Parents and teachers often tell their children to compromise.
They tell them when they’re not getting along, “You two need to compromise!”
What this often means is that the two people need to figure out how to give up just enough of what they want so that they’re no longer butting heads. These youths aren’t being taught how to work together, they’re taught how to avoid conflict.
Compromise is lose-lose.
Cooperation—when two or more people work towards a common goal—is better than compromise. Cooperating is at the very least a way to split a workload without conflict and at it’s best, everyone gets their fair share of the outcome.
We don’t have to stop there. We can go one step further and collaborate.
Collaboration is the idea that when we work together in the right way we are more than the sum of our parts. If we work together and build on each other’s ideas, we can create so much more than if we are just dividing up a workload and splitting the spoils.
Collaboration, unlike cooperation and compromise, is a generative process. It’s creative.
What does this look like in a Game to Grow Group?
The characters, played by a group of teens, are about to enter into a new city. The game master asks each player around the table to name a letter and writes them down on a small whiteboard. They are naming the city the characters are about to enter one letter at a time. The name they come up with is Cardan.
The game master then asks the group to name something their characters may have have heard about the city of Cardan. Of course, none of the characters have been there before so the rumor may or may not be true, so there is no wrong answer. One player says his character has heard that it never rains in Cardan, another player says her character has heard that Cardan is full of wizards in pointy hats, and so on.
When the characters enter the city, the players see their ideas come to life. Their characters are now exploring a desert city full of wizards that they created together. With the spirit of collaboration infused into the group, problem-solving becomes constructive and creative. The group looks at a problem, and sees each person in the group as an important part of the solution.
How does an obstacle go from being cooperative to being collaborative?
A challenge that requires a cooperative solution is one that requires the team members to chip in together. Battling a monster requires all of the players to fight together. When sneaking into a castle, all of the players need to equally succeed in their attempts to be stealthy.
A collaborative solution to a challenge is when players have to build on each other’s ideas in order to overcome it. The players must effectively communicate their suggestions, listen to each other’s, and construct a plan.
The players need to steal a key from an evil king at a large public event. One of the characters, the rogue, is adept at pickpocketing, so he offers to be the one to lift it from the King’s satchel. But he’ll never be able to pickpocket the king in front of so many people. The wizard comes up with the idea to create an illusion of a fire, which will create a distraction, but unfortunately as soon as anyone interacts with the illusion they’ll know it to be fake. The bard, the group’s resident performer, offers to give a convincing portrayal of a person in peril. The scene plays out: The wizard creates an illusion of a fire in the middle of the room. The bard screams “FIRE! Run for your lives!” and in the midst of the ensuing chaos, the rogue snatches the key from the evil king. The group escapes, then uses the key to release the king’s prisoners and reveal the king’s evil deeds to the kingdom. They are victorious!
In this situation, the players worked together to build something their characters couldn’t have accomplished alone, and the outcome was more than just the simple combination of their efforts. These players collaborated, and can carry this positive growth mindset with them out of the game and use it on the challenges in their own lives.
Whether it’s the next school project or an issue at home, problem solving is much more successful—and fun—if it’s done collaboratively.