John, one of our fellow FUN Followers, wrote into me asking about my experience with groups (clients) interested in exploring "generational issues/awareness." I thought this would be and interesting conversation to share and see if others might have something to contribute. Here's John's initial inquiry:
John: I was wondering if you have come across/created any activities for groups that were interested in exploring generational issues/awareness?
After some consideration, here's what I shared with John:
Chris: You pose an interesting question. I don't know any activities specific to "generational issues/awareness" and have yet to create/develop anything specific myself.
John continues the thread:
John: Thanks for your reply. I am surprised that there are not many/any generational activities out there!
Instead of replying to John's last email, I wanted to save my thoughts for this blog post.
It just so happens that (based on a recent 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:
The details of social economics continues, but stopping here coincides with our discussion. This concept (or social theory) struck a cord with me in relation to John's generational issues/awareness thinking. 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 they both had an ethnocentric point of view - each thought their way was the best way. How do you work with that situation? What if both generations were ethnorelative thinkers? Maybe there's no problems? The question arises then, how do we know what thinkers we're working with? (Also, don't discount the fact that there could be more than two different "generations" within one working group, as John noted, in relation to the "messy part" about dating generations.)
You can see we could really keep going down the rabbit hole here. But let's take a team breadth. There are other great conversations just like this one that circle around the adventure education field. They give some of us cause for reflection (and program development possibilities). However, my mindset tends to settle back into the "every day" team building facilitators out there. How can this conversation help them?
In my (humble) opinion, it doesn't help them at all until they are ready to add to the conversation.. Which means they have some experience with the issue(s) in the conversation and believe they can use the information to help them in the future. In John's case, he was ready. He brought up the questions. He wants to know what's out there.
If you want to keep going down the rabbit hole with John and me, leave a comment for us below. Do you run into situations involving generational issues/awareness? How do you approach these issues? What activities do you lead in order to flush out these issues? We're ready to keep it going.
What can you take from this if you're more interested in climbing out of the hole for now? When working with groups that you know include multiple generations, continue planning educative experiences (programs) that allow the groups to recognize and explore behaviors (things they can see and hear) that help them move towards their goals, and recognize and explore those behaviors that keep them from their goals. Then, find out which behaviors they want to keep using and which behaviors they want to change or stop using? Personally, I do not make it about generational issues (even though some may identify them as such), it's about what help's them achieve their desired outcomes.
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D. (and John)
This post was inspired by my new friend and adventure educator (and FUN Follower) Katie. Her situation is a common tale - she wants something different.
In a recent email she told me:
My favorite name game is Group Juggle because it seems to be the most helpful in actually learning names. But, after you facilitate it for the hundredth time it's time for something different.
Then she asked,
Do you know of any [other name games] that are as helpful and active as Group Juggle that work with youth and adults?
In my response to Katie (along with some suggested Name Games) I said that I know "Name Games" in two ways. Activities that use names as a helpful behavior within a task, and activities that are used to learn and practice names. When names are used as a helpful behavior the task is the focus (e.g., Group Juggle - get the object through the pattern as quickly as you can). Learning names is not the goal, but again, it's helpful to the task, and yes, some participants might actually learn some names
I also told Katie that if the facilitator actually takes the time after an activity (like Group Juggle) to go around and ask for volunteers to call out as many names as they can, then we're practicing and learning names (and offering a "challenge" as well). A win-win in my book. (But, in my experience, I don't see this happening very much with activities that use names - it might not be necessary or it simply might not seem important enough. Learning names important enough - don't get me started.)
Activities that are used to learn and practice names are different. The goal is to learn names, any other outcomes are secondary. Below is one of my all-time favorite Name Games. It's purpose is to learn names in a fun way. Here's how I facilitate it:
Toss-a-Name Game & Testing Out Toss-a-Name Game comes from the first edition of Silver Bullets (Rohnke, 1984). You need a bunch a safe tossable objects (safe enough to hit the cranial regions without damage - not that we're doing this on purpose!) for your circle of players - I have at least one tossable for every two people.
One object starts the action. The person tossing the object is asked to first, 1) say the name of the person s/he is tossing the object to, then 2) make a connection with this person - in many cultures this is eye-contact, finally 3) toss the object. This is called "Proper Tossing Procedure" (or PTP). Following this procedure leads most groups to successful tosses and catches (not that catching is even required). The next person to possess the object (since the intended person might not get the toss) follows the same procedure - name, connection, toss. This one object goes around the group in any which-way - no pattern required. Once the process is understood, after a minute or so, I stop the action and tell my group about Testing Out.
Now that you understand how PTP works I would like to give you a challenge - remember, it's your challenge, your choice around here, so it's up to you if you want to try "testing out." We're going to continue the activity, following PTP. After a few minutes I will stop the process and ask who would like to test out. If you are up for the challenge, the first thing you will need to tell me is what grade you want to go for - this means, getting 90% or more names correct gives you an "A" grade. (For an A+ you need to get all the names correct.) A "B" is in the 80th percents, a "C" is in the 70th percents, and so on. If you don't get the grade you want, you can try again after another round of tossing play.
Adding the "test" challenge has been a great success for me. Even though there is no real grade given (nothing is written down), the "grade" motivates the learning process and influences (most) participants to focus on practicing names as they toss objects around the group (and noticing other names when they are not tossing anything). If a person doesn't know someone's name they can ask, "Hey, you in the red shirt, please help me out. What is your name?" Once a name is given, then it's practice time - name, connection, toss.
Now, something else is happening in Toss-a-Name Game. More objects are being added to the process when the facilitator feels the group can handle more - all following PTP. All the flying about creates a little anxiety and fun (now you get the cranial reference) while the learning is going on.
After every couple of minutes I'll stop the action and ask if anyone wants to test out. In the beginning I might simply ask, Who thinks they have 50% of the names? Maybe 70%? How about 80%? (You get to see if there is some learning going on.) Okay, who's willing to try the test? I'll take two or three volunteers. I ask for the grade they want then let them have at it. We all celebrate their attempt, whether it was a success in their eyes or not - because they can try again another time. One of the secondary goals of this process is to show the group how you are creating a safe learning environment - if you take a "risk" we will support you. With that said, I am always one of the first to "test," and I usually have to try a few times before I get my A+. (I show my group I'm willing to take the risk as well - and willing to "fail" and learn from the process.)
Now, you might be thinking, "Testing is the outcome Chris! I thought you said learning names was the outcome?" Again, I see testing as the motivator - something of choice is on the line. Each person chooses her/his own grade (goal) if s/he even wants to test out, does their best, and celebrates the attempt knowing they gave it a shot. Often times just like the activities coming up in the program. There will be some risk involved, but if you support each other and take a shot, you will find success. All this from a Name Game.
Katie, thanks for letting me share your question. If any of you out there want to share your favorite Name Game, leave us (Katie and me) a comment below. Thanks!
Have FUN out there!
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This blog is a space for hands-on programable fun - energetic activities and ideas that can be used as a means to bring people together; activities and ideas we as educators can add to our social development curriculums.
Dr. Chris Cavert is an internationally known author, speaker, and trainer in the area of adventure-based activity programming and its relation to community and pro-social behavior development.