Trust-Building Initiatives
To get to the point where you trust your life to someone, you need a few opportunities in a less challenging environment.  One of the exercises used by Outward Bound is to blindfold half of a group and mute the others.  Consequently, those who cannot see where they are being led (through an obstacle course) must depend on their seeing partners, who must, in turn, find a way to communicate non-verbally with their blindfolded colleagues.
If you can fall on your face or hit your head, you need to trust that your partner is telling you the right thing to do to avoid those things.  If you can't speak to anyone, you must use body signs and touch to indicate what is ahead and to instill trust in the one you are leading.  If you don't work together as a team, filling in what each of you lacks, you won't survive the obstacle course or overcome your handicaps, much less make the Tower climb.
Another initiative -- "Building a House" -- involves blindfolding the entire group and then putting each person's hands on one part of two interconnected ropes.  The group must find a way to put down the ropes in the shape of a house (square on bottom, triangle on top).  Only the individuals in the group cannot see how long the ropes are, they are not told they are interconnected, and they do not know where they are on the rope, much less where the other nine people in the group are.
At first, everyone starts yelling at once.  Several individuals start shouting orders to the others, who don't know who to listen to.  Others keep asking where someone else is, trying to get their bearings.  Some individuals move their hands along the rope, trying to meet up with a team member.  Chaos reigns for a while, until someone finds the spot where the two ropes connect and tells the others.  Then another group member suggests they measure out at arm's length the length of the rope and the distance between each person.
Some team members are very actively trying to take over and solve the problem, others are standing at the side wondering where they are and why no one is listening to them.  Through the chaos, a plan emerges, but communicating it to everyone is not as easy as it might seem.  Eventually, that happens, the rope is plotted on the ground, and the blindfolds are taken off.
The debriefing focused to teamwork and conflict resolution and to what degree it failed or succeeded.  Who became the leader and why?  How did the students who think of themselves as leaders react to someone else taking that position and making them followers?  Some said they were willing to follow, others felt they stopped caring about the solution when they weren't involved anymore.  What role should followers have?  What happened when everyone shouted at the same time?  How can everyone contribute and still have a good plan?
When someone was overheard saying: "You're a loser.  Stop screwing the whole thing up" -- how did that affect the individual being addressed and his or her ability to be a productive member of the team?  How did the team intervene with the person who made the comment?  Why didn't anyone say "Let's figure where we are and come up with a plan" before the shouting started?
When something or someone handicaps your usual way of doing things, can you be flexible and fluid enough to come up with an alternative or are you overly dependent on a set way of dealing with the world?  How can individuals contribute to a group experience?  One student remarked on the experience, "I learned to understand my function in groups and group dynamics more" while another noted, "I think that now I am more likely to be open and flexible when working in groups."
(go back home)