Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A template for group dynamics

This is a framework for how I try to approach my position as head of Icho Ryu.

While there is an overlay of Japanese culture at times in how I apply this, and my own personal preferences as to formality, or better put as "my lack of formality", there are regardless of my personal strangeness, numerous common factors in this summary of how a group interacts and bonds that go across cultures and is valid for any group.

Despite the differences in cultures, these same factors are always there in a stongly bonded group and lacking in a dysfunctional group. This is very abbreviated, and leaves out much detail, but a study of these things on your own will fill in holes. If you are part of Icho Ryu and want more discussion on this, please let me know. If you are not part of Icho Ryu, too bad.

Group interaction dynamics can be summed up as - ACTCC (B optional)

A stands for Appreciation - If no one shows appreciation to each other in a group, the group will not function or bond, leading to dysfunctional behaviors. This must be non sexual for it to work.

As one example, a strong well knit group notices what can be termed "little things" or "invisible work". That is, things that are only noticed when not done. Like cleaning the bathroom, sweeping the mats, missing paper towels or TP. A well knit group notices those things and acknowledges the person who did them.

A also stands for Affection - The group must have people who do care about each other and want to fit. Again, expressed in non sexual behaviors.

We at the TNBBC express this by making fun of each other, finding as much humor in ourselves and our mistakes as we find in others, (and a very important point) listening to each other. As in any male dominant group, we have male bonding with booze and food regularly, and show this affection by always having too much money in the pot when its time to settle the tab and buying each other drinks regularly.

A very important note as well, is those of us in committed relationships are lucky enough to have partners, wives, girlfriends, who somewhat understand the importance of the dojo relationships to each of us and supports it(that support ranges from tolerates to encourages) most of the time.

C stands for Committment - The group has to have people who believe in what they are doing and this will show by interest in the activities of the group and efforts with the group. There must be a unifying goal and purpose for this to work.

You have to be present and active with each person in the group. And that means interest in the people off the mats as well as on. As a good example, a dojo member and his wife recently adopted a little girl from China. Everyone was interested and wanted to contribute to a gift. A small thing perhaps in monetary value, but an important small thing to group bonding.

We also try to take part in things off the mat together. I can only think of a few examples of group social activities where there were less than 80% of the group in attendence, and those missing were gone for family activites.

In any case, for us at the TNBBC, the unifying goals for all of us are found in the wisdoms posted on September 10.

T stands for Time - No such thing as quality time alone exists. You must have the drudge time in order to have peak or quality time happen.

Pretty simple really, put in your time with the group and on your own in training or nothing good will come of your efforts. either as an individual or with the group. The peak experiences only happen when you go through the drudge and day to day time and effort.

C stands for Creative problem solving - Figure out how to solve problems in ways that intrigue the group and individuals.

This is the role of a good teacher, not to rely on dogma and "sensei says" as answers. This is perhaps the hardest part for most people to understand as a teacher and senior, is to help guide and influence the group and individuals to creative thought on their own. But it is perhaps the most important.

As an example, in a healthy group, fights and disagreements will take place just as often as in a dysfunctional group. But in a healthy group, the fights end quickly with creative solutions and results in a better group dynamic. In a dysfunctional group, fights will drag out and become intertwined with non related issues, resulting in more fighting in the group.

C stands for Communication - If you do the above things, you will be communicating.

Nuff said, I hope.

One thing I leave out on this most of the time is belief.

I usually lump belief in as part of commitment for most people in discussion. This means belief in the group as valuable at a basic level. Or it can be taken to be a belief in a higher being or power. Many martial arts teachers make the mistake of confusing the two belief ideas into one which destroys the validity. Can you say "cult behavior?" I think I pretty much covered this point in my first post explaining the reasoning for why this blog exists.

So, there you have it, by direct transmission from the head fluffy bunny himself, a template to work on for group dynamics in your own dojo.

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