When once is not enough / by Annette Tait

There are plenty of things we only want to do once, if at all. A couple of those are root canals and escargot -- so what if it’s a delicacy? You’ve probably got a few on your own list.

But what about when once just isn’t enough?

There’s an activity we like to use at workshops. Most people have some fun with it, and that’s how it's intended. We love to lighten things up a bit while still getting the point across.

Harvey, N.D., Chamber of Commerce members working together to build the tallest possible tower with their pooled supplies.

Harvey, N.D., Chamber of Commerce members working together to build the tallest possible tower with their pooled supplies.

But there’s always one or two who are more serious types, or don’t see the point of “playing games” in a business setting. We get that. They tend to grumble a bit, most of the time good-naturedly, and then deal with it and do the “work.”

The challenge is in getting our grumblers to keep going. Because, to get the full impact, everyone has to do the activity twice. And our grumblers didn't like doing it the first time.

But isn’t that a lot like life? There are tons of things we’d like to get right the first time, not because we don’t want to do them again, but because we don’t want to have to do them over. Or we just want to do them BETTER.

Too bad there aren't many things that work that way. With very few exceptions, people just don’t spring from the cradle ready to rock and roll in the real world. We spend years in school learning reading, writing and ‘rithmatic, not to mention the things we’re learning in the “school of life” at the same time. After all, the experts tell us play is a child’s work -- and they’re right.

Play can also be an adult’s work, if we let it. We can learn lessons from everything we do, even the fun stuff.

Our workshop activity is an example. The first go-round is on your own -- you get a set amount of supplies (spaghetti and marshmallows), and work toward the objective. It’s all up to you how you approach it -- and, unless you work with children, you probably won’t have any prior experience.

A group from the Harvey, N.D., Chamber of Commerce workshop displays their finished tower..

A group from the Harvey, N.D., Chamber of Commerce workshop displays their finished tower..

The second time, there are options. Work on your own and improve what you did before, or team up with others. If you work in a group, you get to pool your resources, plus you’ve got more brains thinking up how to do it better than you did the first time.

But there’s also a catch -- individuals get the whole prize; groups have to split it equally.

Hmmmm… let’s weigh the options. One chance in however many mine’s the best, or several chances, one for each member of the group? More chances to win, more supplies to work with, more ideas to make it better. Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

It should be. Everyone benefits from the group effort, learning from the overall experience as well as from everyone else in their group.

What’s even better is the outcome. At a recent workshop, the winning team’s effort improved by more than 40 percent over the best individual outcome. How would 40 percent growth look translated into sales, production, or the service industry?

Granted, not every activity can be accomplished in a group setting. But there are still ways individual projects can benefit from teamwork. Share your experiences, and seek input from others. Put their “lessons learned” to work to improve your own efforts.

Silos are for grain, not for people. Reach out, connect, and see your world grow.