Building Teamwork by Trial

Market researchers seldom work alone. Thus, students in Professor Chaplin’s consumer behavior courses develop and present their research in teams. How does Chaplin build her research teams? Scavenger hunts and relay races. 

Students see her approach as win-win. “You get closer to your colleagues, and it’s fun,” said Joseph Ravara of Team Orange 1, winners of the first round of relays. “I admire how Professor Chaplin incorporates something like this into her teaching methods.”


 Chaplin is known for challenging her students. Her former students, some of whom return as relay referees and scavenger hunt spies, recall how the games helped blow off steam. “Team members are easing their stress before they dive into the hardest part of the class,” said referee Mel Ladowski, “but they’re getting to know one another at the same time.” Ladowski, a senior marketing major and a brand ambassador for Power Crunch, credits Chaplin's class for her own speaking and presenting skills. “The research is a chance for personal growth” she said, “Professor Chaplin critiques directly, and shows you where you can grow as a young professional.”

David Kavalerchik is leader for Team Black 2, winners of the second relays. “For the scavenger hunt, we could have had a better plan,” said Kavalerchik. “There was no leadership, no one setting the tone.” ‘Fail to prepare, and prepare to fail’ holds for the games and the coursework, he said. Kavalerchik’s team is researching consumer perceptions of counterfeit products, and has taken the relays to heart. Disqualified from the scavenger hunt, they came back a week later determined to win, and more than made up for past mistakes.  “I still have the turf burns to show for it,” he said.

Team Blue 2, winners of the second scavenger hunt, used the games as practice. “We came in with a plan,” said Esteban Paredes-Garcilazo. “Everyone on the team had a voice, and everyone had their share of the work.” Jeffrey Yang of Team Red 1, who took the first scavenger hunt, saw communication as the key challenge. “Each member had their own ideas,” he said, “and each thought the team should accomplish something different.” Better to work these challenges out in advance of the presentation, said Yang.

The scavenger hunts took place on Thursday, September 22, and sent students scrambling across campus and into Little Italy and Greektown. The relays followed quickly, on October 4. For many teams, the tightly-scheduled games added pressure to the course, similar to back-to-back deadlines. But the students agree that the process was edifying. Ravara’s teammate Lura Buckley has observed her team’s improvement. “Since the relays and scavenger hunt, we’ve gotten much better at group motivation,” she says.  “It’s kept our research moving forward.”