In advance, count five blank index cards for every person in your group.
Print or write one value, such as ‘TRUST’ on five cards. Continue writing one particular value on five cards, until all cards have been used.
Combine all of the cards and shuffle them.
Deal five random cards to each person, asking them to not look at their cards until the game starts.
The goal is to be the first person to collect a matching set of five cards.
The following three parameters govern all trades:
– Everyone plays at the same time, ie there are no turns;
– All trades must be one for one, with no more than three cards exchanged at a time; and
– No one is permitted to show or disclose their cards at any time, ie all trades are ‘blind.’
Individuals may call out the number of cards they wish to trade to attract another person willing to trade an equal number of cards.
Trading continues until the first person announces that they have collected a matching set of five value cards.
Repeat, or consider one of the many variations to draw extra value from this exercise.
How To Play Narrative
There’s a bit of work to do before you can get started, but it’s well and truly worth it.
In advance, you’ll need a large bunch of blank index cards. Count five cards for every person who will participate in the exercise, ie if you have 15 people in your group, you’ll need 75 index cards.
Next, develop a long list of values (see Resources tab for some ideas.)
Using a marker, write each value on five cards. For example, if one of the values was “EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION” there should be a set of five cards with these words written/printed on them.
Once all of the cards have been marked, combine all of the sets and shuffle the deck.
To begin, randomly deal five cards to each person in your group and ask that they do not look at them until the game starts. Make sure everyone has five cards before you move on.
Now is the time to describe the objective of the exercise. Explain that the primary goal for each person is to be the first to collect a matching set of five value cards. To illustrate, this means that all five cards held by an individual will have the same value written on them. If necessary, be prepared to explain further or show an example.
Naturally, it is presumed that no one starts with an identical set of five cards, so a series of trades will have to be negotiated. To govern a fair exchange process, explain that there are three key trading parameters:
Everyone plays at the same time, ie there are no turns.
All trades must be one for one, with no more than three cards exchanged at a time, ie each person must have five cards at the end of every exchange; and
No one is permitted to show or disclose their cards to anyone at any time, ie all trades are conducted blindly (cards face down), so no-one knows what they will receive from another.
Once all questions have been cleared, ring a bell and announce the start of trading.
Expect a flurry of exchanges in the first few minutes, whereby people typically start calling out numbers such as “ONE,” “TWO” or “THREE” to attract others who are willing to exchange the same number of cards.
Eventually one person will gleefully announce that they are the first to collect a matching set of five value cards. If you wish, allow trading to continue until everyone collects five matching cards.
Play several rounds, or adopt one of the alternative set-ups described in the Variations tab.
Be prepared for a range of behaviours, strategies, and reactions to be exhibited during this exercise. To this end, process as appropriate.
Practical Leadership Tips
Looking at one’s cards in advance of “GO” is not critical, but if this is a concern, explain the exercise first and then deal out the cards to your group.
Sometimes you may need to describe to your group that an exchange of cards must be mutual. One person snatching the card(s) of another does not constitute ‘mutual.’
This is a terrific, interactive strategy that will contribute to the conversation of developing a Full Value Contract.
This activity was inspired by a popular card game called Pit first seen in 1904. For many groups and families, Pit brings about behaviours that may question or contradict the group or individual’s set of values as they trade commodities, all in the name of friendly competition. Playing a version of Pit with value cards rather than commodities, brings personal values and behaviours to the fore. This immediately, and sometimes instantly, initiates personal and group reflection on their values and behaviours.
If using this exercise as a way to establish group or operating norms (aka Full Value Contract,) be sure to set aside one card of each value for future check-ins.
More Cards: As above, but start every person with up to nine cards (per the original game of Pit.)
DIY Values: To start, invite your group to produce their own deck of value cards by asking each person to think of one value, behaviour, or quality they would like to see demonstrated in their group, eg a set of values that would likely lead to the group’s success, support individual and team effort, etc.
Full Transparency: Remove the need to trade blindly, and allow people to show or disclose their cards to others at any time. While this makes the exercise less challenging, it does invite the potential for collaboration.
Group Initiative: Re-frame the objective by explaining that the exercise is complete only when every person (in the group) has a set of five matching cards. Time it to introduce a healthy competitive element to the exercise, especially if you plan to allow for several rounds of play so your group can focus on continuous improvement.
Bulls & Bears: Reflecting the original game of Pit, introduce one or two wild cards:
– Bull: may be used to represent any value; and/or
– Bear: prevents the holder from winning a round.
To play, shuffle these one (or two) wild cards into the full deck, and invite one (or two) people to pull an extra card(s) from the deck.
Trading Names: Substitute values with the first names of each person in your group. See Names Stock Market for more details.
Take a look at Name Swap, for a similar, less substantive exercise using names.
Useful Framing Ideas
In terms of values, what’s important to you? What would you consider the number one most important value that if exhibited by every member of your group, would allow it to be successful? This next interactive exercise will open a discussion about what’s important to you…
When a group or team comes together for the first time, it is often important to identify, share and agree to a set of group operating norms. These norms can be values or specific behaviours. Consider what is important to you and what would be most helpful to your group. Identify one value or specific behaviour that you would like to see from yourself or other group members, and write it on a set of five cards…
We can learn about each other by playing games, especially competitive games. The game we are about to play is fast-paced and highly interactive and could be stressful to some. It is modelled on playing the stock market, and we will trade values instead of stocks. Let’s see what emerges – we can then ask, is that really us?…
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 values-based game:
Were any of the values written on the cards demonstrated during the exercise?
What other values or behaviours were exhibited during the exercise that were not represented on the cards?
What behaviours would you like to see continue? Why?
Are there any behaviours your group could do without?
The inspiration for Values Stock Market, and many more substantive group activities, can be found in the following publication: