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Team-Building: Creating Work Groups With Harry Potter and The Sorting Hat
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Team-Building: Creating Work Groups With Harry Potter and The Sorting Hat- Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Creating Work Groups With Harry Potter and The Sorting Hat

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Creating Work Groups With Harry Potter and The Sorting Hat

In the world of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels, pre-teen boys and girls are welcomed to the Hogwarts School of Wizarding and Witchcraft, where they are immediately confronted by the Sorting Hat, a magic hat that assigns them to the houses they will represent throughout their school years. The sorting is no arbitrary process: house assignments are based upon each student's strengths. Gryffindor House values courage, Slytherin values ambition, Ravenclaw values cleverness, and Hufflepuff values loyalty. Multiple questionnaires exist online for people wishing to see which house they belong to, but chances are good that your employees, if they have read the novels, already know which house they belong to.

These four values (courage, ambition, cleverness, and loyalty) often work in tandem quite well, but sometimes they work at odds with one another. And although the Hogwarts Sorting Hat lacks the sobriety of more formal personality tests like the Meyers-Briggs, understanding how the members of your team see themselves in these terms can be a fun, interesting approach to analyzing the makeup of work groups. Some projects are helped when all the Gryffindors are working on one task while all the Ravenclaws work on another, while other projects call for a mixture of all four groups to work on each of the tasks.

Consider beginning a team-building retreat with a sorting activity, then letting the sorted groups decide which tasks they want to work on for some upcoming project, or let the sorted groups send representatives to each task group based on individual members' preferences, resulting in equal representation across groups for each task. Once self-identified as belonging to the four houses, you may see a neat camaraderie develop among groups, or you'll notice work groups using the house names as shorthand in getting busy on their tasks, uttering phrases like, "As the lone Slytherin in this group, I must speak up about..." or "Can we get a Ravenclaw over here to help us with this detail?"

If this all sounds a bit juvenile (and it might, but keep in mind that your Millennials grew up with Harry Potter the way you grew up with Star Wars or the Rolling Stones), you can substitute the four values with anything appropriate to your projects. Some possibilities:

  • Do a web search for “which * are you” and you will find literally hundreds of surveys that sort you into some pop culture categorization: Which Muppet are you? Which Sex and the City character are you? Most of these will be useless, but patience can reveal something that fits the mood and personality of your team.
  • The Dungeons and Dragons model: label a horizontal axis with a spectrum going from "chaotic" on the left to "lawful" on the right; label a vertical axis a spectrum going from "evil" at the bottom to "good" at the top. Let your people choose their quadrants so that they are each among Chaotic Evil, Chaotic Good, Lawful Evil, and Lawful Good.
  • Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences. Educators on your team will already be familiar with these, but taking an inventory can be revealing to team members specifically and the rest of the team as a whole. Gardner’s intelligences fall into the categories of musical–rhythmic, visual–spatial, verbal–linguistic, logical–mathematical, bodily–kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic.

A few cautions before you proceed: first, if you’re using an online survey, make sure you take it a few times yourself. Many of these surveys are created by everyday schmoes who are sometimes not as thoughtful as others. If the survey is of horrible quality, your activity will be a joke. You may also want to give your team, before you begin, the heads-up that while the work you’re about to do is serious, the sorting is meant to be fun. Allow an escape clause that lets team members veto their results and place themselves where they believe they belong. Some people are very sensitive about these kinds of things, and you want attitudes to be as positive as possible. Please also encourage your team to dispute the results other team members receive only if they can do so sensitively and positively.

There is nothing scientific about sorting activities such as these (unless you deliberately seek scholarly themed activities), but they can be a fun, informal way of sorting your team into practical work groups, either for short-term projects or ongoing needs.


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Team-Building: Creating Work Groups With Harry Potter and The Sorting Hat- Executive Leadership Articles

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