I have set up the exercise at this point where you’re standing behind one line. The activity starts on that side of the line. And it will complete when you… remembering this is an individual challenge at this point, when you have crossed the other line.
You’re going to move from here to the other side by simply walking, but here is your challenge. Without any other assistance through technology or otherwise, your objective is to move from here, and after I have said “GO” which is the start of time, you need to cross that line exactly 60 seconds after I say “GO”.
You can use nothing, aka a watch, your phone or anything else of that nature that’s going to get in the way of you actually just doing this through your own possibility.
To repeat, in a moment I’m going to say the word “GO”. That’s when the time will start. You won’t have any other assistance through technology to get you from here but your objective individually is to cross that line exactly on 60 seconds.
I will note the person or persons who you cross the line exactly on 60 seconds. So here’s your further note. As you’re crossing be aware of the people ahead or behind you so that when I say “Oh, it was Dudley who crossed” and you know you were directly behind Dudley, you know you’re pretty close.
You’re going to get to do this more than once. Okay? Got the basics?
I’m going to say “GO”. Sixty seconds will start and then you need to cross that line exactly at 60 seconds.
(people walking to line as part of About Now)
Has everyone crossed the line?
Okay. The person who was right on 60 seconds was the last person and it was Kevin. Okay, return to the other side.
So, same task. Judge it based on your last performance. There was a couple of people who crossed the line just after 40 seconds and the very last person was right on 60 seconds.
Your objective again, to restate, is to cross that line. In effect, if you want to use all of this space you can use it, or you could just race to the line and then just cross it when you think 60 seconds has elapsed. It’s completely up to you.
(Did you say Kevin was the very last person?)
He was the last person and he was right on 60 seconds.
(people crossing line as part of About Now second round)
Okay. All people have crossed the line. The closest to 60 seconds, was it 61 seconds, and that was you, Jack.
So note where you were in relation to Jack, either ahead or behind. The first person crossed at 41 seconds and the last person crossed at 73 seconds.
Okay, you have one final attempt, but on your way back here is what I would suggest you do.
For your final attempt, it’s still an individual attempt, but check in with other people. You might even want to check in with those that have been quite close to the 60-second mark.
What strategies are they using? Maybe they may also learn something from what you’re doing that could assist. So check in with someone else. Is there something that you can take on that might help you?
So just simply walk on back, but in a moment I’ll give you the GO to return to this white line for the final time.
(people discussing a better strategy for About Now)
Check in with someone, perhaps looking for some assistance to help try a new strategy. Otherwise…
(What about Kevin, what did you do?)
(04:37 I was a basketball official just doing like a ten-second count. Okay.)
Okay. Final attempt folks. It’s still an individual challenge. Your objective is to get from here, cross that white line exactly at 60 seconds. Note who was in front or behind you as you cross to give you a sense of where you fit in. And GO.
(people crossing line in 3rd round of About Now)
Okay, everyone’s across. Oh, excuse me. I missed you it was just right on there, Cory. Okay.
Alright, on this occasion Caroline you were right on 60 seconds, so note where you were in relation to Caroline. The first one crossed at 47 seconds, last one was a minute and seven or 67 seconds.
So the gap between the two is lessening, not a big surprise.
How To Play Narrative
In advance, lay two ropes, or identify two lines on your sports stadium surface which are 10 to 20 metres apart. The distance is not too relevant, but anything less than 10 metres is typically less-useful.
When ready, ask your group to stand behind one of the lines, facing the other line.
The set-up doesn’t get much easier than this. Explain that each person’s task is to cross the other line exactly 60 seconds after you say “GO.”
Note, there is no talking permitted during the exercise, and individuals assume full responsibility for when they believe the 60 seconds has expired.
Obviously, it will be necessary for people to not look at their watches as they perform this task, ie if the temptation is too great, ask that all watches be removed. Also, you are well advised to check that the area you are playing in does not have a clock on the wall.
With a time piece at the ready, say “GO” and instruct each individual to cross the farthest line exactly when they think the 60 seconds has elapsed.
It’s extraordinary how quick some people believe one minute will pass, or how long. Purely out of interest, make a mental note of the folks who cross the line at or closest to the sixty-second mark.
