Outside Assistance

What is Outside Assistance? How Can You Avoid It?

By Cathy Parker, Redwood Region, CA

Plainly stated, Outside Assistance is any help, through actions, directions, or ideas that the team receives that is directly applied to any aspect of its long-term solution. This Outside Assistance can come from a coach, a parent, team supporters, or even someone who works at a fabric or home improvement store. Often these people don’t realize that they are providing outside assistance.

So, in other words, the only minds that can contribute to the team’s creation of its long term solution are those of its team members. Teams receiving Outside Assistance are penalized for receiving help from non-team members.

“It does not matter who it is speaking. It matters that (a) it is presented to the team, and (b) the team takes it to heart.” – Sammy Micklus, Odyssey of the Mind Program Director

All ideas for the long-term and style solutions must be the team’s own.

All work on long-term and style solutions must be the team’s own.

So, teams, before you even get started on your long-term problem solution, it is up to you to come up with polite ways to let well-meaning people know that they are not a part of your team and cannot offer suggestions or help. Seriously, brainstorm some options early in the Odyssey Season. You will need them!

Let’s get very specific:

  • The theme must be the team’s own.
  • The script must be the team’s own.
  • All materials chosen and used for the team’s long-term solution must be by the team’s decision.
  • Any construction of backdrops, props, vehicles, balsa structures, etc., must be the team’s own.
  • Any engineering must be the team’s own.
  • Any creation of songs and dances must be the team’s own.
  • All stage direction and blocking for the team’s performance must be the team’s own.
  • All costume and appearance decisions must be the team’s own.
  • Any application of makeup and putting on of costumes must be done by the team.
  • Any aspects of the team’s long-term solution that were taken apart for transport must be reassembled by the team.
  • The choice of style items must be the team’s own.

Ownership & Teamwork

In other words, without Outside Assistance, a team will feel an overwhelming sense of ownership of their long-term solution. The team alone is completely responsible for their accomplishments and defeats. Because of this fact, participants will not only feel more pride in their solution, but will push themselves into learning new skills and flexing their creative thinking. The concept of “no outside assistance allowed” is one of the key features which sets Odyssey of the Mind apart from other educational programs.
It is all about the team’s work, aka, teamwork.