The outbound activities gave me a various insights into the concepts of team work and leadership which were mostly just jargon or words in a textbook for me. It was a helpful and useful session and helped me to clear some of my own misconceptions. It was a session where I first hand experienced concepts like group think and group shift, where I realised how practically stretch goals help achieve the goal and how easy it is to make faulty assumptions and fail in your goal because of bounded rationality. The session consisted of the following activities:
Activity 1: Bicycle Tube Activity
The activity involved the whole group and we had to estimate the number of people who could fit in standing into a bicycle tube. The range of answers varied from 3 to 10. I was the one who had given 10 as the reply and was asked to test my hypothesis and fit in 10 people into the bicycle tube. At the end, the final count was at all 25 students inside the tube.
- Self imposed Barriers and Power of assumption - In the beginning the entire group underestimated the number that they thought would fit into the tube. Different people had different assumption on which they based their answers. Some people believed that the tube could not be stretched to accommodate the people. Some people did not even realize that the tube could be stretched. Some people over relied on their science background and applied Hooke's Law and concluded that no way could rubber stretch that much. All the answers were based on a flawed assumption and everyone tried to give a safe answer and not be picked out. A leader should try and think beyond his self imposed barriers. Things are not always what they appear to be at first glance. Leaders try to see things differently and challenge their own assumptions.
- Peer pressure and Group Think- I initially had a figure of around 20 in my mind but I lowered it to 10 after listening to others give answers like 3 and 4. The average answer in my group was about 7-8 and my answer of 10 singled me out to take charge of this game and prove my point. I would have liked to say 20 but I thought that that answer would not be correct after listening to others and I later realized how peer pressure can lead to prolonged lapse in judgment and can then lead to group think. In our group, there was definite group think and group shift. No one gave a very different answer from what others were giving, possibly at the threat of being scoffed at. Everyone gave a very "safe" answer and the group therefore led to decrease in risk taking.
- Common Goal - I saw that once the task began, people were willing to sacrifice for the group's goal, they sacrificed their personal space and their comfort level to ensure that the goal of 10 people and then 25 people was met collectively by the goal. Some members actively participated and sought out free space where people could join in and lent support to them to ensure no one fell outside. However, there were some people who did not take such an active part in the process.
- Push the Barrier- Since I was asked to fit in 10 people initially, after I fit in 10 people inside, I could have stopped but I continued to try and accommodate more people in just to see how much further could the envelope be pushed. However, there were some students who felt that there was no need to do anything further since 10 people were already in the tube. I learnt that I am a kind of a person who likes to push and break barriers. I would not like accept status quo and push the change to the maximum extent possible.
- Stretch Goals little by little- Having small and realizable targets in mind allowed us to slowly start coaxing more and more people to enter the tube thus raising the total count. Had we set our initial goal at 25 in the beginning, it is possible we would have given up sooner. But by setting out goal at 10 and then increasing our goal to just one more person and then just one more person i.e.by executing small incremental targets allowed us to fit in all 25 students in the tube.
- Power of motivation in team- The role of people who were active in asking other people to join in and who identified space where they could join in was very vital. They built enthusiasm amongst the less active participants and made them join in. They identified who could fit in where and motivated the more passive members to take a more active role in the attainment of the goal.
Activity 2: Minefields Activity
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In this activity, we were supposed to cross the partitioned area called the mine field using green safe areas, a blue mobile safe area and bamboo sticks. No member could touch any areas which was not green or blue as that was a mine and would result in damage of that person and would cause a penalty of 5 minutes. The aim was to gain the maximum profit by getting as many people through the mine field as possible. This activity required a lot of planning, creative thinking and at first glance looked much simpler than it actually was.
- Planning- While the team was completely focused on the task, we did not realize just how important planning was in this activity and hence did not have the best results.
- Extrapolating Past learnings to Present Scenario - A number of us had played a similar game in the induction and the TBHP course. We all assumed this game to be exactly the same as those games, without taking in consideration the change in resources and the change in the context. We believed that since the we had successfully conquered the previous games, this too would be a "cake walk" unfortunately the mines were not that easy to conquer. Hence, we can not blindly extrapolate our past learnings to the present without considering change in context.
- Overconfidence: We all had the implicit assumption that once we figure out the easiest way to cross the minefield, all of us would be able to cross it and this led to high goal setting. We actually assumed and believed that all 25 of us would cross the mines in the given time, which was a grave overestimation on our part.
- Improper evaluation of resources - At the very start, we overestimated the value of the items and did not purchase all the equipment that was required to complete the track. We believed ourselves to be much more competent and the resources to be more useful than they turned out to be. Initially, our plan was to buy only 3 bamboo sticks but in the end we needed to utilize all the 6 sticks to complete the task. Thus our strategy did not align with the actual one that had to be used.
- Time Management- We spent upwards of 11 minutes in the initial planning and squabbling amongst ourselves. When the instructor told us how much time had passed, we jumped into the execution aspect without the proper planning. We could not decide on which route to adopt which led to even more wastage of time. Thus properly utilising time in planning and then going for execution is something that is of utmost importance.
- Lack of feedback- The success of Utkarsh who crossed the minefield led us to believe that the path taken by him was the best. This kind of blinding led to all the people follow the same path and no one tried something different. No more ideas were tried and the people who had crossed the mines, did not even try and offer help or feedback to the people crossing so as to how they could cross it more easily. On his successful completion, we thought this was a task which could be done individually but an important key to its successful completion was team work which was completely missing in this task.
- Division into Sub Groups and lack of one leader- The team naturally broken into many sub teams each working individually when no one leader was able to emerge who could successfully lead all 25 people. Someone in class had mentioned that many leaders emerge but I believe that in this game, not a single leader emerged who could successfully lead the team towards it's a goal. There was a break down in communication between various members and many good ideas that we should have used were either unheard or ignored. Eventually some people just gave up speaking and started following the herd.