Once everyone has crossed, announce the one or two people who crossed closest to the 60 second mark, so that others can gauge whether they were too slow or too fast.
Play several rounds, testing your group’s ability to improve their innate timing skills. Naturally, allow some time between rounds for your group to discuss how they can continuously improve their performance. I like to note the gap between the slowest and fastest times. Generally speaking, a group will be continuously improving if this gap gets smaller.
Practical Leadership Tips
Observe the variety of things people do to ‘fill-in’ the 60 second time-frame. Some will walk quickly up to the farthest line, simply bide their time and cross at the last second, while others will pace themselves evenly between the two lines. What they choose to do is neither wrong or right, but it is interesting.
Naturally, you could extend the experiment and test your group over 120 seconds, and so on. But, in my experience, these longer time frames only make it more difficult to succeed, and this is not necessarily the point of the exercise (see below.)
Following on from above, times less than 30 seconds are too short, too.
Observe how group pressure plays a part in people’s decision-making processes. It will look like corn popping in reverse – a few early crosses, then a few more, then a flurry of them for an extended period, and then some late ones. And, then, of course, there’s always a few tough, residual corns that just refuse to pop!
Be sure to invite a conversation at the conclusion of the exercise to discuss what the results of this simple, yet difficult group initiative means for your group. See Reflection tab for a few processing ideas.
Talking Is Permitted: Allow group members to communicate with each other before and during the exercise, with the objective of having everyone crossing the line at the same time. Aim for group consensus where everyone makes one simultaneous step as close to one minute as possible.
Sit Down: Start your group by standing, and instructing individuals to sit down exactly as 60 seconds expires.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Set up the challenge and ask each person to place their hands on their head (or cross their arms on their chest) when the 60 seconds has expired. Or vice versa.
Or, in advance, ask your participants to push back their chairs from their screens to prepare to move. This time, each person will stand upright when 60 seconds has expired, or if you prefer, sit down. Either way, the impact is just as dramatic and equally persuasive on the herd-mentality.
For a high-tech option, start by asking every person to switch off their cameras, ie only their avatars will be seen on screen. When the 60 seconds have elapsed, instruct each person to switch on their cameras and therefore appear to the whole group (and you.) I find this is much easier to record who actually responds closest to the allotted time (not to mention the first and last respondents.)
Tip, I highly recommend you ask each person to close their eyes during the exercise, lest they could be influenced by any clocks within their sight, which of course you can not see.
If you use Zoom, share a blank slide on your screen and invite your participants to use the Annotate > Stamp tool to place a stamp on the screen at the 60-second mark. Note when the first stamp appears and then announce when the 60-seconds has elapsed.
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Useful Framing Ideas
It’s a good thing we have watches and clocks available to us, because without them, most of us would be pretty lousy at guessing the time. Even measuring the passing of time is wrought with difficulties. For example, starting when I say “GO” I want each of you to raise your hand as soon as you think ten seconds has elapsed. Okay, “GO.” [looking at stopwatch] Now – exactly ten seconds has passed. Look around, not everyone has their hand up, and some of you raised it much earlier than necessary. Let’s expand on this test, and multiply it…
There’s a funny scene in the film Crocodile Dundee when the main character is asked what the time is, and he looks up to the sun in the sky, squints his eyes, and then says “I’d say about ten past two…” The enquirer then checks her watch, and sure enough, he’s correct, giving the impression that Crocodile Dundee has some innate sense of time. Of course, moments later, we discover that he, in fact, looked at a watch in his pocket just before making his proclamation. Just like Croc Dundee, this next exercise will test how accurate your innate abilities are when it comes to the passage of time…
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, no-prop team-building exercise:
In general, did 60 seconds pass quicker or slower than you estimated?
As a group, how well did we estimate the passing of 60 seconds?
Does it suggest that, as human beings, we are not very good at measuring time in our heads?
How much of the ‘flurry’ of most of you sitting down at about the same time suggests that we are easily influenced by others? Why?
Where else is influence experienced within the life of your group, and what impact does this have?
The inspiration for About Now, and many more no-prop, team-building exercises, was sourced in the following publication: