The Wetfoot Blog

Monday, April 12, 2010

Top 3 Experiential Activities Every Facilitator Needs to Know

Activity #2: Blind Polygon

As mentioned last month, I want to provide a list of the top three activities that I think every facilitator needs to know. Last month we explored Group Juggle and all of its variations. I want to thank everyone who posted additional comments and ideas. I always learn something new every time I watch someone else facilitate or talk to another facilitator. The ways to use these activities is literally endless.

With that in mind, here is one of the most flexible and adaptable initiative activities I know. I have seen it done in a number of ways and have set it up myself as a metaphor for many situations and problems that needed to be addressed during trainings of all kinds.

Set-Up: The basic blind polygon (or “rope shapes”) activity is pretty simple. You need a rope (length determined by group size and outcomes) long enough to loop into a circle. I knot the ends securely (with a double fisherman’s knot) and tend to use retired climbing ropes. This way I know that if a group pulls hard on the circle, the knot is secure and the rope strong enough to avoid mishaps. I make my circles large enough so that my group can stand comfortably around the outside of it, everyone holding onto it at waist height (with both hands) and still have a comfortable distance (no less then a foot or so) between participants. There are times when I expand the size of the circle (see below), but for most applications I don’t want to make it too big.

Basic Activity: Once everyone is around the rope circle, holding the rope at waist height with both hands, they are instructed that this is a blind activity and that, as a group they will be making a range of shapes with the rope.
Basic rules:
• All participants need to keep both hands attached to the rope.
• Hands can slide, but need to stay attached.
• And (in the simple version) everyone can talk.
Once everyone is ready and has eyes closed (I tend not to use blindfolds for various reasons, but I know many facilitators that do), I will tell them what shape to make first. I always start simple and with each round, increase the difficulty. Simple rounds will be triangles, squares and various other polygons. Later versions can include cubes and other odd shapes such as “clubs,” “spades,” and “hearts” from card decks, etc. What you do will depend on the group and your outcomes.

Debriefs in between rounds tend to be simple: What worked? What happened? What would you change for the next round? Who are the “leaders” during each round? How was that decided? Etc. What I focus on during debriefs also depends on what we have done to that point.

Variations: The basic set up remains the same for all other variations. However, here are some was to adapt this activity to certain situations. Again, let me know other ways you have used this activity:
• Expand the rope size. Doing this may make issues of communication more obvious.
• Divide the group in half with one part attached to the rope in the standard manner and the rest around the outside with instructions that they can see, but they can only whisper when they talk. This variation works great for illustrating points about normal issues in groups as people see things from different perspectives.
• Set up things just like the previous variation, however now you can have people work in partners with one person blind and attached to the rope and the other sighted but only able to whisper. Questions can then be asked about whether communication took place between all of the sighted members and if there was clear communication about the overall vision and process.
• Set the activity up with people role playing different “attributes” including a “rebel contrary,” someone blind and connected, and others sighted but mute or whisperers (be creative here depending on the group and specific outcomes). This works best if roles, parameters, etc. are given in advance with instructions for all participants not to divulge their “attribute.” This is a great metaphor for issues of diversity, the realities of working in a group, trip group or cabin or other similar situation. It is also possible to set this up for corporate groups with different “departments,” and modes of communication (written memos only being passed to the sighted whisperers, etc.)

I know that there are many other versions and variations. What do you do and what have you seen?


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