Groaned when asked to take part in a “group exercise” at a meeting for our co-op preschool tonight. Broke into teams of eight, each team given a 6-foot-long bar. We were asked to suspend the bar from below using three fingers of each hand, and lower it to the ground as quickly as we could. What could possibly be easier? Just one unbreakable rule: At no point must anyone’s fingers lose contact with the bottom of the bar.
Out of five teams, one never completed the task, while another finished it four times in the allotted period. It took my team seven minutes to lower the damn bar.
Being a person who gets frustrated quickly by people standing in the left lane on the escalator, taking too long to pick out a muffin at the coffee counter, entering a train before everyone’s gotten off, or riding their bikes too slowly on the bike path, I found the experiment extremely aggravating. I like things to flow smoothly, wordlessly, and I like simple things to be simple. “Who is holding up the bar, and why???”
But no one is “holding it up” on purpose. Everyone is just trying to maintain contact with the bar. The mutual goal is in direct contradiction to the mutual rule.
One of two things has to happen for the process to work smoothly: Either an individual has to emerge as a clear leader and somehow direct the flow, or the group has to have a near-psychic interpersonal connection. We had neither. We just struggled and got frustrated.
The exercise was supposed to be a community builder. Instead, for me, it became an object lesson on why preschool meetings drag on endlessly.