This is an exercise that continues to involve a little bit of sharing, but you’ll note that at all times, even if you’re not conscious of it, that you’re often making choices.
So at some point you’ve made a choice, or you’ve just simply followed some pattern that you’ve been taught as you were perhaps younger and it’s just sort of existed from there.
So for example, in this next moment have a conversation with your partner and determine which one of these two things, if you were given a choice and I’m giving you that choice, would you do, would you have, or would you believe.
For example, and you only have two choices and you cannot sit on the fence, do you choose Coke or Pepsi?
Now you may not actually choose either of them, and that is you don’t drink them. That’s not my question. My question is…
My question is if that’s the only two things you could drink, which one would you choose and why? Share that with your partner now.
(Partners discuss their choice in Must Choose exercise.)
Okay. Now I know that this can open up some pretty fierce arguments and consternation. Don’t go too far down that rabbit hole. It is still just a game, but it does open up some interesting conversations that you could have with someone. Even when you know them well there’s going to be some question that I may ask you in these next few minutes that you go “Oh wow I wasn’t aware of that.”
So you’ve got two tasks now. One, you’ve identified a choice. It’s either Coke or Pepsi in this first occasion.
Now, I’d like you to have continuing conversation with your partner and imagine when you look at the rest of the group if you could predict what the group majority decision would be. Now you’re not, you can’t survey them. We’re about to find out in a moment because you’ll notice that I’ve got two spots on the ground. In a moment I’m going to identify you to go to where your choice was.
So if I said Coke was my preference I would stand over here with red, and if you said Pepsi you’d go over here to yellow. So we’re about to find out where the majority lies. I want you right now before we move to that spot to predict what do you think the choice is, the preference is, for the group. Quickly check in with your partner. Go.
(Partners discuss prediction in Must Choose exercise)
Lock in your answer. So part of what you’ve done is share with your partner so you can be accountable because we are about to discover what the answer is. So personally you’re about to move to that spot that you personally would prefer. So if you’re a Coke person I’d like you to come over here to my right hand side. If you’re a Pepsi preference come to my left. Please move to that space.
(Each person moves to their preference space.)
Alright. So the champions of the world would be Coca-Cola and over here we have Pepsi, they’re the smaller group. So if when you were speaking with your partner you predicted that the majority choice would be Coke you just earned yourself a point.
Okay, and it won’t matter which side you’re on. You could be over here and predicted this result that still earns a point. That’s okay, alright.
Just note for start that there’s no wrong or right answers to this. We’re not providing any valued judgements, but what’s interesting is how you came to your decision.
Alright, here’s your next one. So if you would like to return to your partner now.
(Partners pair back together)
There is always the sense of “Oh but it depends.” Try not to go down there. Just take it for what it is, but I’m going to give you two choices. Chocolate or vanilla?
And you go “Oh what type of food, is it ice cream?” It doesn’t matter. If you’re just given the choice of whatever you might consider is it going to be chocolate or vanilla? You only have two choices and it has to be one of them. You can’t sit on the fence. Why? Share that with your partner.
(Partners begin discussing their choices in Must Choose exercise.)
And if you haven’t already done this, having elected your preference for chocolate or vanilla, lock in with your partner where do you predict the preference is for this group. How well do you know them? Would they have gone chocolate or vanilla?
Alright please move. I’m going to put vanilla over here on my left and chocolate over here on my right. Vanilla left, chocolate on my right.
(Each person moves to their preference space.)
Oooo ooo. So a little more even, but the vanillas have it. Now if you picked it and it looks like you have. Alright, so you are going to point if you chose vanilla. Okay, regardless of where you’re standing now, if you chose, you thought this was the preference. It kind of interesting how many people actually got this right. Yeah, it’s interesting. This is a universal thing. Many people often think the group will go chocolate, particularly among the chocolate lovers as we’ve already discussed.
As you can imagine I’m pulling these from a resource and there are dozens and dozens of these sorts of choices, and like I said you’re making these sort of choices all the time.
We’re just actually just opening them up for conversation, but here’s a tough one. I’m going to makes this our last one. So I’m going to give you a little bit of time to share with your partner what is your preference. Again I’m asking you to choose.
So is it honesty or other people’s feelings? Honesty or other people’s feelings?
Okay now this is not a valued judgement, but if you had to choose is it honesty or other people’s feelings? Chitty chat with your partner now and also lock in what you predict for the group.
(Partners discuss their choice in Must Choose exercise.)
How To Play Narrative
You can never invest too much time inviting your group to interact and share, and this exercise has quickly become one of my most popular to achieve this goal.
First, split your group into pairs.
Take a look at Getting into Pairs for some fun ways to achieve this goal. Small groups of two people work best in terms of sharing, but groups of no more than three or four people will work too.
Explain that over the course of several rounds, you will invite each person – individually – to consider which one of two distinct (often opposing) choices they would make – if they had to.
Importantly, instruct your group that it is not possible to ‘sit on the fence.’ That is, if neither option is palatable – and sometimes this is the case – each person is required to make a choice.
