Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Tag: competition versus collaboration

Why do teams choose to compete rather than collaborate?

People continually make choices, selecting responses from their existing set of “behavioral alternatives” and often simply choosing to do what they have done before. The book, Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman does an excellent job of sharing the research on decision making and thinking. (I share a little of this in my article on Square Wheels and decision-making.)

LDGM Why do teams choose to compete wordsWhy DO teams choose to compete?

Teams and teamwork are simply about choice and choices. Teams will often choose NOT to collaborate if they feel that competition offers them more positive benefits and impacts and this is especially true if they have competed in the past — it is the fast decision that does not require much thinking and consideration. Competition may also simply be More Fun!

But does competition really do much to support overall organizational results? Does competition really make results better when you look at the overall impact? Does competition between sales and operations really help things?

More often than not, the answer is that competition measurably sub-optimizes organizational results. Clearly. This is grounded in my work in implementing performance improvement and customer service as well as in a variety of other contexts — it is much easier to generate inter-organizational competition than it is to develop real trust and collaboration.

I tried to collect some of the key articles around performance and teamwork in this annotated blog of my best posts on our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. You can see some of these sources by clicking on the image below:

LD MAIN Goal is to Mine

We often ask tabletops to discuss various real world perceptions after playing this team building exercise. Below are some thoughts of participants after playing The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses directly on issues of inter-table collaboration and communications:

As you will see from these responses, there are a lot of systemic issues that block teamwork and there are also lots of experiences in “playing the game of working” that will get in the way of simply choosing to do things differently. Breaking the patterns is why an exercise like Dutchman works – people play, make choices, and see the impacts of their behavior on the play of others and in the overall sub-optimization of results.

Why do teams compete when collaboration obviously offers more impacts and benefits?

  • Evaluation and Reward Systems do not support it
  • Organizational objectives are unclear
  • Human Nature – we are competitive
  • Past Experience precludes collaboration and has rewarded competition
  • Lack of a Trust or Relationship with others
  • It takes extra time and effort to do it
  • Benefits of collaboration not supported by leaders
  • Impacts and payoffs are not obvious
  • Conflict may generate discussion of realities and produce creativity
  • Teams do not have a history or experience with doing collaboration or generating better impacts by it

What did you learn about teamwork and communications from playing the exercise?

  • There is a need for networking
  • Small teams work better than committees / larger teams
  • Someone needs to take on the role of team leader
  • We must compromise individually and collaborate collectively to succeed
  • Don’t dominate – listen to others views
  • THINK COLLABORATION and Trust
  • Share a common goal
  • Share Ideas and Information
  • Plan before Acting
  • Have a division of labor and roles and think creatively
  • Initiate support from others
  • Have Empathy for others
  • Identify others’ needs
  • Be Creative
  • Be a good listener
  • Build on others’ ideas
  • Recognize Interdependence
  • Move quickly, take some risks
  • We probably have sufficient resources – use them wisely

In this game, most people do NOT ask for help, which also happens in the workplace. Why don’t most teams ask for or get the active leadership of their managers?

  • We are conditioned by education, bad experiences and culture
  • Personality (we’re not proactive but quiet)
  • We’re too involved in our own work and forget the existence of the “Expedition Leaders”
  • We’re afraid of losing time, thus we suboptimize results
  • We are really not clear of our roles or the Leader’s role
  • There is a fear of losing Face (ego, insecurity)
  • There is an assumption that not asking means we get all of the     praise and recognition for our good performance / ability
  • “Us and Them” mentality — Leader is not part of team
  • No access to them – can’t get their time so why ask
  • It’s not part of the rules of how we play
  • Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled

Some Key Learning Points for engaging and involving people in performance improvement:

  • Visions are critical for motivation
  • Motivation occurs when people share risks, goals and objectives
  • Teams are “naturally” competitive and processes must actively drive collaboration and cooperation
  • Teams only reluctantly ask Expedition Leaders for advice.
  • Leadership must clearly communicate with directness and honesty.  They need to be perceived as supportive.
  • Justify the need for collaboration as it influences corporate profitability and improvements in systems and practices.
  • Identify the mud that is bogging teams down and wasting resources.
  • Insure that each participant knows his or her role on the team and their importance to the overall results — make sure each team member feels that their efforts are of value.

How does this exercise and debriefing link to improving organizational results?

