In advance, lay a pattern of 10 to 15 randomly placed cards in a space out of sight of your group (visit the Resources tab to view a sample.)
Give your group the second deck of cards.
Challenge your group to use this second deck of cards to recreate the exact pattern of the cards which remain out of sight.
Taking turns, each person is entitled to leave the room on their own one time only to look at the pattern of the cards.
While viewing the cards, this person is not permitted to touch the cards or record their pattern using any device, eg pen/paper or photograph.
Upon returning to the group, those who view the cards will describe what they saw.
When ready, the next member of the team may depart to view the cards.
Viewing of the cards may continue until every person of your group has had the opportunity to view them.
Allow up to 20 minutes to re-create the pattern.
How To Play Narrative
I’ve been a big fan of UBUNTU cards for many years, but as soon as I was introduced to this new way of using them, I became their #1 ticket holder!
Before you start, you’ll need to lay a pattern of 10 to 15 UBUNTU cards on the floor or table. Lay some cards portrait and others landscape with some cards facing single-image up and others showing the multiple-image side. Visit the Resources tab to view a sample.
The key to this task is that your group can not see the cards, so set it up in a hallway or other space away from your group. If your options are limited, erect a barrier so that your group can not see the pattern from where they are standing.
Once gathered, explain to your group that you have created a particular pattern with a bunch of UBUNTU cards.
Then, give your group a second set of UBUNTU cards and instruct them to recreate this original pattern of cards in the space they are presently occupying.
Necessarily, to set an appropriate challenge, you will need to introduce a set of parameters:
Only one person at a time is permitted to view the original pattern of cards.
Each person is entitled to view the cards, but only once.
The person viewing the cards cannot touch the cards and cannot use any device to record any details, ie no pen and paper or photographing it with a smartphone.
When ready, the person viewing the cards will return to the rest of their group and describe what they saw. Clearly, their descriptions will guide their group with critical details about the exact pattern of the various cards they are trying to recreate.
It’s as simple and as difficult as that. Success is largely determined by how well each person describes what they saw, including orientation of the cards and the details of the many, many objects featured on the cards.
When ready, the next person will leave the group to view the cards. This process repeats itself as many times as the group has members or until the group agrees that it has re-created the pattern exactly.
Depending on the level of challenge you want to pitch, allow for at least 20 minutes to complete the task. The more cards you place in the pattern, the more time the task may take to complete.
Be sure to allow time to invite your group to reflect on what they experienced during the activity. Conversations about memory recall and effective communication are ripe for the picking.
Practical Leadership Tips
For convenience, you could photograph one or more patterns of cards in advance, print and laminate them and lay one of them out of sight of your group (in which case, you need only one set of UBUNTU cards.) You could even display the pattern on a tablet screen but, beware, this may prove too small for some people to view the finer details of some of the cards.
If it is possible for your group to see and/or hear the person viewing the cards, ie they may all be in the same room, you must instruct your group to not communicate with this person and vice versa. This includes no non-verbal forms of communication.
Time Trial: Limit the length of time each person may view the original pattern of cards before returning to the group.
Continuous Improvement: Challenge your group to a series of progressively more difficult series of patterns. Start with a simple pattern of 5 cards, and once complete, add more cards and greater complexity in the pattern.
Alternative Props: Use a deck of playing cards to create the original pattern, or any other set of resources you have at least two identical copies of, eg books, pens, dominoes, etc.
Small-Group Mimeograph: For very small groups of say 2 to 5 people, permit each person to view the original pattern of cards two or more times.
Competitive Trial: Create two or more teams working off the same pattern of cards. Challenge each team to recreate the pattern as quickly as possible.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
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In advance, create a slide or other document with your desired pattern of cards. Create one breakout room for one person at a time. When the nominated person arrives in the breakout toom, share your screen with them until they are ready to return to the large group, or limit their time to a set period. When ready, allocate the next volunteer for a new breakout room viewing period. Continue until all team members have viewed the cards or the group agrees that they have completed the task.
Useful Framing Ideas
It is true that we can all learn to be more effective in our communication, both as individuals and groups. No more so than what is required of you to be successful in this next exercise…
Have you ever described something to another person, the details of which you were so certain about, only to discover later on that you were wrong? That we have all done this must make us question how reliable our memories are, especially in the long term. Even short term memories can be unreliable, and this next challenge will very likely demonstrate this possibility…
Many of you are unlikely to know what a Mimeograph machine is. It was a very manual form of a photocopier that created multiple copies of printed text on paper. Its primary purpose was to duplicate or replicate exact copies of an original document, a task not unlike your next challenge…
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 challenging memory game:
What were the greatest challenges your group faced in this exercise?
What were the easiest details to recall or describe?
Describe the most difficult details to recall.
What were the most effective approaches to describing details?
How many of you recalled certain details that proved to be inaccurate?
What have we learned about our memory recall in this exercise?
What have we learned about the ways we retain, process and describe information to others?