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

Tag: teamwork

Thoughts on Purposeful Meeting Openers and Icebreakers

One of my LinkedIn groups had a post where the trainer wanted to start a class focused on “workplace improvement best practices” with some kind of a meeting opener or icebreaker designed to make the supervisors frustrated because they could not get the exercise task done well in the allotted time. He was asking for ideas.

I suggested reminding them of their current workplace situation, since I thought that their workplace was like most others and that the managers were already frustrated with these same issues.

My other comment was that the idea of getting people frustrated may not be the best way for starting a class session. Beginning a session, negatively, does not generally get people positively motivated in a class and the potential reactions can be somewhat uncontrollable. Some other people elaborated on some of the possible unintended outcomes of such an activity, too. (The conversation got pretty bloody but we also think we saved him from a huge strategic mistake, on which he agreed!!).

The other half of my thinking pounded on “irrelevant icebreakers” as a complete waste of time — you know, the goofy meeting openers that are not related to the issue or desired outcome of the session and play on people telling three truths and one lie about themselves or the most interesting thing about their hometown or stating something that no one would ever guess about them. (The list goes on and on…)

I’m in agreement with a lot of other consultant trainers, especially about all that psychology stuff and what happens in training. One psychologist posted up his approach of having people “draw a pig” that represents things in their organization. Some may find the reference to “pig” as being too close to senior management these days with all those raises and salaries of CEOs in excess of 300 times the workers and climbing!

But in that “psychology” frame, I use my Square Wheels® wagon illustration to get people to project their ideas like an organizational inkblot test. The cartoon shows a wooden wagon rolling along on Square Wheels while the cargo is round rubber tires. (There are some other aspects of motivation and vision and the like).

SWs One 300 © green words

The idea is to get individuals thinking and groups working together on sharing ideas about the illustration – brainstorming with an organizational behavioral anchor. Groups can also be motivated through a little competition to make a longer list (facilitation) and what players do is to project their beliefs about their own organization onto the illustration (the inkblot effect).

If you are going to take their valuable time, why not focus it on issues of innovation and teamwork and involvement about their workplace, and not some completely unrelated thing like 3 Truths and a Lie or some such “energizer.”

Using the cartoon as an anchor to the reality of how things really work, we get them talking about their issues — the things that do not work smoothly — and the ideas that already exist within the context of making the wagon move more effectively. This approach also allows discussion without the attack on management or structures. It has proven itself to be “developmentally neutral” and non-political in that regard.

The behavior and ideas and issues in play can then be linked to a lot of different kinds of content for your training session, and the activity thus made relevant.That is something that cannot be done with so many of the very general activities — it is hard to make the transition of doing them and then linking to a real business purpose. (Sure, you can use some words but the behaviors are generally off target.)

Best practices can be Round Wheels. The focus on the training and performance improvement might be linked to Square Wheels. You can coach people on identifying SWs and generating round ones, while generating dissociation and second-position perspective. Issues of change and implementation (stopping the wagon and changing the wheels) can be part of the “What are we going to try to do differently after we leave here?” discussion. And on and on.


Learn more about the Square Wheels® Icebreaker.

You can find another article on this issue of effectively using trainee time and optimizing impact by clicking on this link:

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For the FUN of IT!

Scott Mud and Sheep in greenDr. 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: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Individual “versus” Group Brainstorming – Teamwork and Engagement

I am just back from India where I finally met some old friends and had the chance to do a full day of Square Wheels and Lost Dutchman with EduRiser and about 130 senior managers. Fabulous. I was on my game and the group was really responsive, which fanned the flames. (Wish I could always do that well!!)

On returning, one of the blogs I read had a post about the differences between individual and group brainstorming (http://dld.bz/brainstorming) and it felt like my response there should be part of a post here.

Here is what I said in my response:

We have been playing with idea facilitation for what seems a zillion years and have gradually moved to a pretty simple and yet effective process. One, we use our Square Wheels® illustrations as a basis of getting things rolling…

Square Wheels One is a wooden wagon being pulled by a person with a rope and being pushed from behind by others. It is rolling on wooden Square Wheels, with a cargo of round rubber tires.

The cartoon works like an inkblot, in that the generality of it allows readily for projection of beliefs. Sometimes, we anchor it to a specific organizational reality like systems and processes or to issues of leadership and sometimes we just leave it unhooked.

From an individual basis, there are two things that seem to work pretty well. One is to use mind-mapping or some similar approach to structured creativity. The cartoon, because of its very general nature, is a great tool to teach the technique since the image can represent so many things. The other approach, more of a group technique, is to allow for “one minute of silent contemplation” of the image and its implications before then allowing a group of people to discuss implications.

Often, what I will also add to this conversation in the facilitation / debriefing of the activity, is how the individual’s own biases and anchor points will influence them differently at each tabletop and it is only when the group puts all the ideas together do we get more of a “full picture” of the breadth and length of the imagery and the complexity of the creative process.

It is common for a tabletop to feel accomplished with 20 or so ideas from this brainstorming activity. What I do to anchor the possible is show them a list of some of the 300 or so different responses and reactions to the Square Wheels One illustration that I collected over a few sessions. That is always surprising but it helps me anchor the key concept that,

“It is dangerous to know THE Answer!”

I continue to be astounded at the real creativity and cleverness of people.

In an article called, “Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly,” I expand on many of these same themes. One approach is to tell a joke about the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly and then to demonstrate the reality of divergent thinking with an activity. People will quit thinking about possibilities when they “get” the answer:

Two caterpillars are rolling on the Square Wheels wagon when a beautiful butterfly floats by. The one caterpillar says to the other, “You will never get me up in one of those things!”

(When you “get” the above, read the below.)

I thought it was about active resistance to change before I tested that assumption with others. I now have 22 different responses to the joke, with my favorite being, “My mother was a moth.”

Creativity and innovation are pretty amazing and I KNOW that I could never have generated that last framework.

Google “Teaching the caterpillar to fly” and you can download the article.

Me, I would use a more additive word than “versus” in the question about individual versus group brainstorming effectiveness.

—–

The session I delivered went really well and I built much of the above into that morning session. We videotaped everything, so I am hoping to post up a video of how I approach this issue one of these days. If you want to see that, pop me a note and I will be sure to forward it to you.

Our goal was team building and the optimization of organizational performance, so I shared a number of easy facilitation ideas and tried to model good engagement and involvement in my approach and it felt as though that happened!

For the FUN of It!

<a rel="author" href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123">Scott on Google+<a>    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

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