Acknowledgement: I first found Psychic Handshake here as I was looking for a quick, fun icebreaker. If desired, it can further be used to get a larger group of people into smaller groups (might need a little bit of adjustment afterwards to balance the numbers in each group).
Timing: Around 30 – 45 minutes in total, longer if the discussions are going well
Whiteboard and pens
Handouts printed out, one-sided (i.e. one side blank)
– You’ll need a decent open area where people can move around.
– Think of a whole number from 1 to 4 inclusive, keep it in your head. [See note 1 on this.]
– Group Objective: Form into smaller groups where everyone with the same number is in the same group. [See notes 2 and 3, below, on this.]
– One Rule: Handshakes are the only means of communication. No speaking, grunting, gesturing, blinking etc. Laughing will happen, enjoy it.
– Once people have stopped moving around, have them sit in their 4 groups and pass out the handouts face down asking people not to peek. For each group, share your (the facilitator’s) observations as you’re external to the exercise whereas they’re too immersed to see the bigger picture (also a valuable point to highlight). Then draw up the Heart of Agile diamond and go through it, explaining how it can be explored and unpacked further – now using the handouts to save drawing it all up.
At this stage, ask the 4 groups to each pick a different one of the 4 lenses to the look at the exercise they’ve just done from that perspective. Allow some time for discussion then have each group share back to the rest.
During their sharing, also highlight how, when it’s 4 groups to align to the 4 lenses of HoA, there were inextricable links to the other Heart of Agile lenses – e.g. people have to collaborate to deliver, there’s reflection after delivery to allow improvement etc.
Notes and Learning Points:
1) I specifically chose the number 4 on purpose to use it to introduce and explore the Heart of Agile. The lower the number, the simpler the exercise. I think 5 or 6 is a maximum for getting it done fairly quickly. This sparks a thought – this exercise used with lots of people and a large number (say 12? depends on the number of people) could be used to demonstrate the complexity of communication in a large group – it grows exponentially with every additional person.
2) It is entirely possible that one (or more) numbers will not be picked, meaning that there could be fewer groups than the maximum number. Watch out for this – explored in point 3, next.
3) The wording of “GROUP objective” is chosen on purpose (this is my tweak to the game) – the objective is for everyone, not individuals (but don’t mention this beforehand).
You may get the situation where a group with the same number ends up split – e.g. there are two groups with the number 3, especially if a number (say 1) wasn’t chosen by anyone. So you could have 4 groups: the 2s, 2 x 3s (wrong) and 4s – the objective hasn’t been met but people assume it has because they are comfortable they’re in their right group and there appears to be the right number of groups, but what about other groups and the OVERALL objective for everyone?
I’ve even had it once where I said make 4 groups and ended up with 5 and no one questioned it! It turned out that there was just one person (from an initial group of 30) who chose the number “1” and everyone assumed he couldn’t find his proper group, he even started to question himself! In fact, there were two large groups of 2s – they were in the wrong! It was interesting to explore their assumptions, his feelings and how the minority was shunned and assumed to be in the wrong when he wasn’t. Great talking points!
4) It’s a fascinating exercise to watch – first a bunch of individuals in a chaotic system, just acting and sensing and responding. Then, as an understanding starts to develop, the system becomes complex where patterns start to emerge and people move to probing and sensing. Then groups start forming and the dynamics and methods start evolving and changing. You know, I think the exercise could equally be used to show the 4 quadrants of Cynefin too!