Each group will have four minutes to create a machine, which you will announce shortly, using only their bodies.
Each machine must have moving parts, and will be demonstrated as a working model to the rest of the group.
Instruct each group to actively and productively involve every member of their team in the working model of the machine.
Announce the first machine, eg dishwasher.
Allow 2 to 5 minutes of planning time.
When ready, invite each small group to demonstrate their machine.
Play several rounds, announcing a new more complex machine with each round.
Video Transcript for Human Machines
presented by Mark Collard
This next exercise is to invite your group to work together to solve a problem. There is no one solution. There are indeed at least four every time I give you a problem to solve, but you’ll have about a minute, one 60-second period, as a group to basically combine all of your resources to work out how do you solve it.
Using just your humanness, just your people in your group, there’s eight or nine people in each of your groups, you want to create a machine, and it needs to be a working machine with working parts.
You’ll have one minute in order to create it and one by one we’ll go around the group and you get to demonstrate what your machine looks like and how it operates.
Now if you’ve done anything in the world of improv or improvisational stuff, this is the domain that it comes from. Improvise how you might create this machine, because clearly you are not machines, but your first machine is to create a dishwasher.
So you’ve got to work out how do you use your bodies to create the machine that is known as the dishwasher. It has working parts. We need to see that it’s actually operating and your time starts now.
(people improvising human machines)
Which group would like to first start by demonstrating. Is there anybody? Anybody? Alright, so would you like now to demonstrate your dishwasher please?
(You put the dishwashing liquid in here, then you got to close the door. The machine turns on…)
Alright, a little hand. Good job. Next.
(The door’s open. The dishes walk in. The door is closed. Start washing. Drying time.)
Alright, give them a hand.
There you have a taste with the creativity required. Your next machine, you have two minutes for, spend time actually prototyping and so forth so that you know in a moment I’ll invite each of your groups to share with everyone else.
The machine I ask you this time to create is a toaster with two slots, two-slot toaster. Go.
Alright, let’s focus on our first toasting machine, the double slicer brought to you by this group.
(Enter the finger. I wonder if it’s toasted yet. No, not ready. It must be ready by now.)
(Gotta plug my toaster in. Oh, of course, I didn’t flip it on. And… three minutes later. Golden brown.)
How To Play Narrative
There’s no magic number as to the size of your small groups with this one. Anything from 4 to 20 people is fine. The more people, the more complex your machine can be.
Having situated your small groups in different corners of your playing space, explain that you want every group to design and build their very own representation of a series of machines, which you will soon announce.
Everyone in the group must be valuably involved, and the machine should demonstrate moving parts and function (as much as playfully possible) like the real thing.
Some good machines to try are a Dishwasher, Washing Machine, Toilet, Motor Vehicle, CD Player and SLR Camera.
Give them two to five minutes to discuss how they will build their machine and practice, and then ask each group one at a time to present their creations to the whole group.
Play several rounds, announcing a new more complex machine with each round.
Practical Leadership Tips
It’s not critical, but if it is possible for each small group to plan and create in secret, go for it. It will build the suspense when it comes time for the demonstrations.
This is clearly a pretty silly exercise, so consider your sequence carefully. It is an extremely fun task for a small group of people to build their own machine, but it will challenge some people to be creative or appear silly..
Start with an easy, non-threatening machine (eg toaster), and build up to the more complex (eg CD player.) You want to inspire your group’s creativity, not stifle it from the start by asking for something that is very difficult.
You could integrate Human Machines as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Setting Personal & Group Goals
Use Planning & Organisational Skills
Taking Other’s Perspectives
Demonstrating Empathy & Compassion
Understanding & Expressing Gratitude
Recognising Strengths In Others
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Seeking and/or Offering Support
Build Positive Relationships
Resolving Conflict Constructively
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits of working together in a team and enjoying a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the effort required to successfully cooperate and create the various human machines speaks to the benefits of establishing positive and healthy group behavioural norms in advance. That is to say, the stronger the relationships in your group, the more likely they will trust one another to respond quickly and cooperatively to the various creative challenges you issue them.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Human Machines could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
DIY Human Machines: Alow each small group to choose what machine they will create.
Landmarks: Invite each small group to create their representation of a world landmark, eg Grand Canyon, Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, the Pyramids, Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China, Great Barrier Reef, etc.
Prop & Play: Permit the use of one or more props as part of the machine. Either provide a specified prop or allow each group to choose their own.
Machine Improv: Announce a series of very simple machines and objects (eg, table and chairs, a forest, a house, map of the world,) but this time, allow no time for the group to think. They must immediately spring into action and improvise.
Simple communication exercise to foster creativity.
Span The Room
Challenging group initiative that inspires creativity.
Extremely fun adaptation of the popular board game.
Useful Framing Ideas
If you’ve ever played the board-game Pictionary, you’ll know that you do not need to be an artist to draw a successful object – you just need to focus on the key attributes of the object. For example, there are many varieties of cats, but if you draw whiskers on a circle face with little ears and a nose, nine times out of ten, most people will guess that you’re drawing a cat. Now, while this next exercise does not involve drawing, you will still benefit from focusing on the basics…
Have you ever tried to understand the mechanics of how something works? A car engine, a DVD player, a printer, etc? Yeah, not me either. I’m just happy that the machine works. And this is exactly what this next exercise will invite your small group to do…
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 hilariously creative group game:
What was the most difficult part of your task? Why?
How did your team makes decisions? Was this productive?
What was the most valuable attribute of how your team worked together that influenced your success (or otherwise?)
Did you practice your human machines? Either way, did this influence the result?
Fun & Creative ‘Team-Building’ Session
What You Need:
8+ people, 45 mins, set of Acronym cards (Print+Play)
Acronyms – fun, non-threatening small & large group puzzles