  • Collaborative, overall effort is needed to achieve Company Goals
  • Plan – Do – Check – Action
  • Collaboration is essential
  • Manage your processes with effective allocation of resources
  • Do It Right The First Time – there are few second chances in reality
  • Highlight the internal customer concept – we depend on each other
  • All of us is better than Some of US!

The competitive aspect of the game:
How might it be harmful in an organization?

  • Not sharing information for personal reasons will sub-optimize overall results
  • Damaging relationships and trust
  • Duplication of efforts
  • Not utilizing resources in best or optimal way
  • Sub-optimization — Not seeing whole picture
  • Undermining the efforts of others

Overall, competition is harmful because it is not maximizing company results nor the performance by the largest number of people. Competition works for the competitive and not for everyone. Discussing these issues and opportunities in the context of collaboration and communications offers the chance that people may choose to behave differently, or at least be more aware of how they are influencing others in their workplace.

So, a key to organizational improvement comes directly out of debriefing on ideas and reflecting on choices so that different choices can be made in the future that would allow for a culture shift of some kind.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine is a fun and powerful way to learn more about teambuilding and collaboration

Find our articles on organizations and performance

We support all kinds of innovation, motivation, engagement, team building and other aspects of people and performance through the sale of our simple tools for facilitating change and improvement. You can find out more about these by clicking on the link below:

Performance Management Company website for team building

For the FUN of It!

Scott DebriefDr. 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.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

Optimizing Profit through Collaboration – Ideas for Lost Dutchman Deliveries

We designed and sell The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a team building exercise focused on planning and collaboration, among other key outcomes. A recent purchaser sent me an email this morning with a simple question but one that I thought merited some elaboration, since there are any number of design features and delivery spins that impact the desired outcomes of the client.

Hello Scott,

I am thoroughly enjoying facilitating the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building.  🙂

So far I have had groups between 40 – 50.  Next week I have a smaller one (4 teams).  How many videos do you suggest I have on hand of each?  

Thanks so much!

Warmly,

First, it is nice to get the positive feedback (testimonials) and to know that she is making money from her investment in purchasing the exercise. Secondly, it is a very good question that I somewhat address in the training materials included with the exercise, but something that obviously could use some additional explanation and some awareness as to issues and opportunities.

So, I sent her a brief overview of my thoughts and promised that her questions would generate a more complete blog post from me today, one that expands on a number of ideas around this simple question. Like my post yesterday, where I discuss the philosophy around the game board design as it relates to my goals of generating more planning and  collaboration (found here), this post also discusses themes of how the available resources can link tightly to desired outcomes.

The Videos are a metaphor and game accessory that ties to strategic planning and best practices. The Mine Video is about the gold mine and contains Cave Cards that teams find useful. Getting that Video costs one day of time and the team getting it leaves on Day Two of the 20 day exercise instead of Day One. (See more on this on the other blog post if that is of interest.)

Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine Video Covers

The second video, on Tortilla Flats, contains best practices resources and one video can actually support three teams if the resources are shared across tabletops. I choose not to expand on that here.

So if there are four tabletops playing, her question is how many Videos should she make available for play?

The answer is that it depends on the desired outcomes for the session. Allowing the teams to all get both videos would mean that there are wasted planning days and a bit of analysis paralysis… They do not NEED to spend that much time gaining information and they are losing days of Mining Gold because of it. Plus, with all that information available to every team, it takes away some of the excitement and risk and all that.

Having too many resources is NOT motivating. Having sufficient but not excessive resources to accomplish something adds more challenge. People are not motivated climbing stairs but they are when using ropes and climbing gear to make that ascent!

Having only ONE of each Video available is a scarcity model. The Mine Video resources and information are not as available to the others and there would be little incentive for a team that acquires that to share it — the competitive aspect of it would play in. Having one Tortilla Flat Video would enable 3 of the 4 teams to optimize their performance if – and only if – those resources were shared. If one team got both videos, they would see all the teams leave on Day One and they would leave on Day Three. They would also mine more gold than any of the other teams and they would have an easier time of it, overall.

So, one needs to balance resource availability.

Generally, for a group of 4 tabletops, I might play with three Mine Videos and two of Tortilla Flat so that resources could be shared with all teams.

But there is another option that I really like to do with smaller groups and one that emphasizes the issues around inter-team collaboration even more than the regular design. That involves what we refer to as the Optimizing Profit Performance Option or what I refer to as The Assay Office Version, since that was what it was originally called. There is a long history as to how it evolved but here is what it is and how it works:

Assay Office Mine Video Cover IconThis Assay Office version of The Mine Video contains extra Cave Cards, more than one team could possibly use. So, the design is that the team acquiring this Video would absolutely know that they have extras that they could share with another tabletop. And, this Video also contains information that by using a Cave Card, a team could acquire an extra ounce of Gold each day, 11 ounces rather than 10.

We tell the teams getting this “new edition” of the video that it is different than the old ones — we generally use only ONE of them in a delivery. We tell other teams getting the “old editions” that they should check with that other team to understand the changes that were made in the new edition. WE TELL THEM TO CHECK; WE TELL THEM TO SHARE; WE GIVE THEM EXTRA CARDS!

If a team reaching the mine uses a Cave Card, they can ask for an extra ounce. ANY team using a Cave Card can ask for an extra ounce. Thus, if they got the Assay Video, they should remember to get the extra gold and if they heard about the Assay Video and used Cave Cards given to them (or if they got their own Mine Video with cards), they could also get the extra ounce.

We now simply use a spreadsheet to track when the team asked for the extra ounce and we know which team got the Assay version and which teams could have benefited.

Assay Office spreadsheet

In the above example, the Yellow Team got there a day later (staying home and getting both Videos) and they got the Assay Office version of the Mine Video. We know this because of the day they arrived plus the reality that they used the information to acquire the extra ounce the first day of mining. We know that they got the Tortilla Flat Video because they did not leave on Day 14. (this is information that only game owners would understand!) The Yellow team optimized their results and mined the most gold, contributing the most to the overall gold mined. Remember:

The Goal - Gold Hand gold

You might guess that the Red team got an older version of the Mine Video and spent that extra day at Apache Junction and never did find out about the extra gold. They left on Day 14.

The Blue team got there on Day 7 so they did not spend a day planning — they acquired Cave Cards (or at least started using them on Day 9) and someone shared the Assay Office information with them. Only on Day 13, the day  before they left the Mine, did the Purple team actually use a Cave Card.

(These are actual game results, by the way. This version is harder to administrate than our regular one because there is more tracking. I also think it would be really confusing in a large group environment and harder to debrief.)

If the different teams would all share information and collaborate, they mine more gold and the goal of the game is to mine as much gold as we can, not to compete and win as your own team! If the teams asked the Expedition Leader for advice or assistance, we would also help them to understand how this works. We explain this only to the team getting the first Mine Video, the Assay Office one.

This blog is written for users or those about to facilitate and support a delivery of the exercise so apologies if you got this far and remain a bit confused. For those of you familiar with the normal delivery, I trust that this will make some elegant sense. If you click on either of the two icons above, you can go to the order page for the exercise to add this to your toolkit. It comes free in our Professional Version of the Lost Dutchman game.

You can read more of my thinking on collaboration versus competition at this blog post of mine – click here

You can find a nice screenshare overview of the complete exercise by clicking on the image below:

Slideshare Dutchman icon

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

Interdepartmental Collaboration’s Vital Link to Organizational Profitability

HR Management Magazine asked me for an article a while back and I thought to make a copy of it available here, since I think it is well-illustrated, clear and focused on the issue of impacts and profitability as they relate to teambuilding. You can find access to the article at the bottom of this post.

The topic is improving inter-organizational alliances and building more collaboration between naturally competing workgroups as a means of impacting profitability and improving innovation and other organizational impacts. Better people collaboration and interacting toward shared goals and missions.

Competition is a motivating factor in most organizations and is a good energizer until that competition begins to sub-optimize overall organizational performance. Most companies do not measure those kinds of things yet they can have huge impacts on service, quality and morale.

Similarly, teamwork within a workgroup is good, until it slows or stops collaboration between different teams, a situation we call, My Team, My Team, My Team, as illustrated below:

We also know that most individuals and most teams do not take advantage of the support that already exists in organizations. This is a critical learning point of much of what we teach.

We also added thoughts on using The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine to engage and enlist people to choose to form alliances and improve performance.

Collaboration and Profit – an article on team building and organizational improvement

 

For 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.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

 

Why do teams compete? Collaboration offers more positive benefits?

