In advance, count and distribute five blank index cards for every person in your group.
Ask each person to write their own (first name) name on each of the five cards.
Combine all of the cards and shuffle them.
Deal five random cards to each person, asking them to not look at their cards until the game starts.
The goal is to be the first person to collect a matching set of five (name) cards.
The following three parameters govern all trades:
– Everyone plays at the same time, ie there are no turns;
– All trades must be one for one, with no more than three cards exchanged at a time; and
– No one is permitted to show or disclose their cards at any time, ie all trades are ‘blind.’
Individuals may call out the number of cards they wish to trade to attract another person willing to trade an equal number of cards.
Trading continues until the first person announces that they have collected a matching set of five (name) cards.
Repeat, or consider one of the many variations to draw extra value from this exercise.
How To Play Narrative
There’s a bit of work to do before you can get started, but it’s well and truly worth it.
In advance, you’ll need a large bunch of blank index cards. Count and distribute five cards for every person who will participate in the exercise, ie if you have 15 people in your group, you’ll need 75 index cards.
Using a marker, ask each person to write their own first name, or a name they prefer to be known by, on each of the five cards. For example, if Kai was playing, he would create a set of five cards with the word “KAI” written/printed on them.
Once all of the cards have been marked, combine all of the sets and shuffle the entire deck.
Next, randomly deal five cards to each person in your group and ask that they do not look at them until the game starts. Make sure everyone has five cards before you move on.
Now is the time to describe the objective of the exercise. Explain that the primary goal for each person is to be the first to collect a matching set of five (name) cards. To illustrate, this means that all five cards held by an individual will have the same name written on them. If necessary, be prepared to explain further or show an example.
Naturally, it is presumed that no one starts with an identical set of five cards, so a series of trades will have to be negotiated. To govern a fair exchange process, explain that there are three key trading parameters:
Everyone plays at the same time, ie there are no turns.
All trades must be one for one, with no more than three cards exchanged at a time, ie each person must have five cards at the end of every exchange; and
No one is permitted to show or disclose their cards to anyone at any time, ie all trades are conducted blindly (cards face down), so no-one knows what they will receive from another.
Once all questions have been cleared, ring a bell and announce the start of trading.
Expect a flurry of exchanges in the first few minutes, whereby people typically start calling out numbers such as “ONE,” “TWO” or “THREE” to attract others who are willing to exchange the same number of cards.
Eventually, one person will gleefully announce that they are the first to collect a matching set of five name cards. At this point, it is not necessary for an individual to collect their own name, just any five cards with the same name.
If you wish, allow trading to continue until everyone collects five matching cards.
Play several rounds, or adopt one of the alternative set-ups described in the Variations tab.
Be prepared for a range of behaviours, strategies, and reactions to be exhibited during this exercise. To this end, process as appropriate.
Practical Leadership Tips
Looking at one’s cards in advance of “GO” is not critical, but if this is a concern, explain the exercise first and then deal out the cards to your group.
Sometimes you may need to describe to your group that an exchange of cards must be mutual. One person snatching the card(s) of another does not constitute ‘mutual.’
This is a terrific, interactive strategy when played early in your program to help people interact with many of the names in their group, without necessarily having to remember them.
This activity was inspired by a popular card game called Pit first seen in 1904. For many groups and families, Pit brings about behaviours that may question or contradict the group or individual’s set of values as they trade commodities, all in the name of friendly competition. Playing a version of Pit with name cards rather than commodities, brings personal values and behaviours to the fore. This immediately, and sometimes instantly, initiates personal and group reflection on their values and behaviours.
Collect Own Cards: The first person to collect all five of their own name cards, wins.
More Cards: Start every person with up to nine cards (per the original game of Pit.)
Full Transparency: Remove the need to trade blindly, and allow people to show or disclose their cards to others at any time. While this makes the exercise less challenging, it does invite the potential for collaboration.
Group Initiative: Re-frame the objective by explaining that the exercise is complete only when every person (in the group) has a set of five matching cards. Time it to introduce a healthy competitive element to the exercise, especially if you plan to allow for several rounds of play so your group can focus on continuous improvement.
Bulls & Bears: Reflecting the original game of Pit, introduce one or two wild cards:
– Bull: may be used to represent any value; and/or
– Bear: prevents the holder from winning a round.
To play, shuffle this one (or two) wild cards into the full deck, and invite one (or two) people to pull an extra card(s) from the deck.
Trading Values: Substitute names with a set of values or group norms generated by your group. See Values Stock Market for more details.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Do you sometimes have difficulty understanding how to pronounce someone’s name by just hearing it? I know I find it very useful to see the name in written form, perhaps on a name-tag. This next exercise embraces both the visual and aural senses to help you learn the names of the people in your group…
The English language is unique in many ways, especially in regards the way certain letters or combination of letters sound different when used in different ways. For example, the letter C – when used at the beginning of CIRCUS, it sounds like an S. Yet, at the start of CAT, it sounds nothing like an S. The same is true of people’s names – they do not always sound they way they are spelt…
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 highly-interactive name-game:
During the game, you would have seen many names in written form. Was this helpful? Why?
In the beginning, did you try to collect all of your own name cards? Why or why not?
What values or behaviours were exhibited during the exercise – good and bad?
What behaviours would you like to see this group continue to practice? Why?
Are there any behaviours your group could do without?
Many more interactive trust exercises such as Names Stock Market can be found in the following publication: