While our team was composed of completely different preference types (as classified by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), we believe that such varying opinions led to our group’s success in the Subarctic Survival Simulation. In fact, our group boasted the highest team percentage change in the activity—43 percent. The team percentage change represents the improvements made in the ranking of survival tools through our team’s discussion from our individual assessments. The change shows how the group’s gain score (24. 4) relates to the average individual score (56. ). Additionally, our gain score was the highest in the class, further showing the strengths of our teamwork during the survival simulation. When assessing the overall effectiveness of our discussion, our team score of 32 must also be considered—it was tied with Team 5 for the lowest in the class, while our average individual score of 56. 4 was second in the class ranking. When we compare our team’s average individual score to the best individual score on our team (30), we see that there is a significant difference.
Clearly there was one team member who was more in-line with the expert rankings of the survival tools than the rest of the team. This difference of 26. 4 points was by far the greatest spread in the class. When looking at this spread along with our team’s percentage change, we may also conclude that this person made a positive impact on our discussions by helping to improve the team’s overall score. Although we had such a knowledgeable team member, that person did not dominate our group’s conversation. Every team member was able to speak freely and to voice his or her ideas and concerns.
During the meeting, we discussed which strategy we wanted to follow (whether to stay at the crash site or to attempt to make the trek to Schefferville). This lively debate led to a C-type conflict. In “Conflict: An Important Dimension in Successful Management Teams,” Allen Amason et al. , state that, “while disagreements among team members are bound to occur, so long as they focus on substantive, issue-related differences of opinion, they tend to improve team effectiveness” (Amason et al. 20). As Amason et al. ote, our disagreement was a very productive conflict where two contradicting options were broadly discussed and different viewpoints were articulated. During this discussion, every member of the group was involved and attempted to explain the logic behind his or her choice. We believe that this conflict enhanced our simulation outcome by allowing us to come to a decision that was supported by all members—regardless of where he or she stood at the beginning of the discussion. The open communication of our team allowed us to utilize each other’s knowledge to the greatest extent.
One member was very mechanical and was able to identify the different shelters that could be built from the canvas and rope, while another member was cognizant of hypothermia, and stressed the importance of moving around to keep warm. We realized the value in each team member’s opinion, and in turn, the importance of every member’s input to effectively reach the end result. This approach helped us to keep our power structure balanced, an idea supported by Kathleen Eisenhardt et al. in their article, “How Management Teams Can Have A Good Fight” (Eisenhardt et al. 7).
The last factor that enhanced our team’s effectiveness was the use of humor. Eisenhardt et al. also emphasize the importance of humor in management teams. They note that, “humor works as a defense mechanism to protect people from the stressful and threatening situations that commonly arise in the course of making strategic decisions” (Eisenhardt et al. 6). We used humor throughout our discussion to take the focus off potentially awkward situations, and to return to the task at hand. For example, one team member stressed the importance of the alarm clock to keep the participants awake in order to reduce the risk of hypothermia.
Another team member did not accept this point right away, though. Cleverly enough, a third team member noted that the rum in the survival kit would numb the participants to the cold, and as such, was more important than the clock. Obviously in jest, the comment gave the team pause to get back on track. Our use of humor kept C-type conflicts from becoming A-type conflicts. We must keep in mind, though, that our group’s use of humor was so effective because it was used appropriately—we were able to clear our heads of the task momentarily, but not to the point of ineffectiveness.
As we learned in discussion, what we perceived to be one of our greatest strengths was also one of our greatest weaknesses. Deborah Ancona et al. reference the idea of “psychological safety” in their piece, “Team Process Observation Guide”. The idea of psychological safety states that with comfortability with other team members, individuals are more likely to take risks in proposing ideas (Ancona et al. M5-13). To a fault, all team members enjoyed working with one another in this activity. Even with such comfortability, there were very few polarizing or risky suggestions.
More often than not, members proposed modifications of one another’s ideas. For instance, instead of completely striking down the importance of the snowshoes, a member argued that ranking the flashlight higher might be useful for survival. Another problem that occurred during the discussion was a lack of concentration. At times, the discussion moved too quickly from one subject to another. This lack of concentration stemmed from the lack of a formal leader or coordinator. The project coordinator could have reminded team members of the time remaining and enforced the sequential discussion of topics.
In the future, the coordinator’s first task would be to break down a big objective by setting goals that can be attained in a shorter period of time. The coordinator could then set key priorities with time limit for the team to make sure that all team members are on the same page. Achieving each smaller goal would keep the team motivated to continue toward the overall goal. The final problem that occurred with the ranking discussion was to understate the importance of some items, and subsequently to overstate the importance of other items.
On its own, the shaving kit seemed unnecessary, but the mirror could have been very helpful for the survival. As the group decided to stay at the crash site, the magnetic compass would not have served us well. Single parts of it, though, like the glass or the needle, could still have been valuable. Our ranking of the book as the second most important item epitomizes our team’s overstatement of some items’ value. The rationale behind this decision was that the paper could be used to start a fire.
We failed to discuss the other methods (potentially more effective) that we already had to start a fire. With more focus, though, the weak assumptions of this idea could have been discovered, and the decision could have been changed. Relating our differences of opinion to our differences in personality type, our team was composed of multiple Myers-Briggs Type Indicator preference types: one ESTJ, one ESFJ, one ENTJ, one ENTP, one INFJ and one ISTJ. From this difference in types, diverging points of view emerged. Usually the group was divided by two opinions on a topic.
For example, one of the first issues debated was whether the group should stay at the crash site, or leave for Schefferville. The introverted types wanted to go, whereas the extraverted types wanted to stay. On another issue (the way to make a fire), the group was divided between sensing and intuitive personalities. The sensing group thought that the book would be helpful in the fire, while the intuitive group reasoned that the rum would help to strengthen the fire to create a signal for passing planes. The benefit of having multiple personality types was that there was not a domination of one group over another.
The extraverted types managed to let the introverted types talk, while the thinking types were able to understand the different views presented and to articulate them for the entire group. Such open communication allowed us to make compromises as opposed to concluding that a particular issue was a dead end. This is not to say that each person was always thrilled with every decision made, but for the cohesiveness of the team, each member was able to see the prevailing opinion’s importance to the team’s survival. Ultimately, our group’s discussion on the survival simulation was a successful and efficient one.
It encouraged different opinions and made decisions promptly. The first avenue for improvement would be to become more organized and structured. When one question was discussed, sometimes our attention was dragged to other related questions, which started new discussions. For instance, when we talked about the most useful item, the discussion topic changed from whether to move or to stay, to the importance of the rum versus the maple syrup, to how to start a campfire, all before realizing that not one decision had been made. This lack of concentration and planning cost our team valuable time.
If we could have stayed on one task at a time, we would have been able to complete the whole discussion faster, and with more accurate results. Instead of seeking an absolute agreement, if we had a leader, we could have done as Eisenhardt et al. suggest and sought a “consensus with qualification,” whereby the leader would have made a guided decision based upon the group’s discussions (Eisenhardt et al. 7). In a real life, group situations will be much more complicated than what we practiced in class. As a team, attention should also be paid to the minor things (tasks that are not directly asked of us).
That is, we should make detailed plans to link up each task, assign different people tasks best suited toward there skill-sets, and encourage introverted members to verbalize their ideas. Most importantly, we should continue to create a healthy, pleasant, and reliable working environment. In our case, this may mean the addition of more humor! Through this survival simulation, we found that happy team members were far more productive at work. While we cannot speak to the happiness of other groups, we believe that our group’s happiness allowed us to have the greatest team percent change in the exercise—43 percent.