|Building the Communications Puzzle: Reinforce the Importance of Good Communications|
|By Joe Bouchard|
The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.
All successful institutions have healthy communications grapevines. And one of the most important lessons in corrections, without a doubt, is that accurate intelligence gathering and sharing has immense value in our field. When different shifts, custody and programs, and even different institutions share information, overall facility security is ultimately enhanced.
So, how does an instructor instill that message? This can be done by using tangible examples of exchange of shared information. Content is better learned if it is accompanied by a good memory cue. That is where the puzzle comes in.
Metaphorically speaking, the mysteries that we are faced with every day on the job are like jigsaw puzzles. Just as we assign meaning to fragments of incoming information, we also bring together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The skeleton, or the edge pieces of the puzzle, is the easiest to put together. Then come the parts with the most obvious shapes, sizes, or appearance. After that, one by one, comes the fitting of each unobtrusive piece into the picture.
Conceptually, assembling a jigsaw puzzle it is no different than figuring the dynamics and specifics of a smuggling enterprise. Like puzzle parts, the information is considered and fitted into the larger picture, one element at a time – from the known to the unknown.
Option one: Same apparent scheme, different particulars
This is based on the notion that there are two similar events happening in any institution. But they are not identical. At this time, the trainer should provide a concrete illustration.
This can be conceptually simulated by using two puzzles with the same picture, but not with the same puzzle pieces.
Equipment needed: two puzzles with the same picture, but with differently cut pieces. These should ideally be a puzzle with 10-25 pieces.
Duration: about five minutes.
Participants are told to assemble the puzzle with the pieces they have. They are not told, however, that two interior pieces from puzzle A are switched with two interior pieces from puzzle B. It is up to the instructor to nudge an information exchange between builders of puzzle A and puzzle B.
Principle lesson: The instructor explains that, just like the puzzles, sometimes two different events that we investigate are not exactly alike, but similar enough for information parts to be inadvertently interchanged.
Option two: Three independent investigations
The teacher paints this picture:
Equipment needed: one puzzle. This should ideally be 100 pieces.
Duration: about ten minutes.
Three people or three small teams are given roughly 1/3 each of the same puzzle. The pieces will be roughly divided and distributed from a completely assembled puzzle, but the pieces will not be together when they are given. That is, each independent investigator or investigation team will be able to put together all pieces provided. However, they will not be able to assemble a full picture.. The three individuals or teams will work away from each other and encouraged to finish before the other team, fostering a spirit of competition.
After a five minute period, someone will be “volunteered” to act as a liaison. That person will inform the others that they may share resources. The puzzles will eventually be brought together and solved by 3 independent investigation teams acting as one.
Principle lesson: The instructor explains that three competing teams will not yield the results of one team united. Some investigations extend beyond the observations, resources, talents, and work of a small team. Information sharing is crucial. Communication of findings helps to bridge the knowledge gaps and creates a fuller picture. Teams should share results to promote a safer environment.
Option Three: Missing Information
The instructor tells of a scenario in which –
Equipment needed: This should ideally have 3 puzzles with about 25 pieces.
Duration: about ten minutes
One interior piece from each of the three puzzles is covertly spirited to a participating student, or retained by the trainer. As the puzzles are assembled, it becomes obvious to the assemblers that there is a missing piece. The instructor then allows the investigation teams to make inquiries of others about the missing pieces. They are prompted to make very specific queries about the size, shape, and color schemes of the piece. If they are descriptive enough, the piece can be rendered by the holding party.
Principle lesson: The instructor explains that sometimes an investigation cannot become complete until the hidden information is uncovered. Sometimes we must seek that last crucial piece. Many times we fail to simply ask others what they might have seen or heard concerning the matter. Crucial information nuggets, like missing puzzle pieces, can be found if one asks colleagues.
Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.
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