I’m going to ask you to simply walk. You don’t have to do any talking, you’re not going to be touching anyone. You’re going to simply walking randomly filling all the spaces as you’re moving about.
Here’s your objective though as a group, as you’re moving about, after about ten seconds, I don’t need you to be literal you can all probably hopefully count to ten seconds although surprisingly much quicker than it really takes, but roughly ten seconds or more any one or more of you can choose to stop walking. And that is you’ll freeze.
So you’re walking, walking, walking, ten, twenty, thirty seconds elapse you decide to freeze. Here’s your objective as a group how quickly can you as a group freeze because as soon as a person or more than one person freezes if you see them freeze I invite you to freeze as well.
So that as soon as you freeze someone else sees you they freeze. It keeps going. As I said small group won’t take long. The objective for this group is to see how quick it takes us from the first person who freezes to when the last person freezes. Got the idea? Go.
Just walking around. Remember wait at least ten seconds feel free to wait much longer if you wish.
(Group walks around the room. Group freezes.)
Okay remember it is a freeze not vogue. Okay and go!
(Group walks around the room. Group freezes.)
Okay quick ten seconds and go!
This time briskly with sharp corners. Go!
(Group walks around the room. Group freezes.)
Bunch in on back in again, nice and close.
Okay, again you could suggest we raised our heart beats, we’ve moved about, blah, blah, blah. Yes, you can tick all those boxes.
But here’s my question to you. What was necessary to get the whole group to freeze? What was necessary to get the whole group to freeze? There are many elements at play here.
(One person has to make the decision to stop.)
So, one person needed to choose to stop. Great, so we’re all very happily walking around doing all the same thing and then someone chooses to do something different. They took a risk, they stopped.
In the life of not only an individual but also a group, that’s a really powerful piece. There was one time and it’s only ever happened once, but there was a group I swear I wasn’t timing it. It must have lasted thirty, I’m sorry, it was more than three minutes. I’m thinking could they understand me? No, no one felt safe to stop.
In the life of this group there was an extraordinary insecurity around being different. And so stopping in the world of their group was “well you’re different you don’t fit in.”
And so we just kept on walking. Now really it gave me a lot of information about how to work with this group. It changed my sequence, it changed my language, but yeah it actually represents a risk. And it took one person to do something different.
Good, what else was necessary to get the whole group to freeze?
(You have to be aware of what the other people are doing.)
Great yeah, so if you’re not watching them, you’re not going to see that they froze. Great, so that’s one part.
Reminds me again of a year nine program, large oval, outdoors (blah blah blah) Two boys just kept on walking towards the sunset. Figured that they wouldn’t turn around, because if they did they would have seen us frozen and they would’ve had to have frozen as well. Where they thought “Oh we’ll just keep on walking.” And it was great so after about five seconds it was clear what was going on and… “go” and we just went back into it and they found their way back.
But yeah, if you’re not observant you’re not going to know that other people have stopped.
Great. What else? There’s quite a few other elements.
So what do you mean?
(Copying. Someone else has stopped, so I could have stopped)
Okay so and you’re choosing to stop. So the element there is that you’re willing to stop. Like my two boys, that I’ve just described, were not willing to turn around. Were not willing to stop. So you’ve identified another piece that’s critical to get everyone to freeze. You have to be willing to stop. Got that, great.
(Everyone understood the rules)
Yeah, so what, and in particular the goal. So can anyone in the own words describe what was the goal of the activity? What was the objective as a group?
(To freeze as quick as possible?)
Great yeah, as a whole group to freeze as quickly as possible. Please raise your hand if you believe that to be the goal of this activity. It’s not a test.
Pretty much unanimous. Great.
Here’s the piece that connects for people. My guess is for many of the groups you work with, maybe many of the groups that you’re a member of, maybe many of the groups that you lead. It’s possible that the goal is not clear.
So it might be, metaphorically speaking, this activity provides opportunity to talk about the fact that maybe only three quarters of our group actually understand our goal is to freeze. And there’s always a part of the group that thought that lying on the ground was the goal. There’s a couple that choose to stand on their head, and there’s three or four that decided to leave the room because they thought that was the goal.
Does that sound like any group you know of?
Yeah, there’s very few groups out there where it is all about everyone knows to freeze. But the object is that the more we know about, the more we are clear about that, the more likely that we are going to be successful.
My guess is your head’s thinking about ways in which this opens up conversations about the group that you work with. It extends clearly beyond physical education. It’s about the life of the group. It’s about them as an individual as well. You know, in terms of their ability to work within that environment too. Make sense?
You’ve just mentioned three, four, five different things that were critical and all I asked was one question. What was necessary to get the whole group to freeze?
You mentioned a whole string of things. And that extends it beyond just the running around, raising the heartbeat, having fun. Now suddenly you got permission to talk about… okay so where, where might this actually occur or not occur in our sporting team? Or in our class project? Or in the family? I don’t know, I’m not sure what your work is. But all those sorts of things. Going “ah yeah.”
Have a group turn up, those that do turn up only half of them believe this is the reason we’re here. The other one thinks that “uh, uh uh.” Yeah it’s around no clarity of goal. Okay, we get that right we’re more likely to be on the same page. Make sense? Yeah.
How To Play Narrative
This activity is so simple, yet so powerful.
Spread your group evenly throughout an open space. Explain that in a few moments, you will ask them to wander aimlessly within the boundaries of the space, simply observing other people as they move about them. No talking, no touching, just walking.
Next, explain that at any point after ten seconds has elapsed, any one or more people can choose to ‘freeze’ their movement, remaining absolutely dead-still mid-wander. This event will invite anyone and everyone who observes this immobilisation to immediately freeze their movements too, and so on the frozen ripples extend.
The object for the group is to see how long it takes for every individual to freeze from the time the first person freezes.
Hold the ‘group freeze’ for a second or two to ensure that there are no belated moves, then introduce a second, third and as many successive rounds as your group has the energy, and then… finally relax.
There is little point in actually timing the attempts (ie with a stopwatch,) and even if you did, this task would be difficult because the initial freeze will be triggered at random moments every time. You just get a sense of what is quicker.
Repeat the task five or six times, perhaps with a few variations thrown in for good measure (see Variations tab below.)
Practical Leadership Tips
Note, how curious it is that most people have no concept of how long ten seconds lasts, ie almost without fail, someone will freeze much earlier than ten seconds. Even after you make this observation (just for fun,) it will make little difference to the next attempt. Hilarious!
In the beginning, people are often focused on little else than themselves. This exercise invites people to look beyond themselves. It’s amazing what is achieved in such a short space of time, when a group of individuals constitute themselves as ‘community,’ focus on other people and agree to achieve a common goal (eg everybody frozen as quickly as possible). Can you see any connections here to your program goals?
This exercise, at first glance, is clearly a good warm-up or energiser. However, leading a brief discussion about what else is happening and how it relates to the ‘day-to-day’ life of your group, may also open up some useful insights which relate to the ‘connectedness’ (or lack thereof) of the group. For example, asking “What was necessary to get everyone to freeze?” will help the group explore what it takes to achieve a common goal. Go to the Health & Wellness Programming tab for more.
Many powerful metaphors can be developed within the essence of this exercise. For example, the connectedness of your group, and the skills required for the group to achieve a task.
A stopwatch may be a useful prop, but you don’t really need it unless you are striving for precision within the context of a group initiative.
This is one of my go-to activities I present when preparing a group to discuss the development of full value or behavioural norms. I lead the activity as described above and in conclusion, facilitate a discussion that invites my group to consider a range of behavioural choices and outcomes. For example, in addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, I may ask the following questions to help my group explore the impact of their behaviours on others:
What were all of the things you and/or your group had to do to achieve a total group freeze?
What was the most important action? Why?
Why was achieving your goal so successful?
In the life of a group, what does one person doing something different to everyone else represent or mean?
How did leadership show up in this exercise? What did it look like, or not look like?
How did it feel to conform to the group’s expectations? What did you have to give up?
Different Pace: After several of the introductory rounds, ask people to increase the speed of their mingling, and then in a later round, add sharp, random turns in direction. Note the sequence here – it’s deliberate. If your group demonstrates a good level of safety consciousness in the first introductory rounds, then you may feel comfortable to present these more challenging later versions (or not!)
Speed Round: Permit very brisk walking (shy of a jog or run) if you feel the group can keep it safe, especially with the sharp corners.
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Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this active energiser game:
Did your group continuously improve its time with each round? How did this happen?
What was required to get the whole group to freeze?
How might what was required to be successful in this exercise relate to your work, school, sport, etc?