by Lain Hensley, Odyssey Teams | August 04, 2014
What happens when you put a bunch of software coders, designers, and writers in a room, tie one hand behind their backs and ask them to build prosthetic hands? Children around the world get a life-transforming prosthetic limb, and the coders, designers and writers get important lessons in workplace collaboration, motivation and inspiration.

The Control Group, a San Diego-based technology company that operates the Instant Checkmate website, partnered with philanthropic corporate trainers Odyssey Teams to conduct a Helping Hands program in November 2013. The Control Group has built a culture of corporate social responsibility (CSR) at its Southern California office, with employees volunteering at the local humane society and organizing local beach cleanup days. So, the Helping Hands program fit perfectly into the company's mission. 

But while the charitable side of the Helping Hands program was what initially interested The Control Group, the lessons that the team learned while assembling the prosthetic limbs were unexpected.

Content Team Lead Jessica Ruane called the program "teambuilding with sincerity."

"I will never forget this powerful experience. At the end of the day, I left work with a heightened sense of gratitude, empathy and awareness. The process itself creates an atmosphere of trust and purpose among your peers," said Ruane.

For years, our company, Odyssey Teams, has been a leading corporate trainer that expertly combines the process of building prosthetic hands with a business development program that teaches collaboration, teamwork and innovation. Together with The Control Group, we tried to develop a unique CSR program that would not only be moving and memorable, but really aligned with the company's goals and objectives.

Sean Shahrokhi, director of project management for The Control Group, noted that the program instilled one particular emotion in the team - inspiration.

"The morale factor was really big," said Shahrokhi. "It really helped put that fire back into everyone."

The Control Group operates under an organizational model known as agile development methodology, where iterative and incremental design is accomplished through collaborating cross-functional teams. This process allows team members to shift resources to the most urgent projects and react swiftly to change.

In this context, the lessons from Helping Hands fit directly into the way that The Control Group creates content, designs software and completed projects.

"Helping Hands taught us how to not be afraid to take chances," said Shahrokhi. "It promoted a very safe environment where we could learn from our mistakes."

"That was engrained in our culture prior, but now it is a lot more noticeable," Shahrokhi.

As the Helping Hands program wound down and The Control Group employees packed the prosthetic hands into personalized packages that would be delivered to amputees around the world, the lessons about teamwork and communication were still fresh in everyone's head. But as the last prosthetics were placed in boxes, the life-changing impact of the Helping Hands program was overwhelmingly apparent.

"At the end of the day 15 people are going to have a limb that did not have a limb before. It is not just about profitability as a company, it is what you are doing to make the world better," said Shahrokhi.

Lain Hensley is the co-founder and COO of Odyssey Teams. Established in 1991, Odyssey Teams designs unique leadership development, teambuilding and organizational culture development programs, many of which incorporate corporate social responsibility. Since its founding, Odyssey Teams and its clients have donated more than 14,000 bicycles, 15,000 prosthetic hands, hundreds of playhouses, skateboards, and more to recipients in more than 73 countries worldwide.