1 The Forming Stage
Last week I discussed the fact that at the beginning of the Destination Imagination season, teams are in what educational psychologist Bruce Tuckman calls the Forming Stage, when it’s time for students to get to know each other, not to make a major decision about what Team Challenge they are going to solve. The team, in other words, has to be more important than the Challenge itself before any effective progress can be made with the Challenge.
Some ways for teams to get to know each other, besides the ones described in last week’s post, include the following discussion activities that sell for under $20 at Amazon.com (and likely other places, such as your local educational materials store):
- Conversations to Go, by Moonjar, is a fun discussion-based activity that is available for around $14.95. Question cards are inside a box that you shake up and open. Pick a question, read it aloud, and surprise each other with your answers. Sample questions include: What do you like to do most on the Internet? If you could have a conversation with any animal, which one would it be and why? If you could shout something out loud what would you say?
- TableTalk Conversation Cards, by US Games, is another discussion-based activity that sells for about $6. Each card in the deck presents an interesting fact and asks a question to get a conversation started. There are no right or wrong answers, and no special knowledge is needed. A sample card reads as follows: With the possible exception of the spiny anteater, all mammals sleep. The average human infant sleeps 16 to 18 hours per day. The average adult sleeps seven to eight hours a day, or about one-third of every day. How would your life be different if you didn’t have to sleep?
- Would You Rather…, by Zobmondo!, is a question-based game whose objective is to stimulate entertaining, ridiculous, and thought-provoking conversation with questions that act as icebreakers. The game sells in many variations that range from about $9-$18. Sample questions include: Would you rather sing every word you speak –OR- always speak in rhymes? Would you rather live in a home without electricity –OR- in a home without running water? Would you rather run across a hungry alligator’s back –OR- run underneath an angry elephant?
2 The Storming Stage
It doesn’t take long before a team moves into the Storming Stage, when it becomes critical for members to learn to trust and respect one another. As they do this, it will be normal for you to see disagreements erupt. And that’s okay, as long as trust and respect are still there. You’ll find that activities such as Helium Stick and All Aboard will help promote teamwork. You can find many other team building activities at Wilderdom Games, Great Group Games, and Great Solutions to Team Challenges.
The Storming Stage is a good time for you to remind your team that there is no “I” in TEAM, that the team is stronger than the individual. But at the same time, it is important to reassure individuals that they are valued. I used to remind my team that there are really no bad ideas, only good ideas and better ones—and it is the team’s responsibility to develop good ideas into the most unique ones they possibly can. We tried very hard not to ignore stray ideas; in fact, every team member had a stack of Post-it Notes® handy so that if an idea occurred that wasn’t directly resulted to the current discussion, the team member could write down that idea and paste it to chart paper without interrupting the flow of the team conversation. This way, every idea was acknowledged and treated as a “jewel” to be examined later.
When teams are having trouble getting past disagreements during this stage, it is helpful for them to share an experience that helps them grow in their confidence to deal with a challenge as a group. If you refer to page73 in Road Map, you’ll see something called a K-W-L Chart. To use this chart, encourage your team to list skills they already (K)now and skills they want to (L)earn as a group. Then, zero in on a shared learning goal, such as an art technique, sewing, making a closed electrical circuit, using a power tool—or whatever interests your team; the number of learning opportunities is endless. If you bring in a speaker or demonstrator who can help your team learn a new skill, your team will feel empowered with its newly-acquired knowledge. Who knows how they will apply it? That’s up to the team. I have seen more than one team develop an awesome Team Choice Element, however, simply because of a learning experience shared during the Storming Stage. At the end of the season, return to the K-W-L Chart and include the skill the team has learned in the (L)earn column as one of its positive outcomes, and make sure to celebrate it as an accomplishment when evaluating the team’s progress.
3 The Norming Stage
Although the focus is on producing results during the Norming Stage, it is still normal for a team to encounter personal conflicts as the season progresses. To the extent that a team deals with these conflicts constructively, that determines how much the group will grow.
