A simple and highly engaging team communication and problem-solving task!
Many of you will be familiar with the type of puzzle that uses a matrix of information and a process of elimination in order to find the answer to a set of questions. Fewer of you will have exploited these puzzles to turn them into fascinating team development exercises. In this version of the matrix puzzle, key information is divided up between members of a working team. Team members are not allowed to draw or write anything, so they are dependent upon gathering and collating verbal information in order to solve the puzzle. As they work together, it becomes clear that they need a strategy for managing the information. There are various options available to them and, whichever they choose, the whole team must co-operate in order to be successful.
Workstations is a team communication and information-sharing activity which is ideal for groups not previously experienced in working together. It is packaged as an extremely portable box of playing cards containing delegate briefing instructions, facilitator instructions and review suggestions within the box of cards.
The team members are required to share information verbally in order to solve a 'matrix puzzle' - a simple process of elimination and logic. The difficulty comes in not being able to write anything down - the group must identify other ways of remembering and sorting key information. The individuals working together tend to move at different paces and to have different strategies for remembering the given information. Can they, together, develop an approach which everyone understands and which supports different individual needs? Can they be sure by the end of the activity that everyone has the 'full picture' so that they can correctly complete their individual parts in an implementation process?
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This exercise demands both task and group leadership. It is an excellent introduction to 'chairing skills' and could be used as the 'warm-up' to a session on managing meetings, team briefing or working with focus groups. It offers a good, practical illustration of team roles in action and can be successfully linked to work on effective team performance.
The exercise is designed to last for 30 minutes, followed by a 30 minute review, to highlight the learning points in relation to teamwork, communication and information management that maybe transferred back into the workplace as individual actions.
As all 30 playing cards are dispersed among the participants, the group size is flexible. However we would recommend a group size of between 6 and 15 to ensure that the dynamic of using 'dispersed' knowledge around the group members is achieved, while still having team members engaged and active for the duration of the activity.
Some ideas about how to get the best out of some classic tasks!
- New Employee Orientation: use Workstations to explore how it felt to be overwhelmed with new information and unsure of how to make sense of it all. Identify ways of expressing confusion without appearing to lack confidence, how to ask the right questions to find the information you need and how to clarify and summarize to confirm understanding.
- Managing Meetings workshop: use Workstations to simulate an information-sharing and decision-making meeting. Participants practice skills of chairing meetings, managing interactions, ensuring understanding and reaching agreement.
Workstations Toolbox comes in a very portable 2.5" x 3.5" card deck. Workstations is a creation of RSVP Design Ltd. and is validated for ILM.