In advance, select ten cards from a regular deck representing Ace to Ten.
Randomly lay these ten playing cards face-down on a table/ground.
Assemble your group about 5 to 10 metres away from the cards, standing behind a line.
Instruct your group to flip over all of the cards, one at a time, in order from Ace to Ten.
Only one person is permitted to move forward of the line and flip one card at a time.
If the value of the card revealed is the next card in the sequence (the first card must be the Ace,) it may remain face-up. Otherwise, the card must be flipped face-down in the same spot.
This process continues, with each person taking turns to flip over one card, before returning behind the line.
Encourage each person in the group to flip a card once before anyone can flip a second card.
Challenge your group to complete the task in the quickest time possible.
Invite your group to play one or more rounds to continuously improve their performance.
How To Play Narrative
Groups love a challenge, and this one is simple to understand, yet not necessarily easy to execute.
In advance, pull out ten cards from a regular deck of playing cards, ensuring each card Ace (one) to Ten is represented.
Place these cards face-down in a random pile on a table or the ground about 5 to 10 metres away from where your group will soon assemble.
Mark an area where you want your group to stand and then explain the task, to flip all ten cards in the sequence Ace to Ten in the quickest possible time.
Further explain that only one person is permitted to move to the cards at any point in time, and may flip one card over at a time.
If the card reveals the next number in the sequence (in the case of the first card, it must be the Ace,) the card may remain face-up. However, if the card is not the next number in the sequence, it must be returned face-down.
Invite each member of the group to approach the cards and flip one card at a time. Ideally, you may wish everyone to flip a card once before they can flip a second time, etc, but this is up to you.
Gradually, the correct sequence of cards will be revealed, and when the final card has been flipped and the last person has returned to their group, stop the time.
If the task is first completed without any form of initial planning, you may consider challenging your group to perform the task one or more times to record a faster time. Or not, it’s up to you.
In either case, I highly recommend inviting your group to reflect on their experience with a view to drawing some useful lessons from the activity.
Practical Leadership Tips
The suit of each of the ten cards is not important, but I will say that when the suits are mixed, the exercise is slightly more difficult (for some reason?)
It would stand to reason that any card revealed out of sequence should be replaced in a specific location when it is flipped back over (eg the same spot it was lying or according to some pre-determined plan,) but in my experience, this is not always so obvious.
Team members who have flipped a card are fully entitled to show the card and speak to their group as often and as long as they wish. Unless, of course, you wish to curb these efforts to increase the challenge.
Multiple Groups: Divide your group into smaller teams of, say 4 to 8 people, to introduce an added dimension of competition to the exercise. The group that records the quickest time wins.
Planning Time: Offer your group(s) up to 5 to 10 minutes of planning time before they actively complete the task. In theory, this should improve the result, but not always.
Full Suit: Increase the number of cards to 13 involving one full suit (including Jack, Queen and King.) In this case, you may place the Ace at the start or end of the sequence.
Lowest Flips: Challenge your group to complete the task in as few flips as possible, rather than the quickest time. Record multiple attempts.
Same Spot: To ramp up the challenge, a card flipped out of sequence must be returned to the exact same spot it was lying before it was flipped. This will stretch your group’s memory and observation skills.
No Repeats: Challenge your group to flip over all of the cards and not flip two cards with the same suit in a row, eg a Heart may follow a Spade, but not another Heart. Chose to start with one card flipped over, or simply wait for the group to flip their first card. This variation often produces quicker attempts, so you may choose to employ a larger set of cards.
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Useful Framing Ideas
If I gave you a bunch of playing cards, what are the odds of you flipping over one card at a time in a sequence from Ace to Ten? Pretty unlikely, right? Well, we’re about to test those odds…
This next exercise will test your memory. Your task will be to work together to complete a simple task and the sharper your observation skills, the more successful you’ll be…
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 fast-paced group initiative:
What strategies did your group employ to manage the randomness of the cards?
Did these strategies work? Why or why not?
Did this exercise test your collective memories? How?
Did you repeat a mistake? How did your group react when this occurred?
Could your group complete the task more quickly a second or third time? What would need to change?
How might your performance reflect on your group?
The inspiration for Flip Over Ten, and many more active group initiatives involving playing cards, was sourced from Playing with a Full Deck, by Michelle Cummings.