(About a 12-minute read - plus a little thinking time if you have some. This is a migration and updated post. It was first shared at the FUNdoing.com Blog. We are moving theoretical posts to OnTeamBuidling in an effort to organize content. Thanks for being here!)
Preface: This post is a bit of a journey. And if I may say so, an important one. It relates to diversity. Diversity is never going away - nor should it. We need it. I'm guessing you've heard this before, "Diversity makes us stronger!" The challenge is (and this is where team builders can help), we have to do some work, to make it work. Grab a warm beverage and let's dive in...
I received this question from a fellow team builder, let's call him John:
John: I was wondering if you have come across/created any activities for groups that are interested in exploring generational issues/awareness?
(I didn't have any specific activities to share with John, but I countered with a question and some reflection.)
Chris: John, let me ask you this: What problems (or concepts) do you want to dive into with such activities? (I have a pretty good idea, but I'm interested in your perspective.) When I know what I'm working on, or towards, it's easier for me to find activities that may surface the desired behaviors and outcomes.
I've had clients in the past expressing concern over the dynamics between the "older" and "newer" (i.e., younger) employees. When I worked with them, we explored the behaviors that were showing up (things seen and heard) during the program activities. I would ask which behaviors were working for them and which ones where not? Then, it was all about deciding what the group wanted to keep doing and what they wanted to change (or start doing). Some behaviors (good or bad) did relate to different ways of thinking, which could have been attributed to generational differences - but is that the REAL issue?
From my point of view, it's about diversity.
John, you and I know diversity is an important topic in the workplace and in educational settings around the world. Age gaps (that might include different ways of thinking, acting and being) are, as I have experienced, diverse groups of people challenged to find ways to work together.
John: I am not trying to solve any problem per se. I look at generational stuff as generational intelligence, like emotional intelligence with four categories:
3. social awareness
4. social management
[Note from Chris: See the CASEL website for more on EI.]
I would like to raise "generational intelligence." [from Chris: I love this term!] Is all this generational stuff just different behaviors as you mentioned? Is it different cultural dimensions? Is it a hoax? Or is it more?
My leaning is toward more. I've worked with groups (7th graders, MBA students, etc.) for decades. I am getting older, and they remain the same age. So, it could be me being different/older but I see a difference in these groups. For one, they all seem nicer. And less strategic. And they jump to a solution...I call this firing...and they keep on firing without any sense of ready or aim (their world is one of velocity). They also do not seem strategically interested in going in a straight line from A to B and would rather go out in some tangential direction away from B but thinking that it still leads to B (don't know if I am clear here?). Do you see any of this?
So, I am big on raising awareness and managing that new awareness for a different result.
I was recently taught two new words. Ethnocentric (believing that your way is the only way or the best way) and ethnorelative (believing that there are many ways/thoughts/cultural preferences which are different than yours yet valid and important for you to master in order to be a great leader). This has changed my thinking immensely. My awareness and management of self and others has shifted because of this. I have moved away from binary thinking to dialectic (AND)...that multiple ways are both/all right. I would like to investigate generational issues with the same light.
I am not a researcher [but I do] like to test things and collect data. Which ties into the experiential activity field we are in. Why not divide groups by generations and see how they solve problems/think? Is there any correlation across generations?
Reflecting on my observations, people from different generations seem to look at each other as if they were aliens. How to shine light here?
Chris: It just so happens that (based on a recommendation from Michael Cardus) I started reading the book, Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help (2009) by Edgar Schein. So far, it's been an engaging read since I can correlate a lot of the teambuilding I do directly to helping behaviors. Here are a few points from the first two sections of the book that, I believe, can relate to our generational issues/awareness discussion:
This social economics concept (or social theory) struck a chord with me in relation to generational issues/awareness. Let's consider a group of multi-generational participants (e.g., co-workers). If one generation thinks ethnocentrically and the other thinks ethnorelatively the communication between the generations may not mesh with the social economics expectations of each generation thus causing friction.
I'm sure it's also possible for two different generations within a group to be the same types of thinkers. What if both groups (generations) had an ethnocentric point of view - each thought their way was the best way. How would we work with that situation (or those behaviors)? What if both generations were ethnorelative thinkers? Maybe the group doesn't have any problems? (Other than maybe, deciding what to do because everyone has a good idea!)
Questions arise: How do we know what kind of thinkers we're working with? Is this about generational issues or is it about diversity? Where do you choose to focus?
For reasons of time, my conversation with John is on hold - but still on the table. I am grateful for his inquiry and the conversation. Our thinking helps us expand our understandings. Do we ever find the answers? Sometimes. At other times we just need to keep talking, staying in dialogue with the curious.
I'd like to invite you into a little reflection:
It's easy to understand this discussion of generational awareness and the work we do to foster its awareness is an ongoing journey. For now, I'd like to let these ideas take some hold and see how they grow.
Discussions or dialogues like this can help us learn and grow in ways we might have never considered. I believe it's vital to bring up the questions that matter to us and engage in conversations with 'like' and 'other' perspectives to gain deeper understanding of different points of view and the people who carry them.
I believe this to be true: It's not about against, it's about together.
How do we help make this happen?
Please, keep doing the good work. We need you!
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
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(About a 15-minute read. The Channels Project is a migration and updated post - it was first shared at the FUNdoing.com Blog. We are moving theoretical posts to OnTeamBuidling in an effort to organize content.)
