Many Team Managers teach students that the acronym TEAM stands for “Together Everyone Achieves More.” Sounds great, doesn’t it? The reality is that good teamwork, or effective collaboration, takes a lot of effort. Good teamwork does not develop overnight, and there are no shortcuts.
Destination Imagination is an educational program that is based on the concept that the creative process can be taught, from imagination to innovation, through team-based Challenges. Everywhere you look in the program, from the international headquarters housed in Cherry Hill, New Jersey to teams scattered around Iowa, you’ll see teams. A team of adult volunteers writes the Challenges, teams of students solve them, teams of Appraisers evaluate the students’ solutions, and a team of adult volunteers runs Students for a Creative Iowa, the non-profit organization that administrates DI in Iowa. All of these teams share in common a passion for learning about the creativity process, but they also share some growing pains which they gradually overcome as they learn about each other, and as they work together.
If you take a look at your program materials, you’ll notice that Roadmap is a great guide for the path your team travels during the program season. On page 11 you’ll find a brief description of a psychological framework for group development, originally published by psychologist Bruce Tuckman in 1965. According to Tuckman, all small groups or teams go through five stages of development that can overlap. At the beginning of the DI season, your team is in the Forming Stage, when behavior is characterized by reserve and politeness because group members don’t know each other well enough to be completely open with their feelings. Team members might also encounter roadblocks when generating ideas because they may not want to offend each other, and thus don’t share what’s on their minds. A Team Manager’s job, during this stage, is to help team members get to know each other, and to encourage disagreement—strange as that may sound—in order to get ideas flowing. This of course leads to the second stage of team development, Storming.
The Forming Stage conforms, to a great extent, to Stage 1 of the Destination Imagination season timeline, Recognize. Some teams will spend 2 weeks in this stage, while others will spend 4 weeks or more. This is a time for teams to focus on team building, not on choosing a Team Challenge right away. Whether a team is comprised of last year’s members, brand new ones, or a combination of returning and new students, it is critical for them to focus on teamwork at the beginning of the season. Not doing so often leads to conflict down the road, and sometimes to a team failing, or not finishing its Challenge.
Stage 1 in Roadmap is found on pages 19-54, and includes lots of team building activities: By the Numbers, Team Name, Shape Up, Let’s Hear It, and Team Planning—just to name a few. The 4th activity is called Team Choice Element Inventory, and can be used to help a team discover its interests. Please note that a team’s interests do not necessarily reflect its strengths, but instead where a team may be motivated to place its efforts, both learning and otherwise. The very last activity in Stage 1 is Reflection, when teams finally select a Team Challenge.
In truth, team building is an ongoing process that continues during the entire season. Sometimes the best teamwork is facilitated not by what goes on at team meetings, but by what goes on between the meetings. When I used to manage a team, every student had a special role, one of which was the Team Spirit Coordinator. It was this person’s job to communicate with team members about generating ideas for non-DI activities the team could do together. This resulted in a trip to the local Dairy Queen store for ice cream treats, a board game night, a combination birthday/winter holiday party, a movie night, bowling, and many shared pizzas. All of these activities contributed to team members getting to know, trust and respect each other—and in their not being afraid to disagree with each other, ultimately planting a rich soil for creativity to sprout.
Team building activities
You’ll hear experienced Team Managers tell you that Instant Challenges act as team building experiences, and this is really true. As teams practice Instant Challenge, they build a library of experiences that includes not only problem-solving skills, but especially teamwork skills. That is why you are encouraged, at every team meeting, to practice at least one Instant Challenge. This week’s newly-released Instant Challenges, which are found in the cre8iowa Instant Challenge Library, are as follows:
- Performance-based: Freeze Frame
- Task-based: Target That Frame
- Rising Stars!®: Nursery of Fame and the Frame
Improvisational and theatre games are an excellent way for team members to get to know each other. Felicia Borges, a long-time Destination Imagination volunteer from California, compiled and modified 21 pages of Kid Friendly Improv Games, based on information found at the Learn Improv site.
Icebreakers or warm-ups provide another great way for your team to develop effective teamwork skills. In 40 Icebreakers for Small Groups, you’ll find 32 pages of activities that are great to use with youths of all ages in a small setting (such as a home or classroom). Thank you to Grahame Knox from the United Kingdom, a youth ministry leader and trainer who has provided this free e-book on his blog, Insight.
Cre8iowa has a limited number of improvisational, drama and small group activity books that are available to Iowa’s DI participants, as follows. To save costs, all books will be mailed via Media Mail, and shipping will be added to the book prices. Contact email@example.com if you are interested.
- Improvisation: Use What You Know—Make Up What You Don’t, 2nd Edition, by Brad Newton, founding member of Kidprov. Price: $15 plus shipping
- Team Challenges: 170+ Group Activities to Build Cooperation, Communication, and Creativity, by Kris Bordessa, a Destination Imagination Team Manager. Price: $15 plus shipping
- More Team-Building Activities for Every Group, by Alanna Jones. Includes 107 games and activities. Price: $15 plus shipping
- On Stage: Theater Games and Activities for Kids, by Lisa Bany-Winters. Learn about improvisational games, make puppets, discover makeup secrets, build a set, and more. Price: $15 plus shipping
- Theatre Games for Young Performers: Improvisations and Exercises for Developing Acting Skills, by Maria C. Novelly. Provides imagination-expanding exercises in pantomime, voice and improvisational acting. Price: $15 plus shipping
- The Ultimate Improv Book: A Complete Guide to Comedy Improvisation, by Edward J. Nevraumont and Nicholas P. Hanson. Complete improve curriculum in 24 class-length units. Price: $18 plus shipping
Next week’s post will discuss a number of fun products that are great alternatives to book exercises for team building. Remember: If your team thinks DI is fun, you’re doing something right.