Imitators and Understanders

By Andrew Grant

Knowing the difference makes the difference

Last week someone who called himself an “electrician” came to our house. He turned up with very little in the way of tools, and he poked around the house as if he had never seen an electric wire before. Eventually, thorough trial and error, he was able to fix the immediate problem. The longer-term consequences were, however, quite serious. The main board blew that night and caught alight as we were sleeping – it was only by chance that we happened to get to it before the whole house was on fire.

This technician had actually learnt his “profession” by copying what he had seen done elsewhere. He had learnt from watching others that to give power to a machine it is just a matter of wiring it into the main wires. It looked fine and worked – until stress was put on the system, which caused the fire.

It may be relatively easy to get things to work when the environment is right, but as soon as there is stress they can so easily fall apart. There is a great difference between people who call themselves technicians but can only join wires together, and those who understand how to calculate loading to avoid problems.

When the system heats up…

When there are problems in organisations, short-term solutions are often implemented. But if the system is running hot and additional stress is placed on relationships, there are often deeper problems that need to be identified and dealt with. Rather than continually putting out small fires, there may be a need to find the cause of the problem.

Some team building approaches can give the team a temporary positive focus and help to put out the small fires, but may not deal with deeper issues that need to be dealt with, in order to prevent ongoing problems. If games and activities are used as an end in themselves, ongoing issues may not be resolved. If facilitators merely act as imitators rather than being encouraged to understand and work on the deeper processes, important elements may be overlooked. These programs may be fun in the short term, and may encourage instant feelings of camaraderie, but things may fall apart when stress is placed on the system back in the regular workplace.

Good group development program design, however, requires balancing company concerns and individual needs with the right amount of motivation. Appropriately coordinated programs can help people explore the ways they feel, think, behave and solve problems in a stimulating and non-threatening way. They should be able to teach people how to appreciate and understand the process of behaviour for themselves.

© Andrew Grant


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