NOTE from Chris: This is an example of some 'Deep Work' programming - not meant to be quick and easy. The Channels Project combines team building behaviors and learning to understand the New Bloom's Taxonomy and how it can influence mindful experiences.
Those of you familiar with the original Bloom's Taxonomy know that it is a "classification of learning objectives" divided between the Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor learning domains. The intended goal of the Taxonomy, "is to motivate educators to focus on all three domains [and the different "levels" or "ways" of thinking], creating a more holistic form of education."
Using this New Taxonomy as a teacher (over the last 20 years), helped me focus on designing test questions that touched on the all the "orders" of thinking - including some basic "fact-based" questions like defining terms (lower-order thinking), up to "creating" something like a skills-based drill to practice throwing a ball (higher-order thinking).
What I like the most about this revision to Bloom's is the inclusion of the "creating" process - something we like to do in adventure education. Creating is at the higher order thinking skill level in this new model and as an evaluation focus helps me to see what a student can put into practice. (Here is an 8-minute read for more, from Dr. Robert Talbert: Re-Thinking Bloom's Taxonomy for Flipped Learning Design.)
A similar article (no longer available), back in 2012, inspired the Channels Project. Shortly after this 2012 read I set out to create an activity that could move a group through the ways of thinking to help educator groups understand and remember the areas of the revised (or 'new') Bloom's. The interesting discovery was that the ways of thinking are also obvious question prompts for the reflective process throughout the activity and during the processing session after the activity.
The final twist to exploring the New Bloom's here is the notion of 'flipping' the model. We don't always have to start with lower-order thinking experiences (e.g., easy team building activities) and move up to something more complex. It's completely doable to jump into the complex and then back-track down the orders to uncover the learnings.
So, here we go!
The Channels Project
Needs & Numbers (for each group in play):
The Channels Project Directions
The Channels Project works well with 8 to 10 in a group. Multiple groups can work through it at the same time. (Maybe some collaborative interaction can happen?)
Time: This one has the potential to go for 30 to 90 minutes depending on the group(s) and the time you spend with discussions (and collaborations with multiple groups). Consider the possibility of spending two class sessions on this one if you are working in a school context.
Set-Up: (For each group of 10 to 12 participants.) Mark the corners of a 25-foot sided square boundary area (can be indoors or outdoors) with the four cones. Place one chair inside the boundary area about 5 feet from each corner and an equal distance from each side. Place the wide-mouthed container directly in the center of the boundary area (wide-mouth up). Place one rollable object, that has been placed in a small cup (or bowl), at each of the corners of the boundary area - just outside the boundary area. Set down all the other supplies somewhere near the outside of the boundary area.
Objective: (Here is one possible script to introduce the activity):
The objective of The Channels Project is to create a transportation system of channels inside the boundary area designed to move all the 'vital resources' (small rollable objects in the cups) from their place of origin (the cups can be Factories ) to the central container (the Warehouse).
The expectation is to move all the vital resources available to you into the warehouse in 20 minutes.
At some point during the movement of each vital resource, it must include the following action steps while inside the boundary area [read from 'The Channels Project Directions' handout you will be giving the group]:
Each vital resource must 1) STAY OFF the ground (or Floor), 2) roll OVER something, 3) go UNDER something, 4) move AROUND something, 5) travel THROUGH something, 6) go BETWEEN two things, 7) travel HORIZONTALLY outside the channels, 8) drop DOWN through the air, and 9) move UPWARD.
These actions do not need to go in the order listed on the directions I have for you; they simply need to be included with each vital resource. [Even though my groups have asked me to clarify some of these requirements, I've simply said, I will leave that up to you, as a group, to decide how you integrate these actions.]
During the activity I will also ask you to adhere to the following Rules of Play: [Reading from the handout again, I share these Rules of Play before letting the group(s) start their work.]
Continue with the following information before the group is allowed to begin:
Please use the blank paper found in your supplies to diagram your plan of action. Included in The channels Project Directions, there is a graphic called, Bloom's Taxonomy. Reference this list attributes as you work through the planning of your transportation system.
Here's the idea...
After creating your transportation system plan evaluate and analyze how it works - you can practice your plan outside of the boundary area. Think about possible improvements to your system and apply changes if needed. After you reach your objective (or not, due to time limitations or loss of supplies), we'll take some time to talk about what you've come to understand and want to remember about your experience.
If you were unable to meet the objective in 20-minutes, you can plan and implement another attempt today or the next time we meet.
I'm now ready to answer any questions you have before starting the activity.
As you can see, this experience will take time to work through. Use some of this time to check in with you group(s) and prompt some thinking and discussion about what's happening during the process , as well as the end. Here are some questions to consider:
I believe programming 'projects' like this can help our students (and other clients) dig into Deep Work. Life is not alway about 140 characters. Diving into a longterm endeavor builds tenacity and resilience. We can forge relationships because we get to know our group over time, through failures and success. We'll disagree but find common ground. We'll get to the end and determine what we did well and what we need to improve. Then, together, we'll take on the next project.
What other Deep Work can we program as team builders? We'd love to hear your ideas - leave us a Comment.
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
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Dr. Chris Cavert is an educator, author and trainer. His passion is helping team builders learn and grow.