“Ballpoint” is one of my favourite exercises for illustrating iterative improvement to teamwork. The exercise involves passing as many practice golf balls as possible through a team in two minutes. There are a few rules, but generally, the team is free to organize themselves.

I’ve noticed a pattern in the outcomes. Every team starts out trying to improve by speeding up. Speeding up usually creates a slightly higher score, but it quickly plateaus again.

Some teams fundamentally change their approach to how they work together. (hint: speeding up isn’t a fundamental change). Consistently, teams achieve scores 2-3 times over teams who only try to go faster.

Help your team think outside the box when it comes to improvement. Ask powerful questions, challenge assumptions and make it safe to fail. Don’t forget, though; it might be you who’s keeping them in their box.

You’ve got this.

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