Forbidden Island Team Dynamics

While at The Path to Agility 2019, I had the pleasure of attending Team Dynamics on the Forbidden Island, hosted by Paul Boos . This session used a co-operative table-top game, Forbidden Island to explore team dynamics and illustrate Tuckman’s stages of group development - “storming, forming, norming, performing”

Here’s the publisher’s description of the game:

Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise. Your team will have to work together and make some pulse-pounding maneuvers, as the island will sink beneath every step! Race to collect the treasures and make a triumphant escape before you are swallowed into the watery abyss!

Our facilitator gave us a 12 minute timebox and a promise of failure. The first round that we played was chaotic. None of us had played the game before. Each of us had a character to play with special skills. None of us had a clue how to best wield those skills. Though we stumbled around the board for our first round, we were able to secure one of the four artifacts.

As we reflected on our round, we agreed that things could have gone better. We spent too little time exploring our character skills. Leveraging those skills could only help us perform better as a team. Formulating a somewhat shared strategy would be a good thing. Each play of a card altered the game context and our immediate goals, much like a hot business opportunity for a software team.

I contemplated our team performance during the post round debriefing. It occurred to me that my teammates were exhibiting different DISC behavior styles. The “pressure” of this game brought out the same behaviors in the players: The high D wanted to go, go, go and do something. The high C wanted to understand all the nuances of strategy and rules of the game. The high I wanted to talk about the options and the high S wanted to make sure that a consensus existed about each move.

Players familiar with the game tell me that it is relaxing, enjoyable, fun to play, and quite winnable. I would love to get my work team to play this during lunch and see if they stay true to the profile that I’ve link to them. What tools have you used to foster learning and team building with your teams?