Good Teamwork Starts With Bad Adventures That Go Slightly Wrong.

The full team has been down in Springfield for about two weeks. And we’ve been getting along really nicely — as well as I could’ve hoped, actually.

I was worried about this, actually. We’re putting six reporters into a confined space — we’re all living together — and asking them to work together for a summer. The chance of disaster(1) is high.

But I thought back to three personal experiences where a group of disparate individuals bonded in a strange way:

1. The trip I took with Mizzou to China
2. My Birthright Israel experience
3. My freshman year dorm

In all three, bonding was formed around a single thing: Minor disaster. In China, that meant all-day bus trips to really random places that the Chinese wanted us to see — most notably a sewage treatment plant. With Birthright, that meant the six-hour flight delay we sat through at Newark.

With the dorms, it meant dealing with our ancient, rusting dorm.

What I noticed is that when people are miserable, they come together to share that suffering. In all three experiences, I got much closer to people I’d hardly known days earlier. No matter what happens after that experience, I found, we’d always have that story about the the time we lived through (insert miserable experience here).

I wanted our team at to get along, too. So here’s what I did: The day after the last member of the team arrived, we all drove 90 minutes north to Ha Ha Tonka, this beautiful state park in Missouri. It was about 90 degrees. There were lots of mosquitos. And the park is super hilly.

I hiked my team up and down that park for 2.5 hours — at the end of which everyone got a little grumpy and a lot sweaty.

And then they started talking.

Then we grabbed some beer and went to an epic bluegrass concert.

And by the end of the night, our team was exhausted, tired and maybe a little confused at what they’d seen. But they were also talking. They finally had something in common.(2)

There are a few things we’ve done right with this project. But making our team hike in excessive heat and then listen to two hours of bluegrass was maybe the single best thing. It brought us together in a very real way.

The beer also probably didn’t hurt.

Kudos to @dcallies68 for the awesome photo of Ha Ha Tonka.

  1. i.e. fighting, conflict, bickering, smashing of Apple laptops, etc.
  2. Besides the fact that they work for and like stories.