Dynamica is the word for “icebreaker” in Spanish. That’s how our first product marketing session began–with a dynamic activity designed to get the Farmer’s Market committee thinking “in sync” with each other. The task that Floria brought as our icebreaker required everyone to balance a cup of water on a round wooden saucer. Around the edges of the saucer were 10 strings. With one hand behind our backs, the task was to use the other hand to hold one of the strings and act as part of the team to keep it balanced. The slightest movement could upset the water glass and spill it. And, as if that weren’t enough, our team-building exercise required us to step over obstacles, bend under tree limbs, and squeeze through narrow passages without spilling the water. Although we almost lost the whole cup, not to mention the water, several times, we did make it to the end with the majority of the water still inside the cup. Upon reflection, members of APOT connected the icebreaker concepts of communication, leadership, and strategy to the Marketing Action Plan task–and drew some important conclusions that ultimately, helped us be successful today.

One of the APOT members, a farmers’ market grower named Argentina, hosted us in her home and fed us a wonderful Costa Rican lunch. In addition to many types of vegetables, Argentina also grows medicinal herbs. The view out of her kitchen window reminded me that I was situated on the side of a mountain facing Turrialba’s volcano on the other side. This is the amazing “vista” she enjoys every day. We followed her out of the back door of her house to where the wild rosemary, oregano, and Taro root grow. For lunch, we ate her fried Taro root (malangers), which tasted a lot like fried potatoes. Yummy!

Argentina gave us “carte blanche” to set up the interactive business meeting any way we thought was best. So, we arranged her kitchen and dining room tables in a “V” shape, and we comfortably sat all 10 committee members. Amanda & I were proud of ourselves as we cleared pictures off one wall (with Argentina’s permission, of course) to hang our laminated MAP (Marketing Action Plan) on two existing nails. For a moment, I was reminded of working at the Learning Network, where we’re always doing something “scrappy” to get by with the space and supplies we have. Surprising where those transferrable skills from running a non-profit come in handy…:)

Throughout the morning and afternoon, we tackled some of their biggest concerns, and reached consensus on nearly everything. With the exception of one or two critical points, the MAP on the wall was nearly filled in with the answers to APOT’s business questions—as well as a clever positioning statement that can hopefully be used for future marketing endeavors.

After our “dynamica,” when Flory asked each one of us to reflect on what we learned, I was struck by how even in a very different cultural environment, group dynamics are very much the same. People are people…and group process is group process… If you put in the effort up front to work through the process, you emerge stronger at the end. It’s true in the United States. It’s true in Costa Rica. I’m sure it’s true in “todo el mundo.”