Magoosh GRE

Reflective essay: “Design a board game” and “Who owns Zebra”

| March 24, 2015

INTRODUCTION
My name is Aigerim Amanzholova, I am currently studying for my Masters in Management. During our residential weekend on the Organizational Analysis module, the tutor introduced us to reflective writing and its role in learning and personal development. I was part of several groups of between 5 – 7 people who were assigned two activities.

In this essay, I would be recounting my experiences during two tasks: “Design a board game” and “Who owns Zebra”. They were both challenging and introduced me to the intricacies of working in a team and brainstorming in order to get beneficial results.

TASK 1 – FIND THE SYNONYMS
Experience Description
The first task was on how to design a board game (just like monopoly). The game should be based on a sport of our choice. We as a group were meant to come together, brainstorm and derive a mutual decision based on the way the game would be played. I came up with a number of ideas that, in my understanding, were the most thrilling form of board games. The other team members also came up with reasonable ideas. Ideas for the general game were derived from several board games that the team had played individually in their upbringing. Some team members decided to use Monopoly as a reference, while another chose a scrabble format. I was more into adventurous games so I voted for a racing sort of game just like the formula 1.

The team as a whole was very active in discussing and bringing up game ideas. The activity was relatively fun-filled and intellectually fulfilling. By listening to each other’s contributions, we all found correct or acceptable ways to develop a game. We eventually settled on a board game based largely on formula 1 (and several other games). We then built up a design, strategy and mode of play.

Feelings Examination
My initial reaction to this task was “This is so simple, why do we need to do this?” This activity also felt really different and made me somewhat uncomfortable at first as I was initially expecting something similar to the numerous other classroom activities we normally engage in. We often engage in theoretical activities and case studies, which I had come to understand and be comfortable with. However, this new activity was a totally new experience. I felt a bit lost and frustrated at first because I did not immediately understand the meaning of the task and its importance in my personal development. In short, I was scared of failure, a feeling that coheres with the popular belief that “people are usually scared of what they do not know”.

As the group activity commenced, and the storming session started, I began to do away with my initial fear. I started seeing the essence of group contributions and had several ideas on how the game could develop into something interesting for its participants. However when we almost got to the end of the task where we had to draw up a game play plan on how to play it, I could not really contribute that much because of my limited experience in the game arena. I felt somewhat embarrassed because the team was made up mostly of boys and I could not match their knowledge and skills in games. Eventually, we all adopted a diplomatic approach and chose several ideas from everyone who had a valid game strategy.

During the whole task, I often felt that there was more to the task than was initially mentioned by the teacher. I felt that for the task to be that easy, it must be tricky. There must be a catch. I also often felt like my ideas were the best, especially when to promoting my formula 1 plan. I felt a bit let down whenever the team chose other ideas as opposed to mine. Overall I tried to put aside my cynicism and consider all possible variants that other team members have included in the work.

Experience re-evaluation
The good thing about the task was that it made us cooperate with one another in trying to achieve the end result – which was to develop the best game. Though the task got challenging, we were able to overcome it by our overall team effort. We were also able to draw on our different experiences, backgrounds and capabilities with different games, whether football, car racing or basic board games like Monopoly and Scrabble; in order to help each other out in figuring the best board game. The group was diverse, and so was our upbringing. We all had a different approach to the question, and brought about a separate experience when building the board game. Whenever someone proposed an idea that the others did not understand, he had to explain it to everyone, and if we felt that the explanation came across sufficiently, we agreed on it and moved on.

The overall activity went well though. We all contributed somewhat equally, everyone was involved and the task was concluded within the appointed time. The only thing I felt went bad was disagreements that often occurred when we all could not agree on a game play method, or how winners are chosen; or the kind of strategies that would be defined as cheating or being smart. My initial thought was to contribute as much as possible and be seen as an active member of the group, and not just someone who does not know anything. I believe the overall outcome of my actions were beneficial both to me and to my team.

Situation Analysis
Now that I reflect back on the activity and my learning outcome, I believe the task was meant to get different individuals to work together as a team. A sort of way to advocate the importance of diversity even among a small team of individuals. There was no trick or sideline, but I believe that the unspoken importance of the task is in getting people to resolve conflicts, contribute ideas and understand and appreciate the importance of teamwork. I was totally involved fully in the task and was always open minded regarding the arguments of other team members. I was receptive of the team’s ideas regarding any new autonyms that were suggested, and was not always the first to criticize. Based on Honey and Mumford’s (1992) Learning Styles, my behaviour is synonymous to that of an Activist who “involves themselves fully and without bias in new experiences”.

I also agree that my personality and behaviour coheres with Belbin’s (2002) description of an Implementer who is well organized and tackles problems in a systematic fashion. The tendency to tackle problems in such a way was probably why I was able to apply practical common sense when solving the tasks by drawing on my knowledge of games and did not feel comfortable with ideas that I was not comfortable with.

TASK 2 – WHO OWNS ZEBRA

Experience Description
The second task being discussed in this reflection exercise was a group exercise called “who owns zebra”. It was a very complicated task with a different team of individuals and it resulted in a failure. We were all given notes that contained abstract sentences such as “British own dog”, “Ukraine drink tea” and “Yellow door is in the middle”. We all had about 3-4 lines of information each and were not allowed to show ourselves each other’s notes. What we were told to do was to allocate each nationality to each home, then allocate pets, drinks and hobbies. So it was really hard to understand what was really required of the task, as we could not see what other people had. We were only allowed to speak but not to show our lines of info thereby making it hard as we had different parts of what seemed like a puzzle.

We worked in a separate group of 7 individuals. We all had different backgrounds, just like in the initial task, all spoke different languages, and together, we came from four different continents. We tried to engage our imaginative capabilities and come up with different scenarios. This activity was not as enjoyable as the previous one because it seemed like we were all confused and did not know what to do. I tried contributing to the discussions by telling my teammates that every nationality has its own pet, house, hobby and drink but they did not listen to my suggestions. They probably thought that the info about hobbies and drinks was insignificant and was only there to confuse them.

Eventually when we showed each other our notes, we realized that it had all been a thorough misunderstanding and with proper teamwork, we would have achieved a beneficial result.

Feelings Examination
Honestly, my initial thought was that this activity felt even more abstract and more confusing than the previous one. It was a totally new group so I had to adjust myself accordingly and start afresh. I did not feel comfortable at first, as I had come to feel at the end of the previous task.

The task however, did not make familiarity any easy. I was totally confused, and judging by the facial expressions and body language of the other team members, I am sure they equally were. I was unsure as to how we were supposed to proceed with speaking and not writing. To me, I felt the words were very abstract and did not have any meaning whatsoever. For instance, a team member tried constructing sentences based on what he had, with total disregard of the notes other people had. And when I tried to suggest alternatives based on the note I had, they pushed it aside. These totally different tasks made me feel even more confused and uncomfortable, as I knew in that instant that the team would have a very huge problem in succeeding in this task.

My other team members were males and very outspoken. They were already arguing over the topic before I could come up with my reasonable explanation based on the note I had. I felt shy and intimidated, thereby did not explicitly voice out my opinion when I was meant to. Also, because I could not effectively interpret and discover the underlying meaning of the task, I was scared of giving the wrong answer and leading the team to failure: therefore I did not express my views.

We eventually settled on an argument by one of the other team members. I think we chose that decision because the team member who advocated it was the most effective in convincing others to follow his idea. The eventual decision was not entirely based on the logic of the question, but mostly on influencing the decision of other team members. I felt it was wrong, as I had a different instruction in my note.

Experience re-evaluation
The main merits of this exercise was that I found that in subjective situations such as this, there are often no right or wrong answers, but the eventual conclusion or decision is based mostly on collective team effort (in teams where powers are equally balanced) or individual assertion (in teams where a dominant personality can effectively influence the decision of other team mates).

It was good for me as I got to experience this first hand and understand the inner dynamics of teamwork. I was also able to see how different experiences and backgrounds influence on team results, and that an effective utilisation of these different experiences could result in a high performing team, if all team members voice their opinions and contribute equally. If I had contributed equally and stood my grounds, maybe my idea would have been influential in convincing the team and driving them towards success.

I believe it was my inability to express my experiences, like the other teammates had done, that facilitated the eventual result and made us fail. I guess I must have acted in the way I did (not voicing my opinions) because I did not have a full objective understanding of the topic at hand and I would have been really embarrassed if I came up with a response that was a failure. Be that as it may, the outcome of my inability to act still resulted in a failure. I should have done something.

Situation Analysis
I believe that my action during the team activities really expresses my behaviour in teams. When I am totally certain about what to say and what to do, I voice out my opinions and make it known, just as was the case during the language task previously discussed. However this subjective task was new to me and I did not want to risk failing, especially in a team where I was not comfortable with all the other team members. Belbin (2002) describes the Implementer as an individual who has “resistance to unproven ideas”, and “lack of flexibility”. That is probably why I feel uncomfortable in situations that require exercising both skills. Being an activist, I understand that I should have been more proactive in my team role. But my weaknesses as an implementer made it somewhat difficult to fully express myself.

GENERAL REFLECTION FROM BOTH TASKS
Partaking in these tasks and understanding how different individuals play different roles based on their personalities has greatly changed my thinking regarding teamwork and organizational effectiveness. I now have a broader overview of my strengths and weaknesses when working in teams. I now know how I could improve it in becoming a better team player. I could have contributed more by having more flexibility regarding other people’s experiences.

If I could have reflected during the task, the way I am doing now, then I could have them adopted a pragmatic approach in getting other team members to relate to my view and having them come up with better ideas, based on my initial idea.

My overall strengths are that I can tackle problems by brainstorming, can thrive on new experiences, be gregarious, revel in new tasks where I am able to actively involve myself and have things done. My weaknesses are that I normally feel uncomfortable in new teams; and with tasks I do not understand and sometimes try to push my idea above others, especially when I feel like I have a better understanding of the situation.

In future I will try to relate each new idea I come across to my previous knowledge and to any relevant experience. I will try to be more flexible, and try to not hold back from direct participation. I would acknowledge every other person’s views, as they are valuable. Though they may be different from mine.

MANAGERIAL DEVELOPMENT ACTION PLAN
Moon (1999) asserts that the importance of experiential learning is that it entails organizing and developing learning through reflection on practical situations, such that they can lead to improved action. Therefore based on the activities discussed in this reflective essay, and all other activities I was involved in during the residential weekend. I have outlined the following action plan based on my strengths and weaknesses that would be effective in my development as a manager:

• In as much as I may be an activist during most team activities, I would endeavour to also contribute by reflecting, theorising and being pragmatic in my approach to teamwork. I would reflect back on previous experiences, make logical conclusions and assertions, then be pragmatic in my approach towards each task.

• I would try to socialize better in new teams, and if there were tasks that I do not understand, I would ask for explanations from whoever in the team has a broader understanding. This would build my confidence and help me in contributing positively in the team.

• Whenever I feel like I have the best idea during team sessions, or discussions, I would first listen to what other team members have to say. If they have an equally commendable idea, I would entertain it, weigh it against mine, and if I believe that mine should still be considered, I would voice out my idea and leave the vote to the team as a whole instead of trying to push my idea above everyone else’s.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
The reflective assignment has been written based on the guidelines and theories selected from the following texts:

Cooney, A. (1999). Reflection demystified: Answering some common questions. British Journal of Nursing, Vol. 8 (22), 1530-1534.
Kolb, D. A. (1984) Individual Learning Styles and the Learning Process, MIT Sloan School Working Paper No. 535 – 571.
Gibbs, G. (1988). Learning by Doing: a guide to teaching and learning methods. London: Further Education Unit,

REFERENCES
Belbin, M., Management Teams – Why They Succeed or Fail (2004) 2nd edn.
Honey, P. and Mumford, A. (1992), The manual of learning styles. Peter Honey Publications
Moon, J. A. (1999) Reflection in learning and professional development: Theory and Practice, Routledge: NY, 229pp

Category: Education Essay Examples, Essay & Dissertation Samples, Reflective Essay Examples