As a Team Manager, you can help your team focus on what it needs to do during this stage by reminding team members of the objectives they set at the beginning of the season, as well as the timeline that the team (not you!) has set. Encourage your team to modify its short-term goals (within 24 hours), medium-term goals (within a week) and long-term goals (within the month) as needs change, and to assign responsibilities to specific individuals. This keeps team members accountable to each other, and keeps the team moving forward.
If your team gets stuck, remember that you can use CPS (Creative Problem Solving) strategies to help your team get past an obstacle. In Roadmap, refer to ABC Brainstorming on page 59, and Mix and Match (also known as Morphological Matrix) on page 66 to help your team brainstorm more effectively. Use Decision-Making Matrix on page 38, Choice Helper (also known as Evaluation Matrix) on page 87, and Paired Choice Analysis on page 104 to help team members arrive at decisions efficiently. You can learn more about CPS strategies from this document in cre8iowa’s Document Library: Using CPS Tools to Teach Your Team Creative & Critical Thinking Strategies.
Remember that team building is a process that continues throughout the season. The ice breakers and games you play during the Forming and Storming Stages of the program continue to be useful as the season progresses. A fun problem-solving game that also promotes teamwork, discussion, creativity and reflection, and was developed by DI, is Schema, in which your team divides itself into a Challenge Team and a Building Team. You’ll find this game at ShopDI.org for $9.
The basics of Schema are as follows:
- The Challenging Team chooses a set of tasks from its cards and gives those tasks to the Building Team. The Building Team chooses items from its cards to build a device that completes all the tasks. The Building Team will have a set time to build the device from the items chosen.
- If the Building Team’s device completes all the tasks, all the cards in play are removed from the game. If the Building Team’s device doesn’t complete all the tasks, the Challenging Team gets all the cards in play.
- The teams then switch roles and repeat the process.
- The first team to run out of cards loses.
As always, continue to practice Instant Challenge, which develops good teamwork and keeps the energy flowing. This week’s newly-released Instant Challenges can be found in cre8iowa’s Instant Challenge Library:
4 The Performing Stage
As your team approaches tournament, it is normal for tempers to flare and for frustrations to build. You can help your team deal with this by encouraging open and honest (and respectful) communication. On page 100 of Roadmap, Team Managers are reminded that they serve the role of a facilitator. In concrete terms, this means helping your team walk through conflict resolution through discussion. Encourage team members to (1) identify the issues, (2) clarify people’s positions, and (3) pinpoint the underlying concerns, needs or desires of individuals. This helps everyone on the team to be on the same page, and to find a way to meet in the middle.
Sometimes a team will get lost in the proverbial forest without seeing the trees. Remind your team to re-read the Challenge, and point to the scoring rubric found in every Team Challenge to help them set appropriately their priorities for time, energy and effort. Every Team Challenge has a couple of pie charts in its Reward Points section that serves as a visual reminder of priorities.
5 The Adjourning Stage
The final stage of the DI season should be a celebration of all that the team has accomplished, whether it finishes its Team Challenge solution and showcases it at tournament or not. Tournament results represent only a small fraction of a team’s accomplishments. Stress the positive outcomes of the season, rather than trophies or special awards. Make sure you take the time to ask each team member, in a group setting, to describe an experience he or she particularly enjoyed, or an aspect of the program that was especially valued. You’ll hear responses such as, “ I really enjoyed working with my friends,” “I learned how important teamwork is,” and “DI was so fun this year; when will we start next season?”
Whether you hold a potluck dinner, pass out awards for individual or group accomplishments, go to a theme park to celebrate, or have a party, it is important to acknowledge everyone’s contributions, to list the objectives the team has accomplished, and to end on a positive note that reminds teams of the fun times they’ve shared. This sets the stage for the next season, whether that season involves DI or another team-based activity, or to the next stage in life if your team members are graduating.
Teamwork is the glue that forms a team and keeps it together. It is also one of the skills DI participants remember most years after Destination Imagination is behind them. Three years ago, 2009 Students for a Creative Iowa Scholarship winner Marissa Paulsen wrote in her application, “DI stresses the importance of teamwork, but I don’t think everyone realizes just how important it is for every aspect of Destination Imagination. Our DI team has many talented individuals, but I truly believe we could not have accomplished what we have without teamwork.”