The Three Describers

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the three describers exercise (introductions, icebreaker, johari mutual awareness, team dynamics, team development)

This is a long explanation for actually a very simple activity.

The game is for groups of up to twenty people, or more provided they know each other.

Equipment and set up:

• Split the group into equal teams of three or four people.

• Teams of five or six are okay although will require firm time control. Teams of seven or more are not recommended.

• Issue each person a pen/pencil and four note-sized pieces of paper, or four sticky-notes - 3-5 inches wide.

• Each team should be sat around their own table, or around ends/corners of a big table, or alternatively on the floor, or around a wall-space if using sticky notes.

Instruction to both teams (to each person):

• Write your own name on one of the notes (in plain handwriting which cannot be identified to you - or ask someone else to do this if you have a distinctive writing style).

• Write clearly three words - one on each note - which strongly describe or represent you. Do this hidden from others, and again in a plain style of handwriting which will not identify you as the writer.

• Move all describer notes and name notes to the centre of your team's table (or wall-space) and mix them up.

• (Optionally before this, turn/fold the notes face down. There is benefit where people do not reveal their descriptions to their own team, so that discovery and surprise as to who 'owns' the describers is experienced by everyone and not just the guessing team.)

• Ask the teams to move to the/an other team's table/wall-space so that they are working with another team's describers.

• The task for each team is to re-arrange the describers in sets of three beneath the appropriate name note, correctly allocating the describers to the 'owners'.

• The winning team is the one which achieves the most correctly allocated describers.

• N.B. Where more than two teams play the game, the initial review stage (when correct answers are given) becomes complex logistically and so teams should be instructed to show the correct answers on a separate sheet of paper when returning to their tables/walls, rather than disturbing the original suggested answers. This enables everyone in the group, (if warranted - notably for groups which work together), to review all the guesses and the correct answers - which works best using sticky notes and wall-space.

Additional guidance notes:

• Where groups do not already know each other ask them to make brief personal introductions to the group before the exercise. Do not give warning of the exercise to come - but do ask for people to introduce themselves with a little more information than merely name and job.

• When explaining the exercise - describing words ('describers') can be personality characteristics, such as determined, diplomatic, reserved, confident, friendly, etc., and/or more symbolic words such as music, football, mountain, adventure, family, etc., which represent a very significant personal characteristic.

• Some people will relate readily to the idea of using symbolic words; others will prefer to use only words which conventionally describe a personality.

• Emphasise that people should try to use words which genuinely and honestly represent themselves.

• The facilitator reserves the right to deduct points from any team where a word is considered to be too obscure and not strongly representative of the person, and to award bonus points where a particularly difficult describing word is correctly allocated.

• Where several teams play the game, the initial review of correct/incorrect answers - as teams move from one table to another - needs to be planned and controlled appropriately. Ensure teams are instructed not to move the describers arranged by the guessing team, instead to show the correct answers on a...
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