Into the woods?

Patti Digh gives some feedback on those “Ropes” courses:

I remember a ‘trek -in – the – woods – team – building’ event years ago with colleagues from work (in the freezing rain, no less). We were on a scavenger hunt in the forest trying to learn these lessons: 1) if we worked together more effectively, we would all succeed; 2) What we could accomplish together was more than what we could achieve alone; and 3) Etcetera.

I didn’t learn what the organizers intended. What I learned instead were six things:

1) I don’t like freezing rain. It makes me cranky, itchy, and very, very cold.

2) Freezing rain appears to make other people passive aggressive.

3) If you would just tell me those lessons rather than make me suffer to discover them, I would believe you. I promise.

4) Some people don’t care who is left behind or who falls down in the mud.

5) People don’t stop being bullies when they grow up. They just dress differently to fool you.

6) Human beings are lousy at stopping long enough to celebrate those precious moments when we find the small orange flags in the woods.

I’m a big sceptic about these elaborate team building activities too. There’s no need to go out into the woods to see how a team works; you can find the dynamics in much smaller-scale activities you can do in the workplace… paying attention to the simple details of how people interact.

Patti also makes a point about the value of positive feedback which makes sense to me. I often find when debriefing an Improv exercise that folks often dwell on the bits that “didn’t work”, neglecting the parts that did. Looking at what does work often yields more useful information going forward. I wouldn’t take this as an absolute rule though – there are also definitely times when a firm No is what’s needed.

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