Announce that anyone is invited to stand whenever he or she wants to.
A person cannot remain standing for longer than five seconds before they must sit down again.
Aim to have exactly four people standing at any point in time for as long as possible.
Play several rounds to record the longest time.
How To Play Narrative
Start with your group seated on the floor, or perhaps on chairs. You don’t need a circle, but it’s useful if everyone can see each other fairly well.
Explain to your group that anyone is invited to stand up whenever he or she wants to, but they cannot remain standing for longer than five seconds before they must sit down again. To this end, standing for only a split-second is totally okay.
But, here’s the kicker. The group’s goal is to have exactly four people standing at any point in time for as long as possible. Shoot for sixty seconds if you can, it’s tough.
And, that’s it.
A good game of Four Up normally lasts a couple of minutes, involving several rounds – but what pandemonium and laughter are generated in that time! Truly ridiculous fun.
Practical Leadership Tips
If you have a large group, you may be tempted to invite five, six or more people to be standing at the same time. However, in my experience, many more than five people can be difficult for people to count and keep a track of. See the Variations tab for a better idea.
Observe the popular halfway-up position which is neither sitting or standing. Encourage swift, committed moves one way or the other.
You could make this exercise into a serious problem-solving activity. It has all the elements of a good problem to solve – limitations, strategy, risk, collaboration, etc – but, in my experience, it is best used to produce two or three minutes of raucous fun. All this means is that your goal is key.
Ideally, Four Up works best if the group does not produce a pattern or some sort of system to indicate who and when certain members of the group need to jump up. However, if coming up with such a scheme reflects well on your group, applaud their creativity.
Hands-Up: Invite people to shoot a single hand (arm) into the air and down again. This version is less active than its stand-up-sit-down cousin and equally as challenging.
Success Range: Allow any four, five or six members of the group to be standing at any point in time. At first glance, this may seem a simpler task, but not always.
Multiple Groups: For larger groups, break into several sub-groups of about eight to ten people, and play several games simultaneously.
Take a look at Count Off for another fun, group problem-solving activity that involves randomness.
You Might Also Like...
Simple problem-solving exercise for small & large groups.
Challenging group initiative to explore integrity.
Fun, non-threatening & interactive ice-breaker.
Useful Framing Ideas
Have you ever noticed those moments in group situations when two or more people happen to do the same thing at the same time, like say something, or move a particular way? This next exercise is all about this interesting phenomenon…
Do you know the arcade game that you often see in amusement parks called Whac-A-Mole in which you use a hammer to smash a variety of objects that randomly pop up and down from a panel? I love that game. Often, four or more of the objects pop up at the same time, so you have to be really quick to get them before they pop down. Now, there’s no hammer involved in this next activity, but there will be a lot of popping up and down…
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, team-based game:
Was this group activity fun? Why or why not?
What did it take to be successful at this game?
Was there a turning point in the exercise? Exactly when and why?
What do you think was the purpose of this game?
The inspiration for Four Up, and many more fun, team-building problem-solving activities, was sourced from the following publication: