Designate a playing space in which your group is permitted to walk.
Invite your group to mingle about the area and immediately respond to a series of random “STOP” and “GO” commands.
As the instructor, you start calling these commands as part of a ‘practice’ round.
When ready, announce that anyone in the group may now issue a command.
Either command can be called at any time.
Challenge the whole group to respond to these calls as quickly as possible.
Continue play for 1 to 2 minutes, then stop, or try a variation.
How To Play Narrative
This is way simple. First, designate a general area where your group is permitted to walk about aimlessly.
I say ‘general’ because there is no need for boundaries to step outside, and even if there was, there’s no discernible impact on the game. So feel free to use boundaries if you feel that your group needs them. All that matters is that people walk, not run.
Next, explain that as everyone is milling about, anyone may at any time shout out either “STOP” to compel everyone to freeze immediately where they are, or “GO” to have them resume their walking.
To begin, I often assume the role of the caller, to help those who look a little confused to understand what’s about to happen. Normally, after 10-20 seconds, I allow the group to take control of the calls.
Announce that either command can be issued at any time, even a split second after the other. Clearly, the general idea is to challenge the group to respond to both commands as quickly as possible.
This exercise is a great warm-up, and builds energy quickly.
Continue play for a few minutes, then stop, or try something new (see Variations tab.)
Practical Leadership Tips
Ideally, the group remains silent during the mingling, so as to make the two commands “STOP” and “GO” more prominent. But, of course, laughter is always permitted.
So, having given up the leadership, how do you end the game? You have several choices, but two of my favourites are to just step in and say, “OK, THAT’S ENOUGH,” or suggest that whenever five or more people remain frozen after the umpteenth call for “GO” is issued, the game is considered over.
I love watching my group as they trade their respective “STOP”s and “GO”s. You can learn a lot in these few minutes. Like most group activities, it’s up to the interaction of the group to make the game work.
Something to look for – often, after the group has been milling about for some time, two or more people will shout out instantaneously as if triggered by a peculiar chemistry! This always generates a lot of laughter.
Be sure to check Walk & Stop, a terrific follow-on exercise which will surely challenge your group to be successful.
Different Actions: Introduce a variety of calls to mix it up. Try “SLOW MOTION,” “BACKWARDS,” “HANDS IN THE AIR,” “BABY STEPS,” and “CLOCKWISE.” Invite your group to come up with their own ideas as well.
Democratic Stop & Go: To encourage everyone’s participation, explain that each person is entitled to make one call only. After a few minutes, most people will have contributed.
Group Barometer: Take a look at Freeze Frame for a fun variation that will allow you to develop a powerful metaphor that may speak volumes about the health of your group.
Warm-Up: Take a look at Walk & Stop to really challenge your group after using Stop & Go as your lead-in exercise.
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Useful Framing Ideas
How quick are your reflexes? That is, how long does it take you to respond to some form of stimuli? Quick responses are a learned skill, so the more you practice them the better and faster you get. Here’s a very simple exercise which will focus on the development of this skill…
Imagine if traffic lights only changed colour on a random basis, rather than providing equal time to both flows of traffic. I could imagine that this would be incredibly frustrating if I was in a hurry, but it could also be a lot of fun if I had the time of day to pass. I’d like you to imagine now that you have a meandering journey to complete within this space, but as a group, we get to play the role of traffic lights which have been programmed to change randomly…
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, energising game:
What cues did you observe and follow to stop during the course of the game?
What words would you use to describe the interaction of your group during the mingling?
What might these interactions say about your group?