In advance, download the puzzle clues from the Resources tab and print each of the 13 clues on separate slips of paper.
Gather your group and ask them to sit or stand a small distance away from one another.
Distribute one clue (small slip of paper) to each person.
Instruct each person that they may read their clue out loud to others, but they must never show or display it to anyone.
Announce that the group now has all of the information it will need to solve the problem.
Explain that the focus of this problem-solving activity is on a fictitious pie-baking competition.
Your group’s task is to identify which person baked which pie and what prize did each pie win?
Allow 30 to 40 minutes (or other timeframe as you choose) for your group to solve the puzzle.
Remind your group that the solution is found within the clues.
In conclusion, invite your group to reflect on their decision-making process.
How To Play Narrative
This is a wonderfully fun variation of the classic Twelve Bits team puzzle. In this case, there are thirteen bits of information or clues.
First, you need to download the 13 short puzzle clues from the Resources tab and then print and cut them into small slips of paper. For example, this is what is written on one of the (short) clues:
The peach pie won second prize.
When ready, assemble your group and invite them to sit or stand in a position that will not only be comfortable (because they will be busy for the 30+ minutes) but offer a little bit of space between others. This last qualifier is to prevent folks from seeing the clues belonging to others.
Hand out one slip of paper (set of clues) to each person. Announce that everyone has a unique set of information or clues and that as a group, it has all of the information it needs to solve the problem.
Importantly, instruct each person that they are not permitted to show what is written on their paper to anyone else. They are entitled to read it aloud to the group, but they can never show or display what is written to others at any time.
At this point, you can expect a set of wide eyes peering back at you, purportedly saying “Is that it?”
Yes, that is it.
Announce that as a group, they have two tasks:
Identify which person baked which pie?
Which prize did each pie win?
As with all group initiatives, you should set a timeframe that will challenge your group. For reference, when I present this to adults, I typically allow 30 to 40 minutes for my group to solve the puzzle.
Remind your group that the solution is found within the clues. Manage any questions that will inevitably arise, before handing it over to the group.
Perhaps armed with pen and paper, your group truly has everything it needs to solve this County Fair pie-baking puzzle.
In the case of this particular problem, the solution is best represented by a table of names and pies (refer to the Resources tab to view the solution.)
From this point forward, your primary role is to watch and listen.
As soon as a solution has been offered, or the time expires, look for opportunities to invite your group to reflect on a whole range of group dynamics including leadership, communication and decision-making processes.
Practical Leadership Tips
If you have less than 13 people in your group, simply supply two or more clues to each person.
If you have more than 13 people in your group, choose to distribute a single clue to partners, or better still, create multiple small groups of 13 people solving the same problem. In this latter case, you may need to physically locate each group away from others.
It is noted that pen and paper are optional, but in truth, all groups prefer to use these resources to help them visually solve the logic.
To be sure, the secrecy parameters of the initiative mean that group members can verbally share their clue’s information with others but they cannot collect the clues or visually display them to one another, ie this precludes writing it on a whiteboard for all to see.
Sometimes, you will be asked a question that you may not know the answer to, especially if this is the first time you have presented it or did not take the time to familiarise yourself with the clues and/or solution. In most cases, you are best to re-direct the question back to the group explaining that it is answered by the clues they are holding.
You could integrate County Fair as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group understand the perspectives of and empathise with others including those from diverse backgrounds.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
Building on the development of critical SEL competencies (see Social-Emotional Learning tab,) there are ample opportunities to invite your group to reflect on and explore their critical thinking, leadership and decision-making skills. In addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, you could pose the following questions to help your group reflect on these skills:
How did your group approach this task?
Did you develop a particular method of collecting, organising and interpreting the twelve bits of information?
Did a leader emerge in the process? Why?
What did leadership look like during the exercise? Was it useful?
Did your group verify or double-check its assumptions regarding the information you were processing?
What was the impact of making an assumption? Be specific.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
In advance, send a bunch of emails containing one of the clues to each of the 13 people involved in this task. As above, none of this information can be shown or displayed to the rest of the group, but only shared verbally.
Encourage your group to create a shared document using Google Docs, for example, to record their thinking and solutions.
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Useful Framing Ideas
The creator of this next problem-solving exercise tells a great story about his experience being involved as a judge in a pie-baking competition at his local County Fair. As the story goes, pie-judging is quite a complex task, so much so, he created a fun set of clues to identify who baked which pie and what prize each pie won. Would you like to know more…?
Your next task will require a strong set of leadership and decision-making skills. While there is only limited information, you will not be able to show it to anyone else. The good news is, everything you need to solve the problem is found within the clues. Are you up for this task…?
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 leading this fun team puzzle:
Describe what first happened once the task was described to your group?
At what point did the task or problem start to become clear? How?
How did individuals support one another during the process?
Did you feel that you and your data were fully appreciated or acknowledged during the exercise?
Was there a significant moment when the solution was becoming obvious?
What advice would you give another group trying to solve the same problem?
How might this activity teach us a lesson about making decisions?
The inspiration for County Fair was sourced from colleague and friend Jim Cain, with thanks. It is included in one of his books called Teambuilding with Index Cards.