by Merritt Booster, Redwood Region
Realize that fundamentally, it’s the team’s choice – not yours.
Early in team formation, discuss team members’ strengths and interests.
Introduce the team to the different TYPES of problems, without going into specifics.
Read the Problem Synopses.
Discuss the overlapping elements in the problems. All problems include some elements of:
The team votes on which Long-term Problem interests them most.
What does the coach do if the team’s choice doesn’t fit his/her interests and skills?
Spontaneous is that part of the competition where team members really get to shine and share their creative thinking skills. When solving spontaneous problems, team members get to “think on their feet” and quickly “think outside of the box.”
During the tournament season, these problems are “TOP SECRET” and only the team members that enter the room get to know the spontaneous problem.
Teams participating in the same long-term problem and division will solve the same spontaneous problem, so, to ensure fairness, it is critical that no one discusses the problem outside of the room until all teams have competed at both the local regional tournament and other regions.
There are three types of spontaneous problems, and the teams are informed as they enter the room, the type of problem they are asked to solve. One of the judges read the specific rules for the problem. as well as outlining the scoring method.
Teams will have to solve only one type of spontaneous problem in a competition. So teams should be prepared for any of the three types of spontaneous problems. Teams should practice for the three common types of spontaneous problems as listed below.
Although all seven team members may enter the room, only five team members may participate in the spontaneous portion of the competition. Every team should assess the skills of its members and come to an agreement beforehand about who will compete and who will sit out.
For spontaneous, be sure to practice, practice, and practice. Here are some tips from Odyssey of the Mind for practicing spontaneous:
(Taken from Problems from Creative Interaction, by Dr. C. Samuel Micklus & Samuel W. Micklus.)
Here you will find several resources that may help prepare a team for spontaneous.
This is the national website for the Odyssey of the Mind program.
Archived Spontaneous Problems from the VA Odyssey of the Mind website.
Northeast Pennsylvania’s Spontaneous Problems
Spontaneous problems from Georgia
Archived spontaneous problems from the Arizona Odyssey of the Mind.
Tennessee’s Spontaneous Site
Spontaneous problems from Tennessee
This is a Pinterest site where several ideas come together.
Team building is a critical part of the Odyssey of the Mind Program, and for some participants, being part of a team is their favorite part of the Odyssey experience. It takes time and conscious effort to truly create a “team” mindset, sort of an “all for one, one for all” mentality in which the team embraces and values its members, celebrating their individuality, and appreciating the team’s single final solution. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Facilitating a team can be quite a challenge, but it can also be very rewarding. In approaching this challenge it is important to remember that the facilitator provides the process through which the team develops the content. So, the facilitator cannot offer answers or solutions, but by guiding them through an effective process they can help the team make progress toward their goals.
Effective Team Process
An effective team process is one that leverages the strengths of the individual members into results the individuals would not have achieved individually. This is sometimes referred to as synergy, where the results of the whole (the team) is greater than the sum of its parts (individual members). The key is to get participation from every member, keep them focused on the goal, and guide them by way of a formula or process, but not by providing actual content. We can accomplish this by using various techniques that are easily learned and can be readily applied.
3 Basic Process Techniques
There are many process techniques to facilitate teams, but the following 3 basic techniques are recommended for those who are building facilitation skills. These techniques can be used in the phases a team goes through in its normal progress toward reaching solutions or determining actions. In the use of these techniques, it is recommended that ‘public recording’ be used so that the team can see their ideas and progress toward their goal. Most commonly, this is achieved through the use of a whiteboard or ‘flipcharts’ and colored markers.
The most straightforward technique for gathering ideas is brainstorming. The idea is to collect as many ideas as possible in a short period of time. You can go around the group in a round-robin fashion to make sure everyone participates evenly. Capturing the ideas and posting them on flip charts on the wall helps the group see the progress they are making. There is one rule in brainstorming: every idea is a good idea. Simply write them all down without discussion and in a few minutes, you can have 20 or 30 good ideas. Stop when the group runs out of steam or you sense that the quality of the ideas is waning.
After gathering these ideas, it is a good idea to try to eliminate duplicate ideas, combine ideas that are related, and trim off ideas that might not move the team toward its goal. You can do this by explaining this objective to the team and then simply guiding them through a discussion of the ideas. This discussion might even lead to adding a few new ideas to the list. Ask questions about the ideas to stimulate the group. For example:
Does everyone understand this idea the way it is written? How does this idea help us solve our problem? Is this idea one that we can combine with something else on our list? Can we expand on this idea to make it better?
This technique is most effective when you have a large list of ideas that you need to boil down to 5 or 10. With your ideas posted on the walls, you simply give everyone a certain number of ‘votes’. Each team member gets 10 post-it notes which they can use to ‘vote’ for the ideas they like best. After everyone has voted, the votes are tabulated and the ideas with the highest number of votes are the ones the team will consider as its final solution. If one solution is clearly the ‘favorite’ you can stop right there, or you can do another round of voting to ‘pick’ the final answer. You may want to have an in-depth discussion about the ideas prior to the final round. Sometimes the top 2 vote-getters can be combined to make an even better solution.
Quick tips for facilitating:
Remember that facilitation is an art and it takes time and practice to perfect techniques. With new teams, the challenge is even greater because the members are still trying to learn how to relate to each other. If the group is struggling with this you may want to use the first 5 minutes of every session to ‘break the ice’. This can be a simple guessing game or practicing brainstorming something totally unrelated to your actual goals. There are entire books and websites devoted to “Icebreaker” activities that can help get your team working together through games.
Adapted from VOICES