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 --Albert Einstein

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To the Moon, Alice PDF  | Print |  E-mail

moonThe famous last words of bus driver Ralph Cramden, when he’s been outsmarted by his wife, Alice, on the “Honeymooners”.

Everyone talks about team when it is most needed, and it doesn’t happen as often as it should. Some Lone Rangers think they can do it by themselves and they don’t want to be on a team. The Lone Rangers may think their problem is unique and no one can help. They may also want to be secretive and not want to expose their great idea. The Lone Ranger wants to be the “star” and not share the glory. Phooey!

Too bad for them and too bad for us. They miss out and so do we. Why? We miss that synergistic energy, which is key for creativity and productivity. Teamwork is simply effective and efficient. Artistic and literary endeavors aside, I can’t imagine any innovation of consequence that was created and produced completely and utterly by a single person.

I have often used tools and games to make the case for embracing /adopting teamwork. For years, I have used the NASA Moon Problem. Here is the scenario:

YOU are a space crew originally scheduled to rendezvous with a mother ship on the lighted surface of the moon. Due to mechanical difficulties however, your ship was forced to land at a spot some 200 miles from the rendezvous point. During re-entry and landing, much of the equipment aboard was damaged and since survival depends on reaching the mother ship, the most critical items available must be chosen for the 200-mile trip. Below are listed the 15 items left intact and undamaged after landing. Your task is to rank order them in terms of their importance in allowing your crew to reach the rendezvous point. Place the number 1 by the most important item, the number 2 by the second most important, and so on through number 15, the least important.

Working individually, everyone has their own rationale for the items they choose as the highest priority. Working in groups, teams are asked to use group consensus to determine their group priority list. When compared to the “official” answer sheet, the team’s responses are better than the average score of the individuals in that group. The synergy of the group brings their response closer to the best solution.

There are other instruments like the NASA Moon Problem for evaluation teamwork, like the Cascade Survival Problem. Essentially the same premise, cooler environment. I have also facilitated Mastermind groups, which tap into the collective unconscious for solutions and ideas. Brainstorming is yet another technique to crowd source alternative solutions.

With my Junior Achievement class at Franklin High School in Seattle, I recently used a great game called “The Helium Stick” from It’s a deceptively simple teamwork activity. Form two lines facing each other. Lay a long, thin rod on the group's extended index fingers at shoulder level. Goal: Lower the pole to the ground. It is a fun exercise but the pole must rest on the finger tips of each and every team member, the whole way down. Not as easy as it sounds. Trust me. Since everyone must be touching the stick, most of the force is up. Reality: The stick goes up! In order to lower the stick from shoulder high to the ground, it requires a lot of cooperation and communication (and time). Imagine that.

There is another great game where two long strips of duct tape are laid parallel on the floor, sticky side up, shoulder width apart. Pretending you are stepping into a set of skis, the first team member steps on the tape, at one end, so both heel and toe of the right foot are taped to the tape on the right side. Then they do the same with the left heel and toe on the tape on the left side. The second team member steps behind the first and places her right toe on the tape behind the first heel. Same on the left side. All team members are facing the same way, heel to toe, shoes stuck to the duct tape, on the right and left foot. Imagine a centipede on skis. Now race an opposing team across the room. There is a lot of falling down and laughter and no alcohol is involved.

There are many great reasons for teamwork, least of which is showcasing the Superstar! The Superstar may win the game, but not the championship. There are many cases in sports where the Superstar leaves the team which goes on, shortly thereafter, to win a championship. It’s not the Lone Ranger; it’s the collective vision and effort that wins overall.

So for the long haul get a team or at least a partner. It doesn’t have to be a business partner; just someone to bounce ideas off of. Years ago, a friend and I met, weekly, for a cigar and a beer. (I know smoking a cigar is a disgusting habit, but someone has to do it. No comment on the beer.) We discussed our work, goals, plans and results. He sold medical instruments. I didn’t. We shared the love of our businesses. And we encouraged and supported each other along the way.

Who is on your team? Who can you count on? Who can count on you? Hook up with someone. I don’t care if it is over a cigar, a beer, lunch, dinner, coffee, tea or knitting; just hook up. What is your technique to tap into the resourceful synergistic creative and productive energy?

Remember, the Lone Ranger had Tonto; Robinson Crusoe had Friday; Tarzan had Jane and Ralph had Alice.

And the Anchorman has the Weathergirl!

Comments (2)
  • diane  - lone ranger
    Some Lone Rangers think that no one would be interested in helping them,and others feel it faster to do it on their own....

    There is nothing like a great team that can work together with respect for discussion. There is nothing worse than a team of people who are in it for themselves and are afraid that team work means they will end up with less for themselves.

    Hi-Ho Silver-Away!
  • Pete  - You are right
    Here are 2 links that make the point of teamwork better than could.

    Here is a recent report from NPR about group intelligence: emaf

    And there is MORE!!

    Get intelligent, join a group.

    ciao, P>}
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