Inspiration is a weird thing. I was cleaning out a lot of image files last night and earlier today and I came across a folder I called, Animal Giggles. I have no recollection as to where they came from since the file names are all things like these:
Having been reasonably productive all day, I decided to open them up and see what they were. On inspection, they are from icanhas.cheezburger.com/ so I will ask them permission to post by posting a couple here. It is a site of funny cat pictures and similar (I linked them).
So, of course I immediately made the link from those silly cartoons to the real workplace issues of teamwork and collaboration, to leadership and trust and to the alignment of work groups to desired organizational results. How you might ask?
Because we are attributing desired behavior in the cartoons to others, in this case small animals.
In the workplace, we routinely make all sorts of assumptions about others including themes of motivation and competency and collaboration. But those are simply guesses. One of the quotes I have liked for a long time is this one that I recall derives from the NLP literature:
We judge ourselves by our intentions.
We judge others by their behavior. *
That bridges me over to team building. The above quote is the mental key. Understanding the issues of personal intentions versus behavior towards others is where the above cartoons pushed my thinking…
In our exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, we set a goal of “Mining as much gold as we can” and of maximizing ROI. The game is about the different tabletops planning and executing those plans. It is about optimizing results with available resources, with a very obvious situation where collaboration would be of benefit to generating results. Teams can choose to share information and resources, as well as ideas, as an integral part of the design. They can choose to collaborate in many ways.
But what they often choose to do is compete. We tell them that
the game is about collaboration but they choose to compete.
In order to win, they will intentionally withhold resources from other teams so that they can beat them, sometimes seemingly encouraging that other team to perish.
You can see more about Lost Dutchman and how it works by clicking on the link below:
The name of another one of our team building exercises is The Collaboration Journey. It says so right on the game board. And new users are often concerned that showing “Collaboration” on the board will negatively influence results. Well, my comment is that you can be rest assured that they will NOT pay a whole lot of attention to that and will often not collaborate but compete to win!
People in the workplace, like in our schools, most naturally tend to work toward competing to win, even when it serves to sub-optimize overall results. And they will often use Darwinism and “survival of the fittest” to help explain those choices, even though social societies benefit so much more from collaboration. Survival of the fittest is a concept that focuses on benefits to the social group much more so than to an individual.
All I can say is that it sure is fun to run a game and then focus on the results of that game as driven by the choices that people make, especially when it is totally clear that inter-organizational collaboration will offer a much more positive impact overall. Our organizations are ALL like that — collaboration is key.
And reflection is likely to help generate some improvements; that is why we play the games!
Fore the FUN of It!
Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
(* I actually tried to look up a source for this and the web is apparently attributing this to Ian Percy, but I’ve heard this for a lot longer than he could possibly be speaking on these issues. More likely Robert Dilts or one of the other key people in the NLP community, I might guess…)