Here’s another example of an interactive storytelling activity. This activity uses the stages in a process to create chapters in the plot-line of the story.
This storytelling technique is based on our experiences with the case method. In working with cases, we discovered that people who write up the cases learn much more than the people who analyze them. Also, from an instructional point of view, creating fictional cases are as effective – and much more fun – as creating real cases. The FCC acronym stands for Fictional Case Creation. That is exactly what the participants do in this activity.
This sample application of FCC deals with team development.
To recognize and apply the four stages in the development of a team.
Best: 15 to 30.
Participants are divided into 5 or more teams, each with 2 – 7 members.
1 to 2 hours
Four Stages of Team Development, one copy for each participant
Sample Case 1: The Quality Team, one copy for each participant
Sample Case 2: The Alien Contact, one copy for each participant
- One flip chart for each team.
- Felt-tipped markers
Distribute the handouts. Give a copy of each of the three handouts to each participant. Ask them take a few minutes to skim through the handouts.
Brief the participants. After a suitable pause, blow the whistle and explain how the handouts will support the performance of their task in the activity. Explain that the participants will form teams and write fictional case studies about the development of different teams. The handout on the stages of team development will provide the plot for the realistic piece of fiction they will be creating. The two sample case studies provide two very different examples of the fictional case studies. Both case studies are from earlier teams of typical participants. They are not meant to be perfect examples of what is required of the teams today.
Form teams. Ask participants to create five teams of approximately equal size. It does not matter if some teams have one more member than the others. Ask team members to stand around a flip chart and introduce themselves to each other.
Ask teams to write the prologue. Tell each team to provide the context for the fictional case study by writing a prologue. Recommend that they include in this prologue answers to the what, why, where questions related to the team by specifying the mandate for the team, the organizational setting, and the number and nature of its members. Invite the participants to review the prologue sections of the two sample cases. Suggest a limit of one flip chart page and announce a 3-minute time limit for this activity. Encourage the participants to use small (but legible) letters on the flip chart page.
Ask teams to move to the next flip chart. After 2 minutes, blow the whistle and announce a 1-minute warning. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle to indicate the end of the task. Ask the participants to emotionally detach themselves from the prologue that they created and move to the next team’s flip chart with an open mind. (The last team moves to the first team’s flip chart.)
Ask teams to write Chapter 1. Suggest to the participants that they forget the earlier prologue they created and carefully study the new prologue on the flip chart they moved to. Explain that each team is going to write the first chapter of the fictional case study dealing with interesting details of the forming stage in the development of the team described in this prologue. Invite participants to review the first chapters in the two sample cases. Suggest a limit of one flip chart page for this chapter and announce a 7-minute time limit for this activity.
Repeat the procedure for Chapter 2. After 6 minutes, blow the whistle and announce a 1-minute warning. After 7 minutes, blow the whistle to indicate the end of the activity. As before, rotate the teams to the next team’s flip chart. Explain that each team will now write the second chapter to continue the story in progress in their new flip chart. Before they begin their creative procedure, each team has to carefully read the earlier prologue and first chapter to ensure smooth continuity. Recommend that teams review the description of the storming stage in the four-stages handout as well as the second chapters in the two sample cases. Announce the page limit and a new time limit of 10 minutes.
Continue the procedure. Conclude the second-chapter activity after 10 minutes. Repeat the same procedure for the third chapter (norming) and the fourth chapter (performing).
Conclude the activity. After the completion of the fourth chapter, ask each team to post all five flip chart pages on some convenient location of the wall. Invite all teams to walk around the gallery and read the different case studies, paying particular attention to how the teams integrated the five different contributions.
Ask teams to examine the stages in their own development. After a suitable pause, assemble all participants back for a debriefing discussion. Briefly recap details of the four stages in team development and discuss how they are manifested in the five different cases. Now ask participants to apply these four stages to the development of their FCC team today. Ask and discuss these two questions:
- What stage of development is your team in?
- What happened to your team during earlier stages of development?
Follow up the activity. Tell participants that you will type up today’s fictional case studies and post them all on a web site. (Be sure to follow up on this promise.)
Four Stages of Team Development
In 1965, B. W. Tuckman, who had been studying the behavior of small groups, published a model that suggested that all teams go through four distinct stages in their development:
Forming. The first stage in a team’s development is forming. During this stage, the team members are unsure about what they are doing. Their focus is on understanding the team’s goal and their role. They worry about whether the other team members will accept them. Team members frequently look for clarification from their leader.
Storming. The second stage in a team’s development is storming. During this stage, the team members try to get organized. This stage is marked by conflict among the members and between the members and the leader. Through this conflict, the team attempts to define itself.
Norming. The third stage in a team’s development is norming. This stage follows storming, after the team members have succeeded in resolving their conflicts. They now feel more secure with one another and with their leader. They effectively negotiate the structure of the team and the division of labor.
Performing. The fourth stage in a team’s development is performing. During this stage the team members behave in a mature fashion and focus on accomplishing their goals. This stage is marked by direct, two-way communication among the team members.
Sample Case 1: The Quality Team
(Created by Steve, Sara, Les, Matt, and Raja)
The small government agency suddenly had a need to create "quality teams." A functionally diverse, yet surprisingly intelligent team was recruited from various units of the agency. The team was given a mandate to better the workflow and the esprit de corps of the agency.
