Case Study on Human Synergy

Ice Breaker and Team Building Activity for Oil and Gas Global Major Capital Project Information Management and IT Workshop.

Using assessment tools from Human Synergistics suite of diagnostic materials, we measured group synergy in a competition of ten teams for a major oil & gas client.  The objective was to raise awareness of how Constructive interpersonal styles support effective group problem solving and synergy.

Participants were given Human Synergistics’ Tsunami Survival Situation™, a survival simulation of escaping a tsunami, and asked to rank 8 items in the order of their importance to survival..  First, individuals devised their own rankings; then small teams were formed and members came up with a team ranking, while independent observers noted aspects of interpersonal and rational behaviors using the Survival Simulation Series Observer’s Guide™.

By having team members complete the exercise individually and then as a team, the difference between the individual solutions and the team's solution can be identified. This becomes a real measure of the group's ability to perform as a team. Each team was given a score and a percent change was calculated from the average individual score to the team score.  The greater the improvement in decision quality, the greater synergy that existed in the group.  The best scoring group saw a 64% increase in decision quality (and group synergy) versus the average individual score.  The worst scoring group had a -22% decrease in decision quality.   The observed behaviors of both groups are compared below.

The net result for the client was a deeper understanding by all participants how Constructive and inclusive group behavior can exist, even with dissent, while not becoming overly negative and unproductive.

Best Synergy Group Worst Synergy Group
Interpersonal Behavior+ Pay attention to the speaker, look at the person speaking. + Help others express and articulate their ideas. + Accept valid objection without becoming defensive.+pay attention to the speaker, look at the person speaking, -engage in more than one conversation at a time, interrupt each other, jump from one subject to another, repeat the same statement (because they didn’t hear it for the first time) +point out positive aspects of ideas -focus exclusively on what’s wrong with an idea, react with a lack of interest or frustration, criticize other members, use gestures (body language) to express disagreement +constructively identify differences in ideas and strategies -fail to question the ideas of others, agree with the first idea proposed, retreat rather than trying to explain differences, change their positions simply to reduce conflict +try to involve the quieter members in the discussion, -being dominated by one or two people, allowing a couple of members to argue (while sitting back and watching, withdrawing from the discussion, deferring to the more aggressive people
Rational Behavior+ Refer to the Participant Booklet to check facts and assumptions. + Take time to identify alternative strategies. + Discuss the relative merits of alternative strategies. + Identify possible adverse consequences of two or more strategies. + Modify and develop solutions to increase acceptance.+keep facts and assumptions separated -allow each other to state opinions as if they were facts, pursue a course of action prior to discussing constraints/resources, challenge assumptions too late in the discussion (or not at all) +clearly identifying survival as primary objective -treat actions as objectives rather than as strategies or tactics, jump right into ranking the items (without discussing objectives), lose sight of the objective +take time to identify alternative strategies - focus on only one general strategy, dismiss alternative strategies without evaluating them, prematurely evaluate alternatives before listing them out +identify possible adverse consequences of two or more strategies -assume their strategy was viable without discussion, downplay constraints and limitations, fail to acknowledge the limitations of certain resources +modify and develop solutions to increase acceptance, -vote and use majority rule, force or try to manipulate each other, refuse to compromise or work on a more acceptable solution

Productive and counterproductive behaviors are from Robert A. Cooke, Ph.D., Survival Simulation Series Observer’s Guide™, Human Synergistics International, Plymouth, MI. Copyright © 1992-2018. All rights reserved. Adapted by permission. The Survival Simulations are trademarked and copyrighted by Human Synergistics International.