In our three-part Life Skills Series, we’ve shared tips to help you raise critical thinkers and to raise problem-solvers. Now, I’m excited to share ideas around collaborating and working together. Because what the world needs now (besides love, sweet love) is more teamwork to help create more constructive, meaningful, positive change.

So I’ve put together some of my favorite lessons about teamwork that I’ve picked up over the years.

Even if becoming a great teammate takes years (as it does for most of us), these are lessons that kids of all ages can learn and start putting to use right away so that eventually, they become second nature in any collaborative setting.

We are so pleased to bring you this final post in our 3-part life skills series on behalf of Cisco’s Global Problem Solvers: The Series (GPS: The Series). This fun animated series is designed to help educate and inspire the next generation of global problem solvers (get it?), who can help make the world a better place.

Find expert tips in the 3 articles in our series:
How to raise critical thinkers

How to raise kids to be good collaborators and team-players
How to raise kids to be smart problem-solvers

GPS: The Global Problem Solvers animated online series featuring a diverse group of teen superheroes (sponsor)

The animated series and companion learning program were created to help kids cultivate better digital skills, creativity, critical thinking, social consciousness, entrepreneurial spirit, and teamwork – all essential tools to help make positive change in the world.

We hope our 3-part guide will give you even more detailed information on a few of the skills we think are most important, which started with critical thinking, problem-solving, and now, collaboration.


4 simple lessons kids should know to be good collaborators and teammates 


1. Good ideas can come from anywhere 

Did you think the number one rule should be “be a good listener?”

Well, yes, it should. The problem is, kids don’t always want to listen in a group setting. They can be excited to share their own ideas, or enjoy the attention and feedback of contributing. Which is totally natural.

So instead of telling our kids to simply listen, try explaining why we listen.

Yes, we listen to show respect, which helps build up the entire team. But we also listen because good ideas can come from absolutely anywhere. And if our goal is to solve a problem together or work together collaboratively, we need to be open to those good ideas. We need every single member of the group to not just feel heard, but actually be heard.

If you’re not listening — to everyone — you might just miss out on the big idea you’ve been looking for.


2. The right response to any idea is “yes, and…” 

The most important thing I learned while taking a few years of improv classes — besides the fact that I should never be doing professional improv — is the theory of “yes, and….”

The premise is simple: Any idea can be a jumping off point for a great train of thinking. So if you respond to a suggestion with “no…” then you’ve just cut off any opportunity for a germ of an idea to grow into something amazing.

Instead, see how you can build on a suggestion or idea, no matter how silly or weird or impractical or off-topic it may seem at first, just by starting with the phrase, “yes, and…”

For example, say a teammate suggests making a video game to teach kids about recycling. Instead of “no that sounds boring,” or “no, that’s been done,” work on responding with a “yes, and…” sentence.

yes, and what if we write it like a comedy in the style of Scott Pilgrim?
yes, and let’s make it 8-bit like we’re back in the 80s, and aliens from the 2020s come to warn us about climate change.
yes, and wouldn’t it be cool if we get a big celebrity to do the voice over? Who could we get?

(I’m sure your kids can come up with better ideas than mine!)

Being the kind of person who can identify the beginning of a great idea (and run with it) can be even more valuable than being the person who comes up with a great idea all on their own.



About our sponsor:
Global Problem Solvers: The Series

If you want to raise kids who are problem solvers, critical thinkers, and collaborators, GPS: The Series is a fantastic place to start. This animated series features a diverse group of teenage superheroes from around the globe, each representing a different skill set. There’s Beela (digital skills), Adrien (creativity), Kelile (social consciousness), Satoshi (critical thinking), Cristina (entrepreneurial spirit) and Putri (teamwork skills).

Unlike some other superheroes your kids might be familiar with, these are relatable, smart kids who are taking on real-world social, economic, and environmental problems, and encouraging your kids to do the same.

Check out the GPS: Global Problem Solvers animated series with your kids. It's not just cool, it can help us raise the next generation of creative, collaborative problem solvers for social good | Graciously sponsored by Cisco

It’s more than an animated series. In fact, it’s a complete educational program created by Cisco and available free online to students, parents and educators. It’s designed especially to help kids learn about teamwork, entrepreneurship, and using technology for social good, and to inspire them to make positive changes to the world they live in.

By watching GPS: The Series, and going through the program (with the help of the teacher’s guides/ teaching companions), kids learn problem-solving skills as well as how to bring their ideas to life, whether through design, manufacturing, raising funds, and more. Pretty cool.

Check out
GPS: The Series with your kids and help them find more ways to become a problem-solver who can bring positive change to the world. 



3. Assists matter

How to teach kids teamwork and collaboration: 4 principles every kid should know | Graciously sponsored by GPS: Problem Solvers, the new animated series from Cisco
Photo: Connor Coyne

This idea is often expressed as “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” but kids may get it better if you talk about soccer.

In soccer, we track assists because it’s an essential contribution toward a goal. Even if you didn’t kick the goal yourself, your pass to the forward may have been the difference between scoring and not scoring and that has value.

It’s the same with other kinds of teamwork and collaboration; kids need to remember that all input is valuable. You don’t have to be the loudest or the leader or the person holding the marker at the whiteboard. Everyone in a group who participates, builds on an idea, refines a solution is essentially passing the ball, no matter who seems to have kicked it in at the end.

Which leads us to the final idea…


4. There’s enough credit to go around

This may be the toughest lesson of all for kids, but if you want to be a real team player and valued collaborator, it’s important that you give credit to everyone.

Kids need to understand that credit is unlimited, and costs you nothing — there’s a reason all those award-winning actors thanks a zillion people until they get played off the stage. They know that to that one person who gets a little shoutout for their work, it means the world.

It’s so important to learn that thanking other people doesn’t take away from your own contributions.

So talk to your kid about being the kind of collaborator who not only sees the value in everyone’s contributions, but is willing to speak up and acknowledge them too. That’s a sure path to becoming the MVP teammate that everyone wants to pick first.


Thanks to Cisco for sponsoring this Life Skills Series. We support their commitment to positively impact 1 billion people worldwide by the year 2025 through its social impact grants and signature programs, and to help foster a new generation of global problem-solvers. 

Find expert tips in the 3 articles in our series:
How to raise critical thinkers

How to raise kids to be good collaborators and team-players
How to raise kids to be smart problem-solvers

To learn more about Global Problem Solvers: The Series, visit this link and watch with your kids.

Top image: Edvin Johansson via Unsplash

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