Invite one person to say a sentence that starts with the word “IF…,” eg If you lost your car keys…”
Instruct their partner to respond to this statement by saying “THEN…” and completing the sentence, eg “…then I would have to walk to work.”
Repeat this two or more times, and then swap roles.
When ready, try a variation to elevate the creativity and interaction of the exercise.
How To Play Narrative
Many improvisational games work well in adventure- and experiential-based learning programs. Add this one to your repertoire.
To set the scene, I like to embed in the brains of my group an understanding of the basic If…Then paradigm. There are just too many examples, but I might focus on a light switch and explain that IF I flick the button, THEN the light bulb is illuminated. Or, IF I press down on my car’s accelerator, THEN the car will drive forward, etc, etc.
Having grasped this concept, I announce to the whole group a rudimentary statement such as “IF I lost my car keys…”
With my words hanging in the air, I motion to the group to respond.
In particular, I invite them to begin their response with the word “THEN…” So, I might expect someone to say something like “…then I would have to walk to work” or “…then I would look behind the cushions of my sofa,” etc.
Perfect. These are very reasonable and believable If…Then statements. Which is a great way to start, so I often make this point that we will begin with statements imbued with, let’s say, conditional logic.
Provide a few more examples if required, otherwise, form them into pairs when you think the group is ready.
Ask one person (maybe the one whose birthday is closest to today) to invent an IF statement. With the dot, dot, dot at the end, this person will invite their partner to respond.
In case you’re wondering, the response (of their partner) does not have to make sense. In this beginning round, yes, the responses are more likely to sound reasonable and adhere to the rules of logic. But it doesn’t matter if they don’t. Rather, focus on the interaction, energy and laughter this activity will produce.
Play a few ‘conditional logic’ rounds and when ready, venture forth with one or more of the following themes:
Unconditional or Unexpected Logic – the Then response does not necessarily follow on from the IF statement, eg “If I lost my car keys, … then I would switch jobs and work from home.”
Abstract or Fanciful – this round is purely improvisational and can be as creative as one chooses. For example, “If I lost my car keys… then I would ride a unicorn to work.” or “If I rode a unicorn to work… then I would invest money in flying pigs.”
Truly, while I may give the illusion that this game has some form or structure, it’s all about inviting your group to interact, share and have fun.
To this end, you are well-advised to graduate your rounds starting with a simple framing at first and then progressing to the (potentially) more creative and amusing statements later.
Practical Leadership Tips
For some people, thinking creatively on their feet can be quite daunting because the story they are telling themselves is that they are not creative or funny. If you sense this may describe many people in your group, consider trying something new from the Variations tab.
Re the above advice, always, always, always start in pairs. This way, only one other person will hear what someone has (or has not) to say. This will nurture the psychological safety of your group.
I borrowed this idea from my good friend and colleague Chad Littlefield, co-founder of We & Me Inc. Take a look here to watch Chad introduce the activity.
You could integrate If…Then as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
Recognising Strengths, Prejudices & Biases
Having A Growth Mindset
Taking Other’s Perspectives
Demonstrating Empathy & Compassion
Understanding & Expressing Gratitude
Recognising Strengths In Others
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Seeking and/or Offering Support
Build Positive Relationships
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Making Reasoned Judgements
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 well-being of enjoying a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to play this game successfully speaks to the benefits of being adaptable, but this would not be considered its primary purpose.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which If…Then could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
On Prompt: To ease into this exercise, you may first choose to announce a series of IF statements (to the whole group) and invite each person to share a THEN response with their partner.
Cultural Norms: Use this If…Then framework to explore and discuss cultural and behavioural norms. For example, IF we wanted to build a trusting workplace, THEN…
Call on two people to switch on their microphones and engage in this conversation audibly (in front of the whole group,) or send small groups of 2 to 4 people into breakout rooms for a few minutes.
Direct all responses to the chatroom if desired. This can often illicit more engagement from some people, especially those who need more time (than others) to think and reflect before they respond.
In the latter case, invite a small number of volunteers to share a few of the more amusing responses to the whole group when everyone returns.
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Useful Framing Ideas
As a parent, I sometimes employ the tried and true strategy of ‘If Then’ with my son. For example, I might say, ‘If you clean up your bedroom floor, then you can [ enter reward…]’ We’re going to play a very similar game, but you get to make it all up…
The ‘If Then’ statement is a powerful mathematical formula or computer code that permeates our whole world. Every machine in the world employs this statement somewhere in its code of instructions. But this is all very serious and bears no resemblance to what we are about to engage with…
If… you are willing to take a few risks and give something a go, then… I expect you will enjoy a fun experience with this next activity…
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 icebreaker game:
Which scenarios were the most difficult for you? Fact-based or fanciful?
How did this activity challenge you?
Did fun, creative ideas come to you quickly or with a lot of effort?
Did your responses become easier as time progressed? Why?
What makes something funny? Why do we laugh?
What did we learn about ourselves or another person as a result of playing this game?
The inspiration for If…Then was sourced from Chad Littlefield and his awesome We and Me Inc YouTube channel.