One person in each pair is assigned number 1, the other is number 2.
Invite all number 1 people to form a large circle facing outwards, and ask all number 2 people to stand directly in front of and face their partners.
Pose a question which invites each pair to have a short conversation.
After a minute or two, ask one of the circles (numbers 1 or 2) to rotate to the left (or right) a specified number of places, so that everyone faces a new partner, eg outside circle, move three people to your right.
Continue this process of changing partners several times, asking a different question each time.
Now between you and your partner, you know who you are, I’d like you to have a quick 10-second conversation, to identify which one of you loves chocolate more than the other.
For all of our chocolate lovers, look you may both love chocolate, but hopefully you’ve identified and debated who actually loved it more than the other. Or if you both hated it, one of you probably hated it less than the other.
Whoever happened to love it more than the other, would you now form a circle, standing in the centre of this group that we’re presently standing. So all those chocolate lovers, form a circle. You’re saying goodbye to your partner for just a moment.
And once you get there, face outwards towards your partner, and now your partners will stand directly in front of you. So have them directly stand in front of you, about a metre apart.
(people talking as part of Vortex)
Just form a circle, this small circle. We basically have two concentric circles at the moment.
Here’s what’s going to occur. In a moment, as you would’ve already introduced yourselves, I’m going to ask you first of all for each of the exchanges (a) to introduce yourself by your name. It works much better if you use your own name, and (b) then give your response to a question that I’ll give you in advance.
Now you’ve already actually introduced yourselves to begin. So here’s the question I’ll ask you to share with your partner right now.
Share with them, when was the last time you found yourself outside your comfort zone? When was the last time you found yourself outside of your comfort zone? It’s not nominal understanding of ooh, this is stretching me, this is actually pushing me into a space I’m not comfortable, generally speaking. Think back to what that time was. Share what that experience was with your partner. Go.
(people introducing, sharing in Vortex)
Very good. Now in a moment, but not yet, the group on the outside, the less than loving of the chocolate, that outside circle, is going to move to their right, just three spaces. You’re going to move three people away from where you are then.
When you get there, (a) introduce yourself, and (b) respond to this question, if you could compete in the Summer Olympics, if you were that good, if you could compete in the Summer Olympics, which event would you compete in? If you could be good at anything in the world of summer Olympic sports, which sport or event would that be? Go.
So the outside circle, move to your right, three people. Introduce yourself and share.
(people introducing, sharing next round of Vortex)
Wrap up your conversation. Good job. Again our outside circle are about to move. You’re going to go still to your right. You’re going to go two people this time. When you get there introduce yourself and then share your response to this question.
Generally speaking, would you prefer to lead or follow?
Now we’re not adding a value to either one of those two roles because they’re both vital to the way in which a group works and they’re dynamic. But generally speaking, in a given situation, are you the sort of person who would typically step forward, take the initiative and lead, or are you someone who’s very happy to actually follow someone else’s lead? So they’re both as valuable as the other. Generally speaking, which one…
(Do you have to pick one?)
Go for one, generally speaking, and then suggest why to your partner. So outside circle, two people to your right, go. Lead or follow.
(people introducing, sharing as part of Vortex.)
Wrap your conversation. Very good. Excellent. Inside circle, so you don’t feel like you’re being left out, this time I’m going to invite you folks to spin to your right. You’re going to go two people to your right in just a few moments, so you’ll be meeting someone new.
And this time when you get there, (a) quickly introduce yourself, and (b) respond to this question, if you have done one specific thing in your life that really impressed yourself, not other people, but something that you did that really impressed yourself, share that with your new partner.
Describe with them something that really impressed yourself about something that you did. Share that with your new partner.
Inside circle, move to your right, two people, Go. Share something that really impressed yourself.
(people introducing, sharing in Vortex.)
How To Play Narrative
Often, I find the instruction of “Set up two circles, one inside the other,” the hardest part of any exercise. So, my next instructions represent the most successful method I have found to get it right the first time.
Ask everyone to find a partner who has similar length of hair (or other favourite random-splitting assignment.) In pairs, one person agrees to become ‘1’ the other ‘2.’ Are you still with me?
Now, invite all of the ‘1’s to form a large circle facing outwards. Once assembled, you invite all of the ‘2’s to locate their partners and stand in front of them, effectively forming a larger outer circle. You should now have two equally portioned circles, each facing the other. Voila!.
Allow each partnership to chat away for a minute or two, and then upon getting everyone’s attention again, explain the process of change. By this, you will ask one circle at a time to move to their left or right as many people as you nominate, so that everyone ends up facing a new partner.
For example, “OUTSIDE CIRCLE, PLEASE MOVE THREE PEOPLE TO YOUR RIGHT.”
Invite newly facing partners to introduce themselves for a moment, and then launch into your next probing getting-to-know-you question. Continue until the energy of the exercise starts to wane.
Practical Leadership Tips
It is not necessary for the circles to stand. Indeed, using chairs is not only more comfortable, but they will make the rotations easier to navigate.
Be sure to vary the process of circle changes. Rotate both directions, involve both circles (one at a time,) and always aim to prevent previous partners from meeting again.
Hint: make a mental note of the composition of at least one pair before you get started. Provided these two people do not meet again as a pair, it should be possible for all other pairs to be different too.
Do you know what a vortex is? It’s a whirling mass of fluid or air, especially a whirlpool or whirlwind. You often see these form as water drains down the hole in your bathtub when you pull the plug.
Circle Change: Ask everyone who is wearing a particular coloured garment, say red, to swap spots with their partners. This will mix some of the ‘1’s with the ‘2’s, providing a chance for some ‘1’s to meet a ‘1,’ and vice versa.
Group Questions: Invite questions from the floor (your group.)
As you look around this group, it is highly likely that you do not know everyone here. Or perhaps, if you do know everyone, you may only know these people to a certain degree. This next exercise will provide an opportunity for you to expand your understanding of others in your group, but in a completely random manner…
Do you know what ‘Speed Dating’ is? Perhaps you have even participated in such an event. The format is not new, indeed, it is used frequently in many other settings, such as networking events. Today, I plan to adopt a speed dating format, but expressly for the purposes of getting to know one another better…
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 simple get-to-know-you game:
Name two or three new things you learned about other people today?
What did the group learn about you, that until now, was not widely known?
How does this activity make you feel towards the group? Why?
Fun ‘Get-To-Know-You’ Session
What You Need: 10+ people, 45 mins
Props: ‘Nonsense Numbers’ sheets (Print+Play), bunch of soft tossables
Vortex – interactive, non-threatening, random partner sharing activity