Comfort, Panic, Stretch - the three "zones" of team building

Sometimes games that work well for individuals don't work well for team building.

The reason is that individuals react to certain games differently - and the reaction to the game, before it even starts, can make all the difference.

Outdoor adventure specialist Karl Rohnke once suggested that people react to situations three different ways - Comfort, Stretch, and Panic.

The "Comfort" zone occurs when a game is highly familiar and doesn't require much exercise of either brain or body. On a trivial level, think Tic-Tac-Toe, hopscotch, or Go Fish.

Team building is difficult in the "comfort" zone because the team is given no challenge, nothing to overcome - nothing to bond them. Ho-hum, let's move on.

The "Panic" zone occurs when a game is well out of reach of many - or, at least, feels that way. High levels of skill are required that are not common, or individuals feel confronted with the risk of bodily harm. Even if no physical danger is present, the game risks emotional trauma to the least prepared. Zip lines, go kart races, and rope courses fall into this category.

Team building cannot occur in the "panic" zone because individuals are too consumed with self-preservation. There is no reach-out, no room for self-sacrifice.

The Stretch ZoneThe "Stretch" zone contains some elements of familiarity and other elements of the unknown. The unknown elements can be solved by tools, skills and knowledge readily on hand by most members of a group. Puzzles, riddles, and search games fall into this category.

Teambuilding is optimized in the "Stretch" zone because the team is presented with challenges during which they feel both comfortable and rewarded with reaching out to assist each other and do not feel they are placed at personal risk for doing so. Any particular skill not possessed by one will most likely be mastered by another. Moreover, even team failure on any one count does not spell disaster. But successes built by mutual dependence reinforce strong team behavior.

Reference:  "Why Good Games Fail," http://www.computerandvideogames.com/319696/features/why-do-good-games-fail/.

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