Fifteen mayors and council members are gathered around a 6-foot-by-9-foot, checkerboard-patterned carpet. No one is talking. The men and women use hand signals to communicate to a team member who tentatively steps from a square in the carpet’s first row to an adjacent square, looking at his teammates for direction and support. His team members gesture and point. What is going on here?
The group is searching for a path through the Electric Maze, an experience-based training and development (EBTD) activity. As with most EBTD activities, the Electric Maze can be adapted to different goals. In this case, the Electric Maze is being used to address the New Mexico Municipal League’s values of teamwork, trust, openness, strategic thinking, and support. After the Electric Maze, the team members will evaluate their performance by reflecting on how their behaviors aligned with the Municipal League’s values.
But for now the group is challenged to find a path through the Electric Maze. The facilitator has told the group that while there is one continuous path, the Electric Maze also has squares that beep, signaling that the team is off the path. After five minutes of planning, strategic thinking, and an open exchange of ideas, the team is no longer allowed to communicate verbally, except during three minutes of meeting time.
Although from different municipalities, the mayors and council members’ role is to act as one governing body. The team’s goal is to get everyone to the other end of the Electric Maze in 20 minutes or less. An on-time completion is rewarded with a “million dollar” increase to their municipal budget.
One at a time, team members step out onto the carpet and seek to extend the group’s forward progress through the Electric Maze. Since the territory is unknown when the activity begins, first-time beeps are essential and valuable information. The entire team (governing body) loses money off the budget increase anytime anyone steps on a beep that has previously been discovered. The team’s success depends upon quickly assimilating the emerging information into a collective intelligence of the whole system. Similar to any maze, the Electric Maze challenge has diagonal moves, sideways moves, forward moves, and backward moves. Similar to municipal governing, the Electric Maze has box canyons, dead ends, and confusion points. Continue Reading »