If you were to look in on a staff meeting of our organization, you would certainly wonder what was going on. You might see 18 adults walking backwards within a circle of chairs, crisscrossing and weaving around each other, apparently trying simultaneously to tag someone and to avoid being tagged. There's a general sense of confusion, and a couple of people may be laughing too hard to concentrate on tagging. In the few moments before the facilitator calls an end to the exercise, you might be thinking, “Don't these people have important work to do? Why are they wasting time with this silly game?”
Then people take their seats, pulling the chairs into a closer circle. The facilitator asks for reactions to the exercise. Someone observes that doing the exercise backwards makes it even crazier than usual. People share their experiences with the exercise and strategies they used to deal with this new challenge. The facilitator draws the parallels between this exercise (BACKWARDS STOP TAG, p. 273) and a situation the group is currently facing: they are planning an event that they “backed into,” without fully understanding the ramifications, and now everyone has to work extra hard to make it successful. They also discuss how important it is for everyone to take responsibility for their own tasks, rather than trying to “tag” other people and pass off their jobs.
The exercise, together with the discussion (“processing”) that followed, have brought the group in less than ten minutes to a point where they are focused on their common goal of organizing a successful event and aware of some of the dynamics they must deal with to achieve their goal. They have had an in-the-body experience that illustrates some of the intangible issues confronting the group. Energized by the exercise, the group comes up with a variety of creative strategies as they work through their agenda.
This meeting presents a bright contrast to a “normal” meeting. It's safe to say that every day millions of people leave meetings feeling that they have wasted their time, or that their potential contributions have not been allowed to emerge. Vast numbers of people regularly sit through meetings that are alienating and unfocused, that fail to produce forward movement toward the group's goals, or that produce such movement with input from only a minority of the meetings' participants. Even meetings with the avowed purpose of seeking new approaches often are mired in old, ineffective methods—such as:
This book invites you to break out of these static and largely unproductive traditional meeting formats and to take on the challenge of the Moving Beyond Icebreakers approach. With this approach, you will learn how to create a dynamic group context where the norms are excellent communication, strong and positive motivation, and creative problem solving. Its many benefits can be summarized under four headings: