ARCHIVE 6: THE NEEDS OF THE INDIVIDUAL VS. THE NEEDS OF THE GROUP: MUSINGS ABOUT A DAY IN GROUP TUTORIAL I
written by Rick Sleutaris, Facilitator
Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. – Vince Lombardi
When do the needs of the group take precedent over the needs of the individual? This fundamental question arises in some form every week in Group Tutorial I (and in every family, but that is a different article). Whether we are playing a collaborative game that requires the group to work together and some individuals are determined to go first, last, or be next to a good friend regardless of what anyone else wants; or when we are involved with an activity like cooking and no one is interested in an important part of the process (like cutting up onions or cleaning up) this question comes up. Where do we go from here?
A few weeks ago we played Hot Lava, a collaborative game that requires the group to cross a “lake of lava” using a few wooden boards. After several attempts the group was unsuccessful in meeting the challenge. A week later we reviewed a video of a few portions of the game so they could reflect on their process. A lengthy discussion followed. “Who gets to go first?” was one of the most frequent questions. As humans are naturally prone to do, the group began brainstorming. Perhaps we should order ourselves from tallest to shortest — the shorter members of our group did not like that idea. Perhaps we should have a race and the quickest runner gets to go first — those not so developed in running didn’t like that idea. Perhaps we should pick numbers out of a hat — that idea was met with lukewarm enthusiasm. We continued on, question unresolved, and discussed how to control noise level and how best to get an idea heard. At one point it started to become clearer that if we hang on to our individual needs/ideas (I must go first or we must use my idea) that it would come at the cost of the needs of the group. The result being that we would not be able to move forward and play the game. I started hearing comments like, “I don’t really care if I go first. I just want to play the game.” While it wasn’t an epiphany for all involved, the momentum did change enough so that they were able to come together, play the game and emerge successfully on the other side of the “lake of lava.”
I look forward to revisiting this question throughout the year and hopefully expanding our understanding of the question, becoming more flexible, and being more open to a larger goal. I don’t want young people to be so ridged in their ideas that it shuts down group work, nor do I want a young person to suppress their voice just so that the group activity can progress. I want a young person to confidently express his/her ideas and also recognize the value of the ideas of others. Perhaps most importantly – I want each young person to reach for a higher thought, one that places being happy in a variety of circumstances over the need to control others. I look forward to the next collaborative activity and to the discussions and challenges that will inevitably follow!
The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if hey don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime. – Babe Ruth