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How Going Off Script Can Help Your Team

By: Melissa Dick, Team Manager, Tennessee

Right about now, your team is likely in desperate need of additional meetings. (Anyone else wondering where the entire month of November went?) But school is about to be out for the holidays, and the kids are so wired on hot chocolate, snowman cookies, and pure excitement that they couldn’t form a coherent sentence if you actually paid them.

While the Destination Imagination Roadmap is invaluable, it’s also a good idea to “off script”—and maybe off campus. Sitting around the kitchen table with mailing labels, straws and popsicle sticks isn’t going to cut it. Make up some teamwork-based Challenges that are holiday or Star Wars themed (I hear there’s maybe some big movie coming out soon?). Have a scavenger hunt. Or maybe even stage a little Instant Challenge outing, like one I did with my crew last year.

(Flashback moment…please imagine 1980s’ wavy screen special effect.)

The team knew we had a special day planned, but no idea as to what it was. As I picked up each of the team members, I handed them an index card and a pencil, and instructed them to create a character and write down as much as they could about that character on the card. They couldn’t share it with the other team members.

Imagine their surprise when our car ride ended up at the dollar store. I collected the cards and in exchange, gave them each a $5.50 gift card (tax included, of course) and set them free for 10 minutes to search the store for things that would help them create and become that character. I rounded them up at the checkout as they paid for an armload of goodies—flip flops, posterboard, ninja vests, plastic tablecloths, dragon stickers, and ice cream treats.


“Some of the goodies from our dollar store excursion, all used to create their characters. And of course it all went into our DI storage bin because Team Managers keep everything since you never know when the team might need a plastic horse or a ninja vest.”

We went back out to my car, where I instructed them to then BECOME their character. One team member created her character out of ice cream treats, which won mega creativity points but meant that her edible character didn’t last very long. This is where you learn to be more specific (and why the Rules of the Road have to state things like “no live animals at tournament.”)

They still had no idea what we were doing. We loaded back up into the car, and drove across the street into the parking lot of one of my favorite restaurants (in other words—a place where they knew me well enough not to freak out at being invaded by a woman with five kids in tow, some who may have been wrapped up in a tablecloth, wearing flip flops on their hands, and/or sporting dragon stickers on their face).

“We are NOT going in,” they cried, astonished that an adult would subject them (and herself) to such embarrassment.

“Oh, yes we are,” I said. “Today you have been invited to attend a luncheon with the Headmaster of the Academy of Creativity. You will remain in character through lunch as you dine with your fellow school applicants as the Headmaster interviews you about why you should gain acceptance at this fine educational institution.”

And then I put on my best Headmaster of the Academy of Creativity voice and fell into my own character. We spent the next hour laughing through lunch. The “applicants” got to interview each other as well, and we had a blast. They even loved one of the characters they created that day so much that it came up again in a performance-based Instant Challenge.

When people said I’d have to be a little crazy to be a Destination Imagination Team Manager, I’m not sure this is what they meant. But this little outing was one of the highlights of the year for our team and built memories they won’t soon forget (even if they wanted to).  And best yet—my favorite restaurant still lets me come back there.

Looking for more tips to help you best manage your team this season? Click here to check out our Team Manager Tips blog series.  

About the Author: Melissa Dick is in her sixth year of being a Team Manager and gets teary-eyed every year during the Welcome Ceremony at Global Finals. In addition to being the Affiliate Growth Director for Tennessee Destination Imagination, she’s a writer, artist, mom of two boys, creativity nut and avid “Doctor Who” fan.