Form a circle sitting on the floor, with everyone holding hands.
When ready, everyone will stand up, rotate 360 degrees in one direction and then rotate in the reverse direction.
To finish, everyone returns to sit on the floor in the same position they started.
All activity must be performed while everyone is holding hands.
If at any time two or more people let go of their neighbour’s hands, the attempt will not count.
Challenge your group to perform this task as quickly as possible.
Provide ample time for planning, problem-solving & as many attempts as your time allows.
How To Play Narrative
Invite your group to form a circle, sitting on the floor with their butts on the ground. Each person should be close enough to hold onto their neighbours’ hands.
With their hands held and butts on the ground, this is called the ‘starting’ and ‘finishing’ positions. Now, rev your engines.
Explain to the group that on the call of an appropriate sounding signal – such as “GO” – they are to stand up (holding hands at all times,) rotate a full 360 degrees in a circle back to their original positions, then change direction and rotate back to their spots, where they will stop and sit down together.
Your group’s goal is to complete this routine in the fastest possible time, hence their aim to ‘beat the clock initiative.’
Provide your group with at least two attempts to set a nominal world record, and a third attempt if they choose, with several minutes for planning and discussion purposes. Ensure that people start and finish with their butts on the ground, maintain their grip at all times, and are sensitive to whipping their slower colleagues around the circle at ‘break-neck’ speed.
The clock initiative is an awesome, albeit a rather physical exercise for illustrating the power of teamwork, and in particular, that a team is only as fast as its slowest member. Or that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Your processing may seek to relate these concepts to real-world situations, especially in terms of valuing people’s diversity. Refer to the Reflection Tips tab for more ideas to get you started.
Practical Leadership Tips
Let me just emphasise, again, the propensity of some groups to move quicker than some members are able, causing these poor folks to be whipped around the circle. This whipping action is difficult to resist, and altogether quite frightening when one is reluctantly swept up in it. So, keep an eye out for these moments, and when it does occur, invite the group to consider how they could solve this ‘problem.’
It may be useful to place two innocuous objects at the 12, 3 6 and 9 o’clock points (of a clock) to help folks identify the points at which they need to change direction. It also offers a clearer indication that this, truly is, the clock initiative.
No, it does not matter which direction the group first turns. The group simply needs to rotate both directions between sitting down.
Perform a check every now and then that people are actually sitting with their butts on the ground. Some folks are very sneaky at positioning their feet under their butts to make it look like their butts are on the ground, but in fact, are not.
You could integrate The Clock as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively in different situations and to achieve goals.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
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
The dynamics of this simple, yet physically demanding group initiative will invite your group to interact and engage with each other in a manner that would necessarily speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could focus on any less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see and commit to in the future.
For example, in addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, you could invite your group to reflect on the following questions to explore a variety of full value behaviours such as:
How did the group demonstrate its ability to care for self and others?
Generally speaking, how did the group make decisions? How were all members involved?
Describe your group’s goal-setting process?
What types of leadership were demonstrated during the exercise? Were they effective?
Was adaptability a key component of the group’s success? What’s an example?
Were there moments of safety that concerned you? Why?
Did you observe any emotional or social cues during the exercise? If yes, what did you do with this information?
There are several key elements of this exercise to which individuals or the group can be held accountable:
Moving outside of the boundary, and
Only buttocks touching the ground at the start and finish.
With such a fast-paced activity with many moving parts (no pun intended) it can be difficult for you to observe every infraction of the rules. Thus, this is a golden opportunity to explore issues of accountability, integrity and taking responsibility for one’s actions. To this end, consider leading a conversation about what accountability means and then present this exercise to understand what it looks like, sounds like and feels like in concrete terms.
Chair Sitting: Start with people sitting in chairs (without arms.) Just beware that chairs often move in the process of people getting in and out of them.
Record Attempt: Challenge your group to beat a specific time (a target) which you set. On average, it takes about one second per person (plus a couple of seconds for safe measure) to complete the required moves, eg a target of 15 seconds is very doable for a group of 12 people.
Return to Normal: Take a look at Quick Line-Up and Izzat You? for two less-intensive, group initiatives that challenge people to return to their original positions in a group.
Physical group task that demands planning & creativity.
Creative, physical team challenge to involve everyone.
Useful Framing Ideas
There’s a law of physics which states that a chain is only ever as strong as its weakest link. Metaphorically speaking, this is also true for teams of people working together. Our next exercise will explore this concept in practical terms…
You will be familiar with the concept that the most successful teams are those which value the diversity of strengths and skills within their team. That is, they play to their strengths. And it’s true, that everyone can shine in at least one thing, but rarely at all things all the time. This next exercise will play to the strengths of those more physically able, however, the challenge for the group will be to support those less physically inclined…
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 fun, physically-active problem-solving exercise:
In a general sense, how fast could your group possibly move?
How would you describe your group’s process to solve the task?
What worked and what didn’t? Give examples.
In what ways did you group accommodate the different needs of its members?
Is there anything we learned as a team in this exercise we could apply elsewhere?
The inspiration for The Clock, and many more physically-active, team-building activities, was sourced from the following publication: