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There were four activities spread out over the duration of three hours. The activities were:
The first activity divided the group into equal teams within two concentric circles with the individuals in the inner circle facing their counterparts in the outer one. Every person in the inner circle was expected to interact with the one in the outer circle for a limited time after which the latter moved forward in a clockwise direction. The conservation was kept light and informal, and the game also gave the participants an opportunity to reveal a lesser-known fact about themselves. I viewed this activity quite positively as it was the perfect ice-breaker to begin what must have been equally intimidating for all participants put into an unfamiliar environment with unknown people. The energy in the room was infectious – so much so, that the activity had to be called off mid-way. Nonetheless, such activities can be very useful in a formal context as well, as it can help shy or nervous individuals overcome their hesitation.
After the fun and games came the real challenge – teamwork. For the next activity, we were divided into three teams of eight people each. Each team was asked to stand in two parallel lines facing each other and was given a bamboo stick to balance between them. Every member had to balance the bamboo stick on their index finger alone and the aim was to slowly lower the stick to the ground – without any person losing contact with it. If any member did so, the team had to start over. What seemed like a trivial task at the outset quickly proved anything but. Our team was unable to coordinate our efforts and the frustration begin to build. Every member seemed to believe that he or she was doing the right thing and that the others were to blame, making us experience Storming first-hand. After a few failed attempts, one member suggested a change in strategy, as our initial one was clearly not adequate. The member donned the Co-Ordinator hat and suggested the tallest individuals stand at the edges, with the shorter members in between. This different approach was readily accepted by all without complaint or disagreement as the earlier one had failed. The team was then able to function like a well-oiled machine and complete the task smoothly.
For the next activity, we were asked to complete a behavioral test form. There were different sections within the test and we needed to assign the maximum points based on how we would respond to a particular situation. I found this tricky as I opine that one tends to choose how they would react in theory and not how they might actually behave at the time. My reservations on self-assessment notwithstanding, I was surprised at the result. My two highest scores were Controller – Finisher and Resource Investigator which would imply that I am good at both the initial stages of a project, along with seeing it through to its logical conclusion! I would also have to agree with my lowest score being Plant as I often fall short of innovative new ideas. Kathy made an interesting observation that our group had substantially more Controller – Finishers than the previous one and stressed upon the importance of such roles in the smooth functioning of a team.
The final activity was undoubtedly the hardest of all. Kathy divided us into teams of six with each asked to complete a jigsaw puzzle. However, there were a few rules that the participants had to comply with. Only the two individuals wearing the provided blindfolds were allowed to interact with the jigsaw blocks, with the rest only permitted to guide them. Our team decided to adopt a three-pronged approach –
These two were the ‘brain’. While there was near-unanimous agreement on the devised plan of action, it was difficult to agree on the team members who would be the hand. This is understandable, as the blindfolded member would be handicapped and have to rely entirely on the instructions of the stick. Any misunderstanding could even lead to potential injury. However, two members finally had the courage to volunteer, making it quite easy to slot into the other two positions.
Before the activity began, the team decided to stack all the puzzle blocks in the center, making it easier for the hand to reach. Once Kathy gave the go-ahead, the team began the activity in earnest. However, our team had failed to consider one simple aspect – clarity of direction. The hand and their stick were facing each other, meaning that the left of the former was the right of the latter -causing immediate confusion. This was rapidly resolved by the stick referring to the direction of the hand and not their own. The brain charged with overseeing the entire activity would advise the stick on which blocks to join, which the latter then communicated to the hand. After a few blocks were correctly joined, the excitement became palpable, and the brain began to guide the hand as well. This led to considerable stress for the hand as it was receiving simultaneous instructions from both brain and stick – sometimes directly contradictory to each other. The hand made it quite clear that it would only accept inputs from one source, compelling the brain to step back.
The team had also decided that we would encourage the hand for a job done appropriately, which was ensured. Before starting, there was an implicit agreement to a change in role or strategy if either did not work, as Kathy had given her consent to switching the hand with another member after he or she joined two blocks correctly. This proved unnecessary for our team as the hand, stick, and brain were all able to perform their required role effectively. Eventually, three teams were able to complete the jigsaw within a minute or two of each other, with only one proving to be laggards. When Kathy asked us to introspect after completion, we realized that all but one of our team members had viewed it as a competition against other teams. Subconsciously, we had transformed into Shapers with a desire to win over all else. This explained why the brain and the stick began to give simultaneous instructions to the hand, as even the very idea of defeat seemed like sacrilege.
Perhaps our lone member who did not view the activity as a race sensed the situation getting out of hand and put on the Teamworker cap to defuse the tension. Interestingly, there was one team in which not a single member viewed the activity as a competition but merely an opportunity to enjoy. Either by implicit or explicit agreement, they had chosen to adopt the role of either Teamworker or Co-Ordinator, avoiding the winner-take-all attitude that comes naturally to a Shaper.
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