Group Ritual Design

What makes a good climbing group? In a way it is the process of working together as a group, that actually creates the group, or that contributes to group learning.

But the same is true for any good work group. People work together on a challenge and through the challenge they learn how to work together.

Designing these kind of experiences is usually difficult. It is easier and can happen in situations that are arranged in a play. Like for example a climbing garden, there is a predetermined Course, with constructed obstacles, that are clearly designed to be challenging, but not too difficult or dangerous. There is a guide, and there are safety lines installed, that are controlled and solid.

The experience of going through that obstacle course is similar of a challenging group experience, but because it is prepared and limited in time, it is safe for the participants.

Developing an unlimited challenge is more difficult, because first of all it needs to be decided whether it will take place within the professional part of the participants time, or within his leisure time. If it takes part in his professional time, some argument of economic viability needs to be constructed. And for the leisure time project, the activity needs to be at least attractive and stimulating enough, to be considered of value to the participants.

What makes the process attractive could be rewards in the form of respect and validation within the social group.

What is needed to get at least some group coherence is a form of interaction. Those interactions could happen during regular meetings, while practicing together, a play or an act. The interactions could also happen through phone or email, when the topic is more of an abstract matter.

There is also the question of how much time should be spend in interaction. For some kind of sports on an amateur level, one or two hours each day can be enough. In the workplace 8 hours is considered adequate, however, not all of this time is usually spent in interaction.

What is also important, is the have the right intensity and variation of interaction. When the goal of the group interaction is to learn or improve a skill, then intense practice is needed, but also eventually alone time for the participants, where they can reflect upon their progress, and then again collective gatherings of reflection might be helpful as well.

The meetings and gatherings are conducted is a matter of ritual, and ritual can either be accidental and informal, or structured and preplanned. Both are valid approaches, and both can fail or work in different ways.

Usually when it is a physical meeting, it happens in a room, and there is a date and time, when the gathering happens.

The room already provides a setting, there might be chairs, suggesting the meeting will be conducted sitting, the chairs might be arranged in a circle, or facing a conductor in the front. This already sets a mood. Or the chairs me be stacked in a corner, suggesting that the participants themselves should choose an arrangement. There might be a carpet and sitting-cushions, inviting the participants to take a seat on the floor.

There are very different modes of acquiring status within a group, in some groups the publishing of a written paper is an adequate form of expression. The paper has to conform to a certain writing style, and it has to fit into a template, that is set up for the occasion.

In other groups the mode of expression means taking part in a competition, pitching one member of a sports-team against a member of another team in a duel.

And all those group interactions and modes of operation are codified into some set of ritual, and as the popularity of groups or rituals spreads, rituals get copied and adopted. Like the Gene-Pool, they become part of the Meme-Pool.

Popular Memes multiplying, mutating, and unsuccessful ones disappearing.

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2 Responses to Group Ritual Design

  1. havore says:

    Nice to talk about the soft skills of a team … ;)

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