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It’s Impossible – cooperation activity

A colleague was looking for an interactive experience and cooperation activity for a large group. Having taught negotiation and conflict resolution, I was drawn to this suggestion posted on LinkedIN by Andrew Rea.  The exercise presents itself as a team challenge, so participants go into it ready to prove that their team will be the best.  They quickly see that the key to success is working cooperatively with other teams. That success is not a “zero-sum” game, whereby one team wins and other loses. Rather, many teams can be successful.

Set-Up

Split into groups of 6-10 and give each group an envelope of instructions and materials. (NOTE: instructions will be the same, but the materials in each envelope should be different.)

Ask each group to make something with the materials enclosed in the envelope. The “something”  could be any of the following:

  • paper cube 10cm square
  • a paper chain
  • colorful name badges for everyone etc
  • some puzzles to solve
  • crossword puzzle
  • re-create the flags of certain countries
  • find certain information about the venue etc

Exercise

While every group has the same tasks, you will have distributed the materials needed to complete the task randomly in the envelopes.

As you watch the activity unravel, you will see groups start in a frenzy and will observe very little sharing or inter-team work. However, once people notice that other groups have materials they need they’ll likely adopt all sorts of tactics to acquire them – from bargaining to stealing!

Eventually mosty groups realise that the task is about inter-group cooperation, but there will still be some reluctance and competition.

Debrief

Don’t forget to debrief the experience to draw out learning points. Ask questions such as:

  • What happened?
  • What worked well?
  • What would you do differently?
  • How might this affect they way you work in the future?

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