Announce that you want your group to form into a specified number of teams.
Explain that each team must have the same number of members, and achieve a balance of the following criteria:
– Other attributes as useful to your purposes
Allow several minutes for your group to achieve the task.
How To Play Narrative
There are countless methods to form groups of two or more people which achieve a particular or random mix of members. If you’re looking for empowered teams, here’s one more to add to your repertoire.
It’s as simple and as complex as this: ask your group to form a specified number of teams (you determine) that achieves a prescribed balance of factors or elements.
This criterion can be as varied or purposeful as you choose, perhaps informed by your program goals or the focus you require in the next experience.
Naturally, it is presumed that each small group will comprise roughly the same number of people.
If balance, equity and mixing are important to you and your program, here are a few useful starting points:
Gender – fair mix of male, female and otherwise identified.
Age – fair balance of young and older people.
Experience/Qualifications – fair spread of skills and abilities.
Culture/Ethnicity – diverse mix of backgrounds, cultures and perspectives.
Once announced, allow a minute or two for the groups or teams to form.
From here, you have at least one of two paths forward. Depending on your framing:
You remain the final arbiter to determine how diverse the teams are, suggesting that if you are not convinced the outcome is fair and equitable, you will demand change. This means you will make any necessary adjustments yourself, or require your group to self-adjust until you are satisfied.
The group is fully responsible for the result, and you are not permitted to make any changes. This is clearly far more empowering for your group, but opens the possibility of producing an uneven result.
Practical Leadership Tips
This mixing or team-forming strategy is ideal for all groups. In the case of new groups, the conversations which follow your instructions invite lots of productive sharing as people learn more about others and their profile in the larger group. Naturally, for groups which are very familiar with one another, this task truly challenges them to overlook cliques and alliances in an effort to achieve an equitable result.
Typically, I offer the criterion of equity and balance, however, one option would be to invite your group to nominate the elements by which their diversity is judged, eg if adopting a representative model, each small group may have a different number of members, but represent the same number of nominated elements.
You could integrate Empowered Teams as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
When left to their own devices to form their smaller groupings, this exercise can be a wonderful study of the way in which groups truly think and behave. It also says a lot about their beliefs and attitudes, too. For example, you could ask a series of questions to help your group identify the influences on their decision-making abilities:
Looking back at the very first split, what came first, personal preference, or group goals?
What’s an example of personal preferences at play?
In what ways did your group goal influence your decision-making or actions?
What was at stake?
How hard was it to keep focused on the group objective?
Did anything happen or get said that helped guide your group’s decisions? Was this effective?
Everything about this exercise is focused on setting goals, navigating complex social interactions, resolving conflicts (in one’s own mind as much as the groups,) adaptability and maintaining positive relationships. Help your group to reveal the hidden biases behind the outcomes of their various decisions to form particular groups. Observe the myriad of interactions and, later, invite your group to reflect back on these insofar as they relate to the group’s overall objective.
A powerful question I sometimes ask a group once they have formed their smaller teams is “Do you think I am satisfied with your groupings?” Their answers often give permission to air the views of those who were neglected or overlooked during the decision-making process. Conversations such as these are useful for building one’s emotional intelligence as much as an understanding of other’s emotions and perspectives.
Total Control: Ask your group to split according to their own needs and wishes, into as many groups as you command. This strategy is very empowering, but the exercise may result in largely unbalanced teams.
Take a look at Twenty One to learn a powerful way to help groups make decisions that reflects their collective wisdom.
Invite all group members to switch to gallery-view to see the video thumbnails of the whole group. Once you have announced your desired parameters, allow your group to discuss their proposed teams. To provide a visual context for the ebb and flow of the allocation process, fire up a digital whiteboard or create a padlet just for this purpose. For example, here’s a sample padlet used to split a group into three even teams, ie the ease with which the (named) boxes can be manipulated on the screen makes it ideal for visual decision-making.
Rather than names, you could create a padlet featuring the small headshots of each person.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Here’s a challenge for you. Rather than adopt a traditional method to divide you into a set number of teams, I’m going to give you the opportunity to form your own teams, provided you satisfy these three targets…
If you had complete control over the composition of your teams, what would the results look like? Are you ready to take on this challenge…?
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this creative group-splitting technique:
Did your group achieve the stated objectives of balanced teams?
How did you make decisions? Was this effective?
What was the most challenging task or decision? Why?
The inspiration for Empowered Teams, and many more group-forming strategies, was sourced in the following publication: