Group activities that prove how very, very wrong you are about the world
May 2, 2008 8:57 PM   Subscribe

Is there a team building or group communications activity that highlights the important role of intuitive, macroscopic thinkers? (Team building activity spoiler inside)

I've seen several facilitators perform the group activity where everyone is given a card with writing and is asked to keep the card private. Then, the facilitator asks each person to count the number of F's on the card and the participants gather across the room according to the number that they report. Then individuals from different groups (who have counted different numbers) exchange cards. The big reveal is that everyone has the same card. It's pretty darn humbling when, often after arguing your point, you find out you have the wrong count.

I suspect that the room divides pretty cleanly along the lines of detail people (Or MBTI sensing preference) versus macroscopic people (Or MBTI intuitive preference). The moral is always supposed to be that everyone has a different experience of the world, but I can't help but think that people in the correct camp are going to lose some of the humbling benefit of this exercise.

Is there a similar exercise that helps to teach humility in group interactions that might not divide so cleanly? Ideally, there would be an exercise that could be done in conjunction with the "Count The F's" exercise that would turn the tables. Are there any other exercises you've witnessed similar to "Count the F's" or that also help demonstrate different worldviews and ways of thinking?
posted by Skwirl to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You know, I've done too many of these things and I just prefer to be told that the employer values what I do or that whatever. I've never seen the executives doing balloon races or tower building exercises. They save the "games" for the child-morons they employ. Direct communication beats kindergarten parables any time. It's a job. Treat the employees like adults and talk directly and clearly to them. You could start a new trend...
posted by OlderThanTOS at 9:36 PM on May 2, 2008 [9 favorites]

I agree with OlderThanTOS. "Team-building" is for summer camp. If you really want to know what your employees' "worldviews and ways of thinking" are, get them together around a conference table, serve some refreshments and have a no holds barred adult discussion with them.
posted by amyms at 9:42 PM on May 2, 2008

I think I am of the macroscopic variety and wonder if simply stating that any smugness one might feel for having joined the proper group is evidence that the smug have also failed. These games are silly, and seeing them as a win/lose proposition misses the point.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 10:29 PM on May 2, 2008

Dammit. No attention to detail, me. Add "would be sufficient" between "failed" and the period.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 10:31 PM on May 2, 2008

"Team building" exercises are a HUGE slap in the face to employees. Whoever thought up this atrocity should be shot. Those who perpetuate it should be shocked in their gonads. Just let me come to work and do my job, ok? Stop treating me like a child.

If there are any managers reading this... your employees HATE THIS SHIT and YOU by extension for forcing us to comply with it. Stop. It. Now!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:45 AM on May 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Look here or here. These sites have many activities that should you help reach your goal. From my experience the best activities do not manipulate participants or lead them to preordained conclusions. The best activities have an uncertain outcome, allow for failure, and allow participants to experience self discovery in their own way and draw their own conclusions.
posted by Xurando at 4:06 AM on May 3, 2008

Answer the question. What If the participants are willing?

Hmm cognitive Psychology and personality psychology are vast disciplines on their own. But maybe someone will be able to throw something out there. The trick is to reinforce each person's role in the group, or reveal a terse statement of truth that grates against common knowledge. Maybe small questionnaires that invokes their Inductive reasoning? Or something that highlight peoples Illusory correlations.

Problem is, To design one of these experiments, you have to be adept at cognitive psych. And even more clever to perform the experiment without their knowledge (If they're not consenting).

But fostering bonds between your teammates is admirable and chemistry is crucial Despite what the haters on this thread say. If nobody offers an Example You can try reading this Wikibook if you have the time.
posted by Student of Man at 4:10 AM on May 3, 2008

"fostering bonds between your teammates is admirable and chemistry is crucial Despite what the haters on this thread say"

Lab testing on animals is "crucial", too... it doesn't mean they like it.
posted by toomuchpete at 7:05 AM on May 3, 2008

I agree that most "team building exercises" are lame and insulting.

But the concept of team building, when done organically, is good. Things like quick status meetings that detail how everyone is working together to further the goal. Each member of the team shows what they are doing to help the others and thus the whole. The boss tells how he spent the day in meetings getting the team what they need. The engineers talk about their increased productivity. Because the IT guy spent the whole day researching a problem and correcting it so the engineers' computers work the way they are supposed to. And the administrative assistant spent the day researching better vendors for supplies.

Without the status meeting, each individual only sees what they see- the boss was gone all day, the IT guy was surfing the internet all day, the admin person was yackking on the phone all day, and the engineers "did all the work." Clearly untrue, but since they don't feel like they are part of the overall team and don't have an understanding of what the other people spend their time doing, that idea perpetuates itself and you have discord.

I was just thinking about this yesterday after hearing a sports report about a Chicago Bears minicamp thing. Followers of football know that Devin Hester is a madman on the field. Early in his career, he was only on the field a few seconds per game, but was responsible for numerous points and momentum shifts in the game. Now they're moving him toward more playing time. And opponents know who he is, and will change their defenses to cover him more effectively. His numbers might go down, but by distracting the defenses and using up their resources, that opens up opportunities for other players to make plays. Either way, he is a huge asset to the team. But without a "whole team" concept, it might look like he is failing because his numbers are going down.

Same thing in baseball- each player fulfills a necessary role. The pitcher can't hit worth a darn, but without good pitching teams lose. And maybe the slugger feels like he's the only guy scoring points. But without the other hitters making unexciting plays and getting on base, the slugger is just a guy who strikes out more often than not.

The best way to build teamwork is to build a team with all the necessary skill types, and then to constantly hone both their individual skills AND their understanding of the the others' skills.
posted by gjc at 8:12 AM on May 3, 2008

For what it's worth, the group I work with is not a group of employees and most are looking for a learning experience and several members have requested experiential learning activities on numerous occasions. Maybe that's not a good idea but that's not the Ask Metafilter question that I posted.

If you believe in direct communication, perhaps you should take your complaints to your employer or trainer where they can do some good instead of interrupting on Ask Metafilter.

Thanks Student of Man, Xurando and gjc for answering the question. As a matter of fact, Cognitive Science is something I'm pretty interested in and have a tiny bit of background with, so that's a great link.
posted by Skwirl at 4:17 PM on June 2, 2008

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