By Berta Lázaro, co-founder and director of TeamLabs Barcelona.
We have been designing this idea of a radical team learning laboratory for 10 years. We wanted to create a space, a new urban facility, a socio-cultural centre, where diverse teams could come together to create and be forced to learn together about the problems that they share, and those that are of interest to them. For us, the problem in 2011 was youth unemployment, which was almost 50%, twice as high as in the rest of Europe.
We were so convinced that what we were doing was the right thing that which made clear in the name of the company we set up and after ten years we understand so much more what it means. We were a laboratory when we were 2 teams and 29 people in Madrid, 18 when we started in Barcelona, 26 in Malaga. And we are still a laboratory now with 1000 people and over 60 teams. And we will be a lab when they join and we can include new communities and we are in new locations.
As a lab, we are inspired by the culture of scientific research labs, citizen labs and social innovation labs. In all of them, experimenting is the right way to approach the challenges we want to take on, problems we want to tackle, that are too complex to know the solution to first hand and to be able to plan and strategise.
It was vital to anchor this constant search for solutions because we believed in this system from the very beginning. Complexity is here to stay. Uncertainty surrounds us in everything we do, “The Unknown is coming”, as we said in 2018. And for this the only solution we have is to come together and create solutions together. To collaborate in a radical way. That’s why our methodology is based on working and learning in teams.
Teams that are obsessed with tackling complex challenges, with solving real problems for real people, that are determined to make them sustainable over time in order to transcend and generate change. And for that they have to create projects, companies, businesses that are needed in the market and can change the rules of the game.
With the LEINN degree and the Mondragon Team Academy network, we are starting to build a community that never stops doing. A community that is hungry to learn because it has the ambition to create. We have fostered an entrepreneurial curiosity and we have put it into practice on a daily basis with the “Look again, think again, do again” mentality.
Our laboratory places special emphasis on the processes of creation and training of teams. It gives them tools, sets up practices, i.e. it creates spaces that allow for reflection, sharing knowledge and scaling up projects. We have a language. A shared mentality that puts us in the same position of wanting to DO.
And we have given meaning to this cycle of joint creation which forces us to LEARN. And by doing and learning we can earn a living. Learning by doing, we say. Ours is not just Learning by doing, it is Learning by billing, to build exciting, relevant and sustainable companies, also on an economic level.
In the LIT programme, the Master’s degree in learning facilitation and innovation, there are people who call themselves agents of change and join forces to face change. In New Roles we have professionals from educational institutions, people who are tired of innovating individually in their classrooms and want to use tools strategically to foster changes that their students can take advantage of, great heroes and heroines who have fought through the whole pandemic and still have strength left. In CLO, Chief Learning Officer, there are the people who understand that there is a new profession focused on strategic learning, which is the one that is linked to managing strategy, committed to fostering talent. And at MTalent there are the people who are committed to managing the talent of these new organisations that we want to build.
The organisations that we work with and that approach us sense and see in us that we can accompany their changes by rolling up our sleeves, getting involved in learning with their teams, despite the resistance inherent to the inertia of the organisations and despite the nostalgia, the difficulty and the pain of leaving behind what we know how to do well.
We are in companies, in the third sector, in education, in academia, in public administration. We have a strong identity that is recognised by the way we are in the world. We feel free. We feel capable. Because we have spaces, teams and tools to learn whatever we set our minds to, whatever is proposed to us, we will be able to tackle the following challenges in our society. We are ready!
As Xavier Marcet says, to innovate is not to get tired. We are not tired, we have some scars, but we are wiser, we have energy, we are many. And new people are always arriving.
This new cry is for us. For our community, to engage us. You have made it possible. THANK YOU all for the effort, for sharing your knowledge, your successes, and achievements, low points and high points. We’re on to the next! We haven’t come this far to only get this far!
And for the next ones to join the radical learning labs of the world, we need to tackle challenges with more diversity, better technology, more colour, more women, more impact, more accessibility. Next we need to do it with others, with more of us, we need to spread this desire and share this way of doing to keep on doing.
SIDE NOTE: Speech delivered at the event initiating the new era and the new TeamLabs/Face the Next brand (19 October 2022).