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Friday, April 05, 2013

The Floating Stick

It was to be a simple exercise, an experiment, a group demonstration--a team-building exercise. For some reason it did not work. Well, perhaps it did work; but, I still can’t get my mind around the outcome. 

See, we were supposed to lower a stick and we failed. Miserably. 

Someone brought a 10 foot section of quarter-round molding and laid it in the floor, forming a line that divided the room. Ten volunteers stepped forward, five on each side of the “line.” We were told to hold out our index fingers and the stick was lifted from the floor and set on our out-stretched digits. We were to lower the stick to knee-height, provided that 1) the stick was not grasped in any way (it must only rest on the index finger); and 2) no finger could leave the stick, or we would have to start over. 

The stick rose.
The stick wobbled.
Some lowered too fast and departed from the stick and we had to start again.
The group never lowered the stick three inches in unison. 

My mind reeled as I stood in the group thinking that someone was sabotaging the attempt. Why was the stick going up and not down? How could it possibly move left or right when “down” was the only direction? 

I was confused and angry. How could something so easy be so difficult? 

The “natural” (outspoken) leaders of the group tried to instruct others how we were going to do this and the attempt failed worse than when nobody spoke. 

One observation: the fewer people involved, the higher the success rate of lowering the stick. Conversely, the more people involved, the higher the failure rate. 

We discussed the experiment and during that discussion I made an observation that I’m not certain was also noted by others--the more we talked about it, the more over-thinking occurred and the further we got away from the exploring the solution. 

Then we went on with our meeting, where I witnessed the proverbial stick rise and rise and rise . . .

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