Collaborative Games

What exactly is a “game”? A quick search on Wikipedia delivers this definition:
game
/g?m/
Noun

“A form of play or sport, esp. a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.”

Although I agree that games must necessarily have rules (and structure), what strikes me as Interesting about the definition above is the phrase “[especially] a competitive one”. It seems that the internet, like most of society, has bought into the notion that games must be competitive in order to qualify as “games”. But is this necessarily so?

Off to See the Wizard

Kyoto, Japan circa 1986, and there I was — standing at the ancient gates of Tofukuji monastery — eagerly attempting to meet the wizard.

In truth, Fukushima Roshi is no sorcerer, nor is Tofukuji the Emerald City. But the Abbot of Tofukuji temple is certainly “wizardly” in his sense of calm, equanimity, and spiritual development…or so I had heard. My college classmate, Tim Armacost — a Zen Buddhist and old Japan hand — was the one who had initially insisted I drop in on the Roshi when touring Japan’s imperial city.

“You have to go visit the Roshi. He may not change your life, but then again, he just might.”

Should Games be More (or Less) Competitive

There’s a popular social movement in schools these days, compelling teachers and coaches to minimize competition on the playground while increasing collaboration. It’s gone so far that one school I heard about even removed the scoreboard from their high school football field, insisting that keeping score put too much pressure on the students and inflated the competitive element, reducing self-esteem.

“The Wave” of Team Decision Making

A few days ago, I watched a fascinating movie from 2008 — “The Wave” — available widely on DVD, Netflix, etc. Although the film takes place in Germany (with an all-German cast), it’s actually a dramatization of the true story of an unusual teaching experiment conducted by Ron Jones at his Palo Alto, CA high school in 1969. As the “The Wave” begins, young teacher Rainer Wenger finds himself compelled to teach a one-week course on the topic of “autocracy” — not his favorite subject. After his first class — taught in the traditional, lecture manner — fails to inspire much interest from his students, Rainer decides to try an experiment.

The “Golden Rule” at Work – Re-Examined

One of the most popular axioms in western culture is the Golden Rule, loosely summarized as “Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.” Although valid in general (who doesn’t want more love, respect and kindness?), the Golden Rule is flawed when it comes to personality styles and preferences. People just aren’t all wired alike; they have different needs, different ways they want to be treated. And this is particularly true during times of stress. At work, it is the leader’s task not only to know how he, himself, prefers to be treated in times of hardship, and how his staff might react in the pressure cooker, but also what each of his teammates might need in order to recover from the crisis and get back on track.

Why Teambuilding?

Earlier this year, I was in Denver preparing for a treasure hunt. The night before the program, the client asked me to join the group for a drink at the hotel where we were staying. Expecting fifteen people when I arrived in the hotel lounge, I was surprised to see that only fourteen team members were present. Who was missing? “Oh, that’s just Mark being Mark” explained my client contact, Anthony. “He doesn’t believe in business-related socializing during his ‘private time.’”

What is a Teambuilding Program?

Explaining what their son does has never been an easy task for my parents. “Oh, there’s Mrs. Weinstein—her son’s a doctor. And Mrs. Honeywell—her daughter’s an attorney. Our son?—oh, uh, yes, he’s a teambuilding trainer. No, no, I don’t know exactly what he does either, but he’s quite good at it, I can assure you.”

With an eye towards helping them out before their next awkward cocktail party, I embarked on a Google “treasure hunt” this morning in hopes of discovering a satisfactory working definition of “teambuilding program.”

Teambuilding and Corporate Performance

By Jennifer van Stelle, PhD Sociology, Stanford University

Some time ago, Dave Blum and I were discussing the positive impact of teambuilding on organizations. I’m an organizational sociologist – I study how organizations work (or don’t work), how people inside companies relate to each other, and how organizations themselves relate to other organizations. Dave claimed that teambuilding can improve a company’s financial performance. Of course my response, as an academic, was, “But has this been measured? Where are the studies?” In the end, I was intrigued enough by the topic that I offered to research and write an article about it for a subsequent issue of his newsletter. Here, then, are the results of my research-from a sociologist’s standpoint.

Rockin’ teams know how to “Role” with it

Hobbling down a cobblestone street in New Orleans’ French Quarter, her hand pressed firmly to her lower back, Catherine is clearly struggling with her first treasure hunt experience — and boy is she not happy about it! Her boss Steve — far, far ahead – is setting a breakneck pace, so intent is he on solving the next clue and leading his team to a morning victory. At last the lunch break arrives and, not surprisingly, all hell breaks loose! Catherine is spitting nails with Steve for driving the team so hard as to ignore her ongoing recovery from recent back surgery. Steve is hight on the defensive, declaring he was only pushing everyone so hard for the sake of team motivation and performance.

What has gone wrong here, and how can it be resolved?

Healthy Competition

“Competition is the worst possible arrangement as far as relationship is concerned” –educator Alfie Kohn (1986)

A few weeks back I was invited to observe a teambuilding session involving the cooking of a group meal — call it “team cuisine”. Working in small groups, each team was assigned the task of preparing pizza, salad and dessert for the day’s lunch. The activity started with a food auction, with teams bidding for ingredients. It continued with an hour of food preparation, after which each of the team’s “culinary creations” were judged by a panel for both taste and presentation values. The winning team received a nice prize-and bragging rights.

Sounds like fun, right?