Teams and teamwork are a lot about choice and choices. Teams will often choose NOT to collaborate if they feel that competition offers them more benefits. But does competition really do much to support overall organizational results. More often than not, the answer is that competition measurably sub-optimizes organizational results. Clearly.

I tried to collect some of the key articles around performance and teamwork in this annotated blog of my best posts on our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. You can see them by clicking on the image below:

LD MAIN Goal is to Mine

We often ask tabletops to discuss various real world perceptions after playing our team building exercises. Here are some thoughts of participants after playing, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on issues of inter-table collaboration and communications:

Why do teams compete when collaboration obviously offers more impacts and benefits?

  • Evaluation and Reward Systems do not support it
  • Organizational objectives are unclear
  • Human Nature – we are competitive
  • Past Experience precludes collaboration and has rewarded competition
  • Lack of a Trust or Relationship with others
  • It takes extra time and effort to do it
  • Benefits of collaboration not supported by leaders
  • Impacts and payoffs are not obvious
  • Conflict may generate discussion of realities and produce creativity
  • Teams do not have a history or experience with doing collaboration or generating better impacts by it

What did you learn about teamwork and communications from playing the exercise?

  • There is a need for networking
  • Small teams work better than committees / larger teams
  • Someone needs to take on the role of team leader
  • We must compromise individually and collaborate collectively to succeed
  • Don’t dominate – listen to others views
  • THINK COLLABORATION and Trust
  • Share a common goal
  • Share Ideas and Information
  • Plan before Acting
  • Have a division of labor and roles and think creatively
  • Initiate support from others
  • Have Empathy for others
  • Identify others’ needs
  • Be Creative
  • Be a good listener
  • Build on others’ ideas
  • Recognize Interdependence
  • Move quickly, take some risks
  • We probably have sufficient resources – use them wisely

In this game, most people do not ask for help, which also happens in the workplace. Why don’t most teams ask for or get the active leadership of their managers?

  • We are conditioned by education, bad experiences and culture
  • Personality (we’re not proactive but quiet)
  • We’re too involved in our own work and forget the existence of the “Expedition Leaders”
  • We’re afraid of losing time, thus we suboptimize results
  • We are really not clear of our roles or the Leader’s role
  • There is a fear of losing Face (ego, insecurity)
  • There is an assumption that not asking means we get all of the     praise and recognition for our good performance / ability
  • “Us and Them” mentality — Leader is not part of team
  • No access to them – can’t get their time so why ask
  • It’s not part of the rules of how we play
  • Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled

Some Key Learning Points for engaging and involving people in performance improvement:

  • Visions are critical for motivation
  • Motivation occurs when people share risks, goals and objectives
  • Teams are “naturally” competitive and processes must actively drive collaboration and cooperation
  • Teams only reluctantly ask Expedition Leaders for advice.
  • Leadership must clearly communicate with directness and honesty.  They need to be perceived as supportive.
  • Justify the need for collaboration as it influences corporate profitability and improvements in systems and practices.
  • Identify the mud that is bogging teams down and wasting resources.
  • Insure that each participant knows his or her role on the team and their importance to the overall results — make sure each team member feels that their efforts are of value.

How does this exercise and debriefing link to improving organizational results?

  • Collaborative, overall effort is needed to achieve Company Goals
  • Plan – Do – Check – Action
  • Collaboration is essential
  • Manage your processes with effective allocation of resources
  • Do It Right The First Time – there are few second chances in reality
  • Highlight the internal customer concept – we depend on each other
  • All of us is better than Some of US!

The competitive aspect of the game:
How might it be harmful in an organization?

  • Not sharing information for personal reasons will sub-optimize overall results
  • Damaging relationships and trust
  • Duplication of efforts
  • Not utilizing resources in best or optimal way
  • Sub-optimization — Not seeing whole picture
  • Undermining the efforts of others

Overall, competition is harmful because it is not maximizing company results or the performance by the largest number of people. Competition works for the competitive and not for everyone. Discussing these issues and opportunities in the context of collaboration and communications offers the chance that people may choose to behave differently, or at least be more aware of how they are influencing others in their workplace.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine is a fun and powerful way to learn more about teambuilding and collaboration

Find our articles on organizations and performance

We support all kinds of innovation, motivation, engagement, team building and other aspects of people and performance through the sale of our simple tools for facilitating change and improvement. You can find out more about these by clicking on the link below:

Performance Management Company website for team building

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

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.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

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