self-confidence.) Today, our "why" is simply to increase the self-efficacy of everyone involved in Fab Lab ICC. This includes people of all ages, from all walks of life and in all stages of life. The Fab Lab experience seems to affect nearly everyone in a positive way. Our team members share this "why" and I believe it is an important factor in making our team work well together. 

The Team Grew Organically Along With Our Needs 

One day in July of 2014, in the ICC library, I spoke with Tim Haynes, who I didn't know very well. He was excited to show me an Internet story about some people that were building bicycles out of bamboo. I knew right then and there that he was the one I wanted to come on board as the Lab manger.  

Activity and opportunities exploded over the first couple of years of operation until we worked hard to get another staff position approved; one we would call "Program Developer." I had worked near the ICC instruction office early-on in my time at ICC and had seen how Laura Schaid worked in that office. When I found out she might be available to transition to the Lab, I knew she would be a good fit.  

Melissa Ashford, officially a faculty, not Lab staff member, knows of the magic of experiential learning, a key benefit of a maker environment and part of our "why." She believes in the "why" so strongly that she has moved into our domain and will conduct most all of her computer and technology classes in our buildings and will incorporate making and doing in all of them. As a side benefit, she's also turned her love of sewing into the beginnings of "Sew Fab", a fabric division of Fab Lab ICC. 

The Team Now Includes Contract Vendors and Volutneers 

In addition, we've incorporated contract vendors such as Joanne Smith and Miranda Eastwood, dba Fab Creative services. Fab Creative is helping us administer and manage two grant programs that we would not be able to take on without help. 

We've cultivated a growing network of volunteers who help us keep the lab open with extended hours for our members. Some are working full-time in their careers, some are retired. They all share our "why" and are willing to give of their time to help. 

As we build the team, we struggle to put structure and documentation into place, including written and video operating procedures to minimize the learning curve when new staff, volunteers, members and students want to learn to accomplish tasks of make things. The team is constantly evolving and changing in response to new conditions and opportunities. We trust each other and we cover for each other as we work to build programs and experiences for our members, students and community members.  

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at or Twitter @jimcorrellks. 

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