ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - April 2002


Issue Highlight — Business as Usual
- Peter Block has been thinking about all the talk about getting back to business as usual and wonders whether business as unusual might not be better for the nation.

Tools for Teams: The TetraMap®
Guiding Teams Toward Synergy

Nature = Synergy

The natural elements of earth, air, water, and fire are embedded in cultural myths and legends from all parts of our globe. These same elements offer a backdrop for a metaphor that has imaginatively and effectively provided a model of synergy for team development.

Consider nature as a manifestation of synergy. Wherever you may be, look at the elements of earth, air, water, and fire. What have they created, developed, destroyed? The interdependent elements, like a team, are constantly in motion, affecting each other and impacting the world in a myriad of ways. When we use nature as the metaphor, it follows to ask of teams…What if our team could mirror and create the synergy we see in nature? What difference would it make to us, to our performance and results? Can our results create THAT kind of synergy?

The TetraMap®

The TetraMap is a model that uses nature as a metaphor to demonstrate synergy. It helps us to simplify the complexities of our personal and organizational challenges.

The three dimensional explanation of this model is the tetrahedron. This geometric shape was deemed to be “the minimal structural system in [the] Universe,” according to Buckminster Fuller, architect, inventor, and humanitarian (1895–1983).

Each side of this four-sided pyramid is the keeper of one of these elements. Each side of the tetrahedron is an integral part of the whole. Any movement along, within, or on the face of earth, air, water, or fire affects all three other elements. The four elements, working to form the tetrahedron, create a structural, interdependent synergistic system.

Nature as a Metaphor

Earth is firm, air is clear, water is calm, and fire is bright.

Unfold the tetrahedron to create the TetraMap of nature:

With our ever-increasing challenges, can we, as responsible beings contributing to humanity, be firm in our conviction, clear in thought, calm in perseverance, and choose a bright vision? These are questions we ask of each other. As a team, are we firm in our goals and direction, clear in our knowledge and reason, calm in our values and unity, and bright in our motivation and spirit?

Teams Down Under

Like every country, New Zealand has its share of amazing teams who create amazing results. Recently amidst the turmoil and sadness that has affected the world, New Zealand lost one of its most highly respected, legendary team leaders, Sir Peter Blake (pictured below on left).

More memorable in my mind than his incredible sailing feats, bringing and keeping the America’s Cup to New Zealand, and his commitment to the planet in his endeavors in Antarctica and the Amazon, was his ability to reflect the synergy every team strives to create.

Blake not only modeled the synergy of the four elements: earth, air, water, and fire, he lived and breathed success into and out of every single member of his small but mighty teams. Inviting him as a surprise speaker at our corporate team conference, the surprise was far more than introducing the man himself, but observing his greatness and humility.

In many ways, like New Zealand, Blake exuded nature’s elements of firmness in courage, clarity of thought, persevering calmness, and an incredible brightness of future with dignity and humility. He spoke of the values that held the team together through seemingly insurmountable challenges. A list of just a few of the team’s values may illustrate this:

  1. Integrity.
  2. To succeed and make the public proud of the team.
  3. To play nicely together and share your toys.
  4. Be squeaky clean and play by the rules.
  5. Everybody has the right to express an opinion.

The sports metaphor is a powerful one and has served team-building efforts for decades. The story of Blake and his teams goes beyond what is possible when teams work. It’s about how teams demonstrate their “teamness” and how they remain motivated and focused.

A quote from yet another quiet achiever—perhaps this is the nature of our Down Under sailors—John Bertrand sums up teamwork nicely. Bertrand was the first skipper to pry the America’s Cup loose from America’s 132-year grasp. The Aussies picked up the gauntlet of victory with incredible teamwork.

America did not lose the America’s Cup, as so many newspapers and magazines and, indeed, books would have us believe. The Australians came and won the America’s Cup. We came and took it away with brilliant crew work, seamanship, preparation, administration, and a very, very fast boat. And we won it because, in the end, we wanted it most. The Americans had a team of champions, but we were a champion team.

(Born to Win, John Bertrand, Patrick Robinson, 1985)

Lessons From New Zealand

Living in New Zealand, becoming a Kiwi at heart, and still visiting the United States three to four times a year, I continue to learn so much about teams and the myths that surround good team building. New Zealand provides a refreshing perspective on how teams operate. There’s something very strong, quiet, and deep flowing about teamness that I’ve learned in my years of working Down Under, in the United States, and Mexico. I’m convinced that our metaphor of nature and the TetraMap will continue to support teams to understand how and why synergy can make all the difference.

Remembering the four elements of nature: earth, air, water, and fire, the TetraMap of teamwork provides a mirror to teams, giving clarity to how synergy can be created. A question you might ask is: “What would my team look and act like if we were truly synergistic? What are the potential results?”

Use the TetraMap and begin to release the elements within your team:

  • Earth: Do you have firm goals?
  • Air: Are your rules and systems clear?
  • Water: Are your values calm and deep?
  • Fire: Is your spirit bright?

Then ask the harder question: What will we need to do differently to start creating synergy?

YOSHIMI BRETT is a third generation Japanese, American, and Kiwi (New Zealander). She lives in Auckland, New Zealand, but in her excitement to share the TetraMap, she and her partner travel to the United States and Mexico several times a year. For more information on the TetraMap visit or
contact Brett at .




Remembering Peter Blake, “Seafarer With a Conscience”
(Excerpts from an account of Peter Blake’s life and abrupt, tragic death.)

As a competitive sailor, Sir Peter Blake navigated the world’s most dangerous oceans: competing in seven round-the-world races and fearing for his and his crew’s lives in 1994 when they found themselves amid icebergs, 70-knot winds, and huge waves. He survived that harrowing experience and others during his exemplary offshore racing career. He also survived and thrived in the Byzantine subculture and spymaster mentality of the America’s Cup, leading New Zealand to its first victories in yachting’s most prestigious competition in 1995 and 2000. But he did not survive a straightforward journey down the Amazon River on an environmental research vessel. On December 6, a small band of robbers boarded his vessel with guns drawn. According to initial police reports, the charismatic 53-year-old yachtsman was shot and killed after he charged up from below decks to confront the assailants and protect his 10-member crew.

“Such a shock and such a waste of an important life,” said Tom Schnackenberg, who was part of Blake’s triumphant America’s Cup teams and replaced him as head of the New Zealand syndicate that will defend the Cup in 2003. The Kiwis’ 5-0 victory over Dennis Conner and the United States in San Diego in 1995 was one of the most remarkable performances in the Cup’s long history.

Blake’s death represents a missed opportunity for the global environmental movement. After spending the first three decades of his sailing career obsessively chasing trophies, he formed his own organization, Blakexpeditions, backed by the United Nations. The group’s main objective was to produce films and television shows targeted primarily at the young. “If you can reach the young, you can reach the people who will be making the decisions about the environment in the years ahead,” Blake said. He planned to spend five years in the world’s most important and fragile aquatic environments, filming and absorbing.

Christopher Clarey, International Herald Tribune
December 12, 2001

Copyright 2001 International Herald Tribune

Source: .

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April 2002 News for a Change Homepage

 In This Issue...
We Said Teams Are Awesome— in Las Vegas, They Proved It!
Heroes Wear Scrubs Too
Upcoming AQP Courses at a Glance...
Bringing Corporate Philosophy Alive
An Open Invitation to a New Conversation
What Do You Mean by Participation?
Tools for Teams: The TetraMap®
Something Shifted

What’s Up?

Peter Block Column

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