What the show is about:
Sixteen average Americans, who have never met before, are being divided in two teams of eight members each. The contestants are marooned on a deserted island with only basic tools for survival. They have to master everyday tasks like making fire and catching their own food as well as compete on two different levels. On the first level the two tribes (Tagi and Pagong, which are named after the beaches they live on) have to compete against each other in a weekly competition. In this competition the winning tribe can earn useful tools like matches but more importantly they can earn immunity from elimination. Elimination is the second level of competition because the members of the losing tribe have to vote one of their own members out. The last man standing wins a million dollars.
For this assignment we chose to observe the ‘Tagi tribe’. The two reasons we had for choosing this tribe were the fact that they got more screen time which gave us the opportunity to evaluate them more carefully and second because they had to eliminate someone at the end of the show which was an interesting observation aspect in terms of how a group reacts.
Ø Sean Kenniff (Neurologist)
Ø Kelly Wiglesworth (River guide)
Ø Rudy Boesch (Retired navy seal mariner)
Ø Sonja Christopher (Musician who survived cancer)
Ø Richard Hatch (Corporate communication consultant)
Ø Susan Hawk (Truck driver)
Ø Dirk Been (Dairy farmer)
Ø Stacy Stillman (Attorney)
The tribe members always wear the color orange for recognition and the sense of a team identity.
The First Impression:
In our group discussion we found that all team members had a very similar first impression of the group that we observed. Our impression of the ‘Tagi’ tribe was that they were in fact not a group, rather eight very different individuals with different opinions and very different approaches to a problem at hand. We all agreed that, since we picked the first episode, the members of the tribe still had to find a way to come together as a group. We established that each individual already had a personal motivation, which is to win one million dollars, but that they didn’t have a team objective which could unite them.
The following quote supports our statement:
Susan: “ I have a goal.”
Richard: “ Yes. And I have a goal for me, but we haven’t for us and if we don’t get it in the next 31 days, we’ll fail in this competition.”
Main problem and possible solutions:
The major strength and the weakness of the group are one and the same: their diversity. Their diversity makes it difficult for them to make decisions but on the other hand they can each contribute different skills to the group.
We therefore identified the tribe’s major problem to be the lack of a group identity, which resulted in different people trying to take on the leadership role and two different approaches to solving everyday problems. In the end everybody basically did whatever they wanted and nobody worked as a team, which led to chaos.
Richard and Dirk introduced the two different approaches. Richard’s main idea was to sit down as a group and lay down ground rules and guidelines before starting any kind of work. It was very interesting to see how his background as a corporate communication consultant was reflected in his approach. Dirk’s solution was the complete opposite. He didn’t want to talk about the task at all, but rather just start getting things done. This approach could be based on his more ‘hands on’ job as a dairy farmer.
As a group we discussed what we thought was a the better way to solve a problem and our group was evenly dived, as two people supported Richard’s idea and the other two found Dirk’s way to be more effective. This is why we listed the pros and cons of both ideas. The people who supported Richard’s line of thought argued that in order for a group to work together effectively and efficiently ground rules need to be established and everybody needs to have a clear job description as well as distinct responsibilities. The other two members of our team then argued that it would be impossible for all these different individuals to get on the same page and that they would always waste valuable time if they were to discuss every single detail and decide everything as a group.
Based on this discussion we came up with some possible solutions. We identified the most important criteria for successful teamwork to be compromising. We therefore came up with a solution which combines Richard’s and Dirk’s approaches. In our plan we decided that on the first day every tribe member should do every task that comes up on the island. This is very close to Dirk’s approach and gives the individual tribe members the opportunity to identify each other’s strengths and weaknesses as well as develop a sense for each job’s challenges. Then on the next day they should get together and assign the major tasks, such as making fire or fishing, according to the individual’s abilities. We also decided that this work could best be done in pairs, because this way everybody can get to know each other and it is easier to make decisions in smaller groups. This is a solution according to the OB criteria such as time management and division of labor.
We concluded that another important factor for the group to improve its teamwork is the time spent on the island. We believe that once different people get to know each other better that they will work more efficiently as a group. This has proven to be right as only a day after the initial chaos the group starts to slowly get together as a group, when they all work together trying to make a fire. In the end they don’t succeed in this task, but the positive outcome is that everybody contributed to achieve a common goal.
Prejudices and Stereotypes:
Based on their looks, age, place of residence, and most importantly their profession we, as well as the other tribe members, immediately had a first impression based on stereotypes. However, we soon were surprised by some members of the tribe, because who would have thought that a neurologist would turn out to have his nipples pierced or that a 75 year old could do more push-ups than a 25 year old? This proved to us once again how convenient but misleading stereotyping is. Another interesting observation was that the entire tribe has the same ethnic background: white Caucasian. This eliminates a lot of potential prejudices and we haven’t noticed another type of prejudice in the tribe, even though Sean for example is very religious and reads in the Bible every day, the other tribe embers seem to respect that. Our opinion is also heavily influenced by the first appearance of each person in the show. One example in particular was Kelly. In her first appearance she constantly complained about Rudy’s straightforward attitude and the entire team stated that they therefore perceived her as a negative and lazy person.
It was very clear from the beginning that some of the tribe members would get along better than others. In the end they even started forming little subgroups like Richard and Rudy who got along very well as well as Stacy and Kelly. Stacy and Kelly even went so far as trying to manipulate Susan into voting Rudy of the island for no better reason than their personal dislike. Susan on the other hand promised them to vote for Rudy but in the end she didn’t. This kind of attitude is very harmful and undermines the entire group. This is a perfect example of how the individual group members put their personal motivation above what would be best for the team.
One of the reason why we chose to observe the ‘Tagi’ tribe was because they had to eliminate one of their own at the end of the episode and we found it interesting to see who they would choose. In the end Stacy had 1 vote, Rudy 3 and Sonja was voted out with a majority rule of 4 votes. As mentioned above Stacy and Kelly had voted for Rudy out of personal dislike and Richard votes for Stacy because of similar reasons. The other who voted for Sonja did so because she was the ‘weakest link’ in the tribe. In the competition against the other tribe, Sonja fell which cost the team valuable seconds and in the end the victory. People could say that it was a harsh decision to base her elimination only on that factor, but as a group we believe that they made the right decision for the team, because Sonja would unlikely be able to keep up. This was also the first time that a decision was made in the best interest of the tribe rather than in the best interest of one individual. Everybody could have behaved like Stacy and Kelly and vote for the person they like the least or maybe vote for the person they view as their biggest competition, but the majority decided not to do so.
The task that the ‘Tagi’ tribe has taken on is multilayered and complicated. The members vary a lot in their backgrounds as well as in their opinions. Each individual is driven by the personal motivation to win the one million dollar, which makes it even harder to find a common goal and establish the necessary team identity. Their diversity is their biggest capital as well as their biggest problem but we believe that the solutions we found for managing their differences allows the tribe to develop a great team potential.