Chapter 1. Forming
Some problems arose immediately--what does it mean to better the work flow? How could they improve the esprit de corps of the agency? One group within the team felt that bettering the workflow simply meant speeding up the process, so that the end results could come quicker. Another group thought that it meant simplifying the tasks of people who do the actual work. Nobody seemed to agree on how to improve esprit de corps.
Chapter 2. Storming
The team’s frequent bickering suggested the exact opposite of better workflow and improved esprit de corps! The team agreed to meet weekly, but that seemed to be all they agreed on. Arlene was appointed committee lead by the agency's Director. However, her emails went unread and phone calls went unreturned. The customer service officer on the team turned his back on the fiscal officer whenever she said something. Arlene began the meeting.
"Ladies and gentlemen," she said, "we simply have to move forward. I am going to make some assignments, and I need you to be ready to report on them at next week's meetings." The computer technician muttered something to the customer service officer, who snickered.
"What was that?" Arlene asked.
"You might as well know now," he replied. "The rumor is that the only reason you are leading this team is because you're sleeping with the Director. People are pretty unhappy about it."
Arlene took a deep breath. "First," she said, "those rumors are untrue. Second, I am appointed to take the lead here, and I will expect these assignments to be carried out.”
She paused for a minute. The team hadn't been this quiet since it was formed. Everyone was looking intently away from anyone else.
"Since we have practiced some unhealthy behaviors," Arlene continued, "let's set some ground rules for our team behavior.”
Chapter 3. Norming
Setting up ground rules, agreeing to live by them, and then living by them – these things turned out to be different things. At the next meeting, Arlene decided to address this personal and highly inaccurate belief about her rise to power. She kicked off the meeting by saying flatly that the rumor was not true. Then through an open dialogue, people started to actually believe Arlene had been maligned. To close the meeting, the team reviewed its purpose and promised each other to support the goal and move forward.
Chapter 4. Performing
So it was that after getting off to a very bad start, the team actually started working on their task. Things weren't perfect – they had their share of problems and disagreements later on – but everyone respected Arlene and bought in to the importance of the task, and the importance of openness about their problems.
Sample Case 2: Alien Contact
(Created by Steve, Sara, Les, Matt, and Raja)
Aliens have sent a radio message to Earth, announcing that their spaceship will come to earth in seven days. You have been chosen as part of a team to brainstorm ideas and suggestions for the President of the United States. Your team is to start from the assumption that the aliens will be hostile and decide what we should be doing.
Chapter 1. Forming
Each team member was a recognized expert in a different field. The team included a physicist, military strategist, medical doctor, systems engineer, and anthropologist. An artificial intelligence facilitator was also part of the group, as was common at this time. Almost immediately, the military strategist asked the team members themselves and their perception of the situation. Within 15 minutes two patterns of responses became apparent: defensive first-strike versus dialogue. The military strategist then asked the group to appoint the anthropologist as leader.
Chapter 2. Storming
The military strategist’s suggestion prompted an immediate debate.
"Why are you suggesting we let Arthur, the anthropologist, be our leader?" asked John Richter, MD. "Leadership should be based on qualifications, not appointment."
"Wait a minute," interjected the Ken Caulton, the physicist. "Certainly we need a more thorough decision-making process that includes more than just qualifications. I have 25 years of experience, and I am highly regarded in the field of theoretical astrophysics."
"Hold on, hold on," Arthur Johnson, the anthropologist, shouted, "We have only 2 hours to submit our recommendations to the President. We can't waste valuable time with this type of bickering."
Chapter 3. Norming
"Arthur’s right," the systems engineer said softly. "We should prioritize our tasks. Do we all agree that submitting a recommendation is our highest priority? Good. How can we select a leader quickly, then, given the differences in our opinions that we've just witnessed?"
The discussion was short: the team selected the artificial intelligence facilitator to guide the meeting.
Chapter 4. Performing
With the guidance of this facilitative robot, team members were able to maneuver around each other’s egos and see the contributions different people were making. The anthropologist demonstrated a keen understanding of interracial communications and helped the team decide what actions might appear hostile, and what might appear friendly, to a culture with no common references to planet Earth. The MD added some speculation about biological functions that the aliens might have in common with humans. General Richter was firm in his first-strike conviction.
"Are you all willing to gamble the life of everyone on Earth that these alien creatures are not hostile? We have to assume they have been watching us for some time now, with their superior technology. Bloody their noses now and they'll respect our strength when we contact them."
Eventually, a funny thing happened. History, normally doomed to repeat itself, became the guiding principle for the group's decision. Arthur suggested that the team look at past conflicts. At no point in history had a first strike in the name of potential self-defense led to anything good.
The physicist suggested that the President’s group must attempt communication first. "If we don't hear from them, then perhaps a first strike is suggested. But how can we in good conscience attack a group of people without fully understanding their motives? What makes us right in that case? What makes us good? First blood goes against the values of our planet."
The military strategist harrumphed. "Is it better to go against a stupid value and stay alive, or to live by a set of values and die?"
The physicist said, "Of course, it is better to be alive, but we are more than drones set to survive at all cost. We have a morality that we have claimed makes us more than just another species of mammal."
And the debate continued for several hours, culminating in a high-level strategy that all on the team could support. And the military strategist and physicist became best friends.