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Article: Building adaptability and collaboration in a World of social distancing: A new benchmark in team development for this era

06 April 2020

By Hon. Prof. Mike Conway, Founder & CEO

Some people write songs and they just seem to happen. Some people write books and stories and they just seem to come to life too. I write and create experiential challenges and programs to help improve people’s communication, relationships, flexibility and happiness. Quite often, this just happens. Often, these ideas and thoughts come to me when I’m at my most relaxed. When I’m not trying to create anything. It’s a strange thing. In these tricky times, I have had a period when I have experienced a deep burst of creativity. Creativity which I hope will contribute to the betterment of people through difficult times.  

I have been studying, working, advising and leading the development of individuals and their interaction in teams for forty years! I can’t believe I’m saying that. Forty years! In that time I have had moments of learning and knowledge which have taken me in many different directions. I remember the first time I read Carl Rogers’ work; Nietzsche; listening to Stephen Covey’s optimism and common sense; Tom Peters and the intelligence of Peter Senge; Nelson Mandela’s autobiography; reading Paul Ham’s and Peter Fitzsimons’ works on the Kokoda Track and then reading the work of Milton Erickson – one of the most underrated of all and a revelation to me. More recently switching to Goleman, Seligman and Siegel. All of them have contributed to my growth.

However, I remember a specific moment when everything changed. A moment which influenced the research, the work, the perspective from then and continuing on to the current day. I had been building an MBA unit for one of the graduate schools in Australia: a unit which would focus on what I termed “Leadership and Teams in Action.” An experiential program to test theoretical assumptions of leadership in a practical way. Take 48 highly intelligent successful executives and challenge them to build their adaptive, collaborative skills under extreme pressure over a two- day period, all supported by fast energised online perspectives on leadership. I think this is perfect training for today!   

I spent many hours in my study, researching, building and writing the program. Experiential learning has been part of my DNA since I was a kid. I think I lent towards music, drama, sport because of that very reason. You got to do it, as well as read it.  Anyhow, I was building some elements around the brain – some neuroscience and behavioural science overviews which would provide a platform for the students in understanding themselves.  In the midst of this work I came across the following quote: 

“The mind is a self-organizing, emergent process of a complex system. And that system is both within us and between us and others.”

Let’s face it – that’s not easy to get your head around (pardon the pun). It’s a definition that I found in Dan Siegel’s writings, referring to an emerging view from the collaboration of a multidisciplinary group of scientists and clinical and medical specialists in the USA (I often refer to Sigel’s work as incredible thinking around mindfulness and mindsightedness.

However – what captured my attention was the notion that the mind was not just within ourselves but “between us and others.” In other words, we affect and are hugely affected by others. That’s obvious you might say, but this focussed my attention more than ever because I had never made this the specific focus of the programs I had developed, until then. If I can create an environment where we can notice this, test this and learn from this, then it’s likely we are able to reduce the chaos in our minds, our lives and improve our performance. 

Since that time, the XVenture team’s work has been building programs to do just this. 

Let’s fast forward to 2017. I was looking for a new tool to help improve the communication between footballers at Sydney FC. I had already created a number of fun experiential challenges focussed on improving team cohesion but wanted to do something different. Something which would ensure that everyone, either introvert or extrovert, irrespective of cultural background could participate in fully. I found it in the form of VR (virtual reality) which I had been playing with for some time and created a challenge providing some with VR glasses and others not. I started to notice that those who were on the sidelines watching others with VR glasses were extremely curious about what could be seen. Desperate to get a look in! They wanted to know. Success in the challenge depended on effective communication between those with VR glasses and those without. Could those with the glasses explain what they were seeing, clearly and concisely? How would those without glasses confirm that they understood? Within very short periods of time, I was witnessing shifts and changes of individual’s communication processes including delivery and receiving messages.

This all reminded me of listening to the radio cricket commentary on the BBC when I was young. The best communicators could make you feel like you were there even when you weren’t. They could build effective relationships with the listener through their clear communication. 

Building 360 productions into a virtual world gave me a new tool. The Sydney FC team challenge was built in a way that ensured that players could only win through effective communication. From there, we built challenges into the XVenture Family Challenge TV series where we were creating virtual worlds within a real-world which was then filmed and delivered on National TV – now that’s a head spin! We then started building tailored virtual reality challenges which could be viewed using Oculus Go VR glasses.  Delivered into corporate client environments and also then into an Event Cinema environment. On every occasion, the results were similar: a fundamental positive shift in the communication processes between individuals -improved explanation and clarification; improved listening skills; improved observation; focus and attention and as a by-product, improving relationships. It was a fun shared experience too.

In the middle of March 2020, our hearts sank -the launch of our new virtual World experience in cinemas was put on hold. Months of work and thousands of dollars developing, testing and proving the program “stood down” in the blink of an eye. These are the times when you need to stop thinking, relax and the songs, the books, or in my case, the flow of solutions, naturally emerge.

Within two days our team were working remotely to create our first fully online XVenture Challenge in a Virtual World. The focus - to build mental strength and collaboration skills between participants in a fast-moving fun environment. 

We tested the environment and analysed a number of different platforms to support our design concepts. The technical solution would need to support the live hosting of a fast-paced 360 virtual World with regular scoring updates, effective two- way communication and with many teams whose members were in multiple locations. Thankfully we have partners who are also trying to innovate in the new World too. So – we discussed the idea and concepts with two of our great partner clients in this field and they had no hesitation.

On Thursday 2nd April 2020, 20 people from the Tottenham Hotspur/University of Wollongong Global Football program took part in a World first. This included players, Tottenham coaches and the head of the program from the University.

All individuals participating were in self-isolation, working remotely but also virtually. Allocated into four teams they entered the XV United World. In this highly competitive challenge based on the backlot of a stadium, the teams were given sixty minutes to solve as many activities in the virtual world as possible. From social isolation to social interaction! The challenges were a blend of high-quality multi-media activities which tested the teams to the max. “Learning within learning!” Every ten minutes they were provided with an updated live score of their performance and the other teams too. At the end of the sixty minutes feedback, reflection process took place with plenty of discussion on the experience.

It was a fascinating exciting experience. The feedback was incredible. Here are some thoughts from one of the Tottenham coaches, Rob Gold who participated.

“XVenture provided our Global Football Program with an exciting and unique experience into the interactive mind gaming world. This incredible opportunity gave us all a greater understanding of how indispensable communication is, and how liaising as a team is fundamental to the accomplishment of a task. Furthermore, XVenture have created a completely diverse way of solving problems, communicating as a team and interacting with others, whilst also learning about their core values and standards. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.”

What a week! Our first 360 experiential learning challenge in a live online virtual world within a webinar and all in self-isolation! With not a coronavirus risk or conversation in sight! It “spurs” us on to do much more! (Pardon the pun.)  We have reinvented the way we can continue on with our purpose in a New World. I am indeed an Optimist!

 

Available globally! Book your team in today to participate in XVenture Mind Games - Staying Connected - the new benchmark in remote team learning – from social isolation to social interaction... Click HERE for details

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Your access to this website and your use of the services provided through it is subject to these legally binding terms and conditions. Please read them carefully.

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You must not:

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    Hacking means malicious damage or interference and includes, without limitation, mail bombing, propagating viruses, worms or other types of malicious programs, deliberate attempts to overload a system, broadcast attacks or any other method designed to damage or interfere with the operation of a computer system or website;
  2. Use robots or any other automated system to take information or data from this website.

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These terms and conditions are be governed by the laws in force in the State of New South Wales, Australia and each party hereto irrevocably submits to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Courts of that State.