One of my primary speaking sessions lately is centered around helping people start learning through experiencing and not being told.  I’ve enjoyed this session and the results so much that I’m going to do a series of posts that highlight an exercise and how you might leverage it.  Plus, this will force me to retire this session by the end of 2018 (always challenging myself too!).

This exercise is from a student in a recent course and the fundamental principle of relying on people making similar choices and narrow in their choices while giving the illusion that they still have a lot of choice. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the listed original source of this trick.

Facilitator Exercise Instructions (note: obviously feel free to put this into your own words):

  • The first thing you need to do is use a mathematical equation to get your subject to the number 4.
    To choose a number between one and 10 and then multiply by nine. E.G. 5, 5 x 9 = 45. Next you need to ask them to add the two digits if got together
    The final step at this point is to ask them to subtract five at number and they will always get four.
  • Next you need to get the corresponding letter in the alphabet that number.
    So 1 = A, 2=B etc. they will pick “D”.
    That sparked off and think the country begin with the letter they have.
    This is almost always going to be Denmark even if people try to fight it the typical can’t think of another country begin with D (there aren’t many, Dominican republic possibly) and therefore have to choose Denmark by default.
  • Next ask them sequentially think of the next letter in the alphabet which would be “E” and think of an animal beginning with that.
    Again this is most always going to be elephant, but there are are other choices such as an eagle or electric eel. But seriously everyone picks elephant
  • Then ask to think of the colour of the animal.
  • Then deliver “why would you be thinking of grey elephants in Denmark”.

Key points that can be leveraged from this exercise:

  1. Pretending people have choices but they don’t is not leadership – it’s manipulation
  2. That wisdom of the crowd – really requires diversity (many of us think of the same thing – elephant)

The amazing part of doing this exercise with a discussion afterwards rarely leads me to making the key point.  They do!  In fact, frequently, I’ve had one key point to make and yet so many other wonderful learnings came from the discussion…impacts to the team, experiments they could do, etc.

What key point would you leverage from this simple exercise?

Tricia Broderick

Tricia Broderick

Tricia Broderick is a leadership and organizational advisor. Her transformational leadership at all levels of an organization, ignites growth of leaders and high performing teams to deliver quality outcomes. Tricia has more than twenty years of experience in the software development industry. She is a highly-rated trainer, coach, facilitator and motivational keynote speaker. Beyond her extensive knowledge and skills, her biggest offering is inspiring people to believe anything is possible.

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