For example, you may start with this question: “DO YOU PREFER COKE OR PEPSI?” One or the other, everyone must choose.
Sometimes the choice will be clear, while, at other times, you may need to encourage your group to choose the option they dislike the least. Either way, they must make a choice.
Give everyone a few moments to consider their choice, and then invite them to share their decision – and why – with their partner. This moment is critical, because it builds in a level of accountability for the next step.
Now, invite each person to consider which preference they believe the majority of the whole group would choose. Naturally, it is entirely possible that an individual may choose one option, while believing the majority of their colleagues would choose the other. Herein lies the value of this exercise – sometimes appearances can be deceiving.
Again, ask everyone to share a prediction with their partner, and, importantly, why they have made this choice.
To be clear, the split reflects the personal choices of each individual, which will produce a majority one way or the other reflecting the group’s preference.
Finally, ask for a split – invite each individual who chose one option (eg Coke) to step to the left of some imaginary line you have nominated, while those who chose the other (eg Pepsi) to step to the right. On most occasions, a majority will have formed for everyone to see.
Sometimes, it is enough to observe the split, and then move onto the next question. However, for some added value, award a ‘point’ to each person who accurately predicts the majority preference of the group.
At the end of, say, six to ten rounds, acknowledge those who scored the most number of points.
Here are four more questions to get you started (you can download dozens more from the Resources tab:)
Do you prefer…
Video games or Board games?
Dark chocolate or White chocolate?
Be Invisible or have Super-human strength?
Phone call or Text?
Play for as many rounds of questions as makes sense for your group.
Practical Leadership Tips
In case it’s not obvious, there is rarely a right answer. Unless, of course, your whole objective is to explore the consequences of one choice versus another
Naturally, the group-split preference works much better if you ask each pair to not communicate with others in the group before making a decision.
Of course, it depends. Every choice we make depends on a variety of factors. When these words are uttered – and believe me, they will at some point – simply ask your group to consider each choice at face value, all things being equal.
In theory, a group that has accurately predicted their collective results more often than not, could be argued to have a good grasp of their values, abilities or interests. But, this is not always the case. A lot depends on the sort of questions you ask, and the level of comfort people have about publicly sharing their values.
Hats off to the team at Paradigm Shift who produce a set of laminated Must Choose cards to accompany the game.
Non-Verbal Splits: Pose your question and ask each person to move to that side of the space which reflects their choice. Beware, this set-up may cause some people to be influenced by the decisions of others because there is no accountability built into each round.
Hypothetical Choice: Take a look at This or That, a similar conversation starter which explores the preference for one of two difficult-to-choose, hypothetical propositions.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Ask each person to record their preference(s) on paper and then, when invited, type them into the chat room facility. For small groups, you could do this with each round (question) or wait for 3 to 5 questions before sharing them all at once. Ask each person to scan the entries to identify at least one other person who has recorded the exact same preferences, and/or the exact opposite preferences. Process as required.
For large groups, divide into smaller ‘break-out’ rooms of approx 15 to 20 people before posing your questions.
If possible, randomly divide your group into groups of 2 or 3 people in advance, ie multiple break-out rooms. Pose your question(s) and invite each small group to discuss their preferences with each other before entering their choices into the large group chat room. Sharing first in small groups builds accountability.
If your video conferencing facility permits annotation, divide the primary screen into two (eg Coke on left and Pepsi on right) and ask each person to mark one side or the other to record their preference. This option works best when people have first shared in a small group for accountability purposes, ie some people may be inclined to change their ‘preference’ once they discover their peers are choosing differently.
Use a (free) screen mirroring software (such as Whiteboardfox) to create a blank canvas for each question. Instruct your group to mark an X or their name on the divided sheet you create for each scenario preference.
Pose your scenario and ask people to consider their preference. Then, ask them to consider what they predict the group preference (or majority) will be. Tip: ask people to write this down. Then, ask all those with option A to put hands on their head and all those with option B to cross their arms on their chest. It will quickly become obvious which preference is the majority. Award one point for everyone who predicted that result.
Further to above, use the inbuilt polling function (if possible) to quickly determine the majority preference of your group, ie you will need to create the questions and two choices in advance and activate the poll when ready.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Just how well do you know your group? If I were to ask you a series of questions, how accurately could you predict the results? Let’s find out…
No doubt you’ve heard the phrase, don’t judge a book by its cover, or that looks can be deceiving. Sometimes, even when you think you know a person really well, you can be surprised. This next exercise will provide you with an opportunity to determine how well you know your group…
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 powerful get-to-know-you-better, trust-building game:
How easy was it for you to make a decision?
What factors or criteria did you use to make certain decisions?
Did any of your choices surprise others who know you?
What might your choices reveal about you and your values? What about the group?
What ‘evidence’ did you take into account to make your decisions about the preference of the group?
The inspiration for Must Choose, and many more successful getting-to-know-you games, was sourced from the following publication: