“Action over words” is a mantra for many budding engineers and the reason behind their choice of Delft. It’s about deeds, not discourse. Not just talking, but doing. Working on solutions is deemed better than wasting time discussing them, as often happens in The Hague. As coaches, we’ve frequently seen this: when students had to defend themselves against adverse government legislation, student organizations across the Netherlands would meet to talk. Discussions in Leiden, more so in Amsterdam, continued until the Delft students had enough and declared, “Enough talk, let’s act.” They developed an action plan. By merging word and action, the students suddenly became a significant political force.
This blend of talk and action is effective. However, sometimes TU students are deeply averse to talking. I recall students who resolved to say nothing during the training at our Voorstraat office, waiting for the “socio-psychological nonsense” to end. They grumbled about time wasted and the lack of benefits. “Make a few solid agreements for collaboration, do your part, and that’s it.”
Resistance usually fades during training. As the group discussion progresses, defensive walls start to crumble. Conversations open new perspectives on collaboration. Annoying behaviors are addressed, irritations resolved, and team members’ diverse personalities, sad experiences, and challenging setbacks come to light. Seeing each other in a new light fosters understanding. Desires and aspirations surface, rekindling enthusiasm. It becomes clear that a team’s output isn’t just the result of strict agreements, but also of seeing the work as the outcome of a committed community, a “communiteit.” And this is intrinsically linked to communication, mastering the art of both speaking and understanding. And this art can be learned.
Often, students huddle in the Voorstraat hallway after training, remarking on their transformed approach to collaboration. Sometimes, even a hardcore TU student admits the training was revelatory. “Never thought I’d learn so much here!” or “I feel completely reconnected.” This is the outcome of hours of talking with teammates. It heralds the dawn of a true and tight-knit community, one that is more than the sum of its parts.