Ask your group to spread evenly throughout a large, open area.
Everyone secretly identifies two other people in the group.
Each person aims to keep one of the secret people directly between themselves and the other secret person at all times.
Stop after 20 to 30 seconds, and repeat with two new secret people.
Video Transcript for Mission Impossible
presented by Mark Collard
I’m going to go back to walking in just a second, but this time extending the theme of being, let’s say at school. Let’s say it’s your high school reunion twenty years later. All these people turn up at the party and it’s all about like catching up with different people and what they’re up to, blah, blah, blah.
And you’re having a great time and suddenly the door to the party creaks open, (creaking sound) and in comes the that send terror through every person there. And you immediately put your hands into your pockets to protect your lunch money because the schoolyard bully has just arrived, and they still to this day, still scare you.
Here is what’s going to happen you need to in a moment pick who your school yard bully is going to be.
Okay, they don’t need to be the schoolyard bully it’s just the person you’ve chosen to become the schoolyard bully. You don’t want this person to know you’re at the party.
Let’s say for example I’ve pick Jim as my schoolyard bully. He doesn’t know that I’ve picked him, alright. You reckon he could have been a bully?
Now I want to be sure that he doesn’t know that I’m here, and I pick a second person, Bree in this case, as someone I will always keep between me and my bully at all times.
So if I stand here the bully won’t ever see me because Bree is in my way, but of course if anyone of them should move I need to also move.
Okay, you are going to pick two people your bully and a decoy basically. Do your best to try and keep that line as strong as possible.
Okay move around, pick your bully, and pick your second person, and Go.
(Group runs back and forth around the room playing Mission Impossible.)
How To Play Narrative
This is a classic ‘programmed-failure’ or mission impossible exercise, ie no matter how hard your group tries, you cannot by its very nature achieve a 100% success rate. But it’s not about getting it right, it’s about having fun, and there’s plenty to be had here.
Ask your group to spread out evenly throughout a designated wide-open area. Then explain that you want everyone to secretly identify two people within the group. That is, these two people will not know that they have been ‘picked.’
Explain that on “GO,” the task for everyone is, as much as is possible, to keep the first person situated (physically) between the second person and themselves at all times.
Naturally, as these two other people do not know that they have been picked, they will be moving around a lot too. And so, each individual will need to move their position to keep the correct alignment of all three people in place for as long as possible. Yep, you’re right, good luck with that.
Even if this goal starts off well for a few people, expect the exercise to soon collapse into a frenzy of rapidly moving people, none of whom are managing to align all three people for very long, if at all. Perfect!
Stop after 20 to 30 seconds and repeat (with two new ‘secret’ people,) or move on if it appears that the energy is waning.
Practical Leadership Tips
Look out for the all-too-common occurrence of one person moving, and most of the group moving in unison to align with this person. I seriously doubt that this reflects the actual choices of the two ‘secret’ people made by everyone at the start, but who cares? It’s fun to be a part of it.
For fun, at the end of the exercise, invite everyone to reveal themselves to their two ‘secret’ people. This invitation will spark an instant burst of chatter and laughter.
Consider presenting Fill The Space as a wonderful preparation/segue into this exercise.
You could integrate Mission Impossible as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a short burst of physical movement.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to interact and engage physically with others may speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could use these less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see. For example, you could invite your group to reflect on the level of safety consciousness that was demonstrated during the activity and relate this to a set of observed impacts on others.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Mission Impossible could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Crossing The Line: Identify two ‘secret’ people. Each person forms an imaginary line between themselves and one of the secret people and moves quickly to keep prevent the second secret person from ‘crossing’ that line.
Engaging, highly interactive & fun group energiser.
Fun & rapid circle-forming strategy.
Useful Framing Ideas
Have you had the pleasure of attending your high school reunion? It’s an exciting time, catching up with friends and other classmates 20 or more years after you have graduated. The change in some people will surprise you, while others do not. Take for example, the school-yard bully. Even 20 years later, they still scare you at their very sight, and cause you to drill your hands into your pockets to protect your lunch money. Well, they just arrived at the party, and you don’t want them to know you’re here. You decide you can achieve this goal by always keeping someone else at the party between you and the bully at all times…
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 fun, active energiser:
Did you enjoy the chaos, or not? Why?
How difficult was it to maintain a straight line between you and your two secret people?
What did you notice about others during this exercise?
Did anything concern you during the activity?
What did this exercise remind you of in ‘real-life?’
The inspiration for Mission Impossible, and many more fun, active energisers, was sourced from the following publication: