Creative Workshop Exercises: Easy and Engaging Workshop Activities #11 Enhance understanding, connection and communication in groups with HEX cards
Impact: Enhances understanding, connection and communication in groups by facilitating the co-creation of a joint, group, narrative.
Materials Needed: One set of HEX cards, for groups up to around fifty people.
Who is Enhance Understanding, Connection and Communication in Groups with HEX cards for?
Workshop facilitators, trainers and others who run group events and who are looking for an engaging, fun, joint exercise that helps the group create a joined-up account or narrative about some aspect of group life, activity or thinking. The exercise can focus on any question meaningful to the group, for example learning from a session, aspirations for the future, personal values – team values, memorable moments, significant life events.
How does it help with understanding, connection and communication in groups?
Working with the 200 hexagonal HEX cards facilitates the joint production of a group narrative in visual form. The cards consist of a wide variety of pictures, words and images. Their hexagonal shape means they can be joined together in many different configurations to express many different relationships between elements. This exercise brings group member perspectives to life in a connected way that creates fascinating, visual and meaningful joint records of a focused area of group interest.
Put the instruction booklet to one side.
Find a large space or surface and spread the cards out face side up. (This can usually be created by pushing smaller tables together).
You’ll notice there are a few blank cards in the pack. You need to decide whether you want participants to be able to use these to add their own words or images (obviously these are not reusable), or indeed if you want to add something extra to the selection. If not, remove these from the selection available.
Decide the question you want to frame for the group members, and how many cards they may pick.
If I am, as if often the case, doing this at the end of a workshop or team development event, I might want them to focus on something they learnt, something of significance to them, and how they are going to use what they learnt. So three different questions for which they may pick three cards in total.
Other questions for other uses of the exercise might be
- Three cards that represent moments of significance in your life
- Three cards that represent your values
- Three cards that represent what you consider the group needs to be focusing on to meet future challenges
Of course, you can allow more or less cards but I find three to be a good number.
How to run the exercise
Gather the group to together and tell them that, in a moment they are each going to be asked to select three cards from a selection of words, pictures and images.
Tell them, and maybe also have it written on a flipchart or a slide, the three cards you are going to ask them to select. In our example
One card that represents for them something they have learnt about themselves as a team over the day or few days.
One card that represents something of significance to them (this is the kind of question you can leave wide open or narrow right down by adding ‘in terms of’ for example ‘the soul of the group’ or the ‘future of the group’)
One card that represents how you hope to put your learning and experience of the last day or days to use.
Then let them browse the cards to pick their three. There are 200 cards, this can take some people a little time. Recognize this is a sign that they are taking the exercise seriously.
Bring them all back together around another reasonably large clear space. (This can usually be created by pushing smaller tables together or by clearing the other cards away).
Instruct them to keep their cards in their hands, face towards them.
Explain: ‘What we are going to do is create a joint account. I’ll ask anyone to start. Once they have laid down the first card explaining their choice and its meaning to them, then I’ll ask who feels they can connect to what has been laid down to add their card, explaining their sense of the connection. We’ll keep going until it seems there are no more connections to be made of that story. In which case the next person will start a new set of connections.’
It's up to you whether you strictly demarcate the three questions into three separate rounds, or just allow people to place any of their cards as seems appropriate.
Ask: ‘Who would like to go first?’ Encourage them to lay their card somewhere central and ask them to explain why they choose that card, what it represents to them.
Ask:’ Who can connect with this?’ Assuming someone can, get them to lay their card next to one of the hexagonal sides, again ask them to explain what the card means to them and the connection they see with the existing card.
In my experience people get the hang of this very quickly and little facilitation is needed once they are off and running.
This means you are free to listen to the quality of the conversation. How grounded is it? What is the pace? What elicits murmur of agreement, laughter, ‘aha’ moments and so on.
Once all the cards are placed, I usually ask the group for their reflections on the exercise, by asking, for instance
When you look at what you have created, what do you see?
What seems to be at the heart of this story?
What were the most interesting things that came out of this for you?
I find this is a lovely way to draw an event to a close. At this point people are often tired and starting to think about the journey home, especially on two day or longer events. This exercise helps the event end on an engaging, high-energy note.
An extension of the exercise
In addition to being used as a ‘drawing together’ closing event, this can be used a launchpad or preparation for developing more of a group narrative.
For example, following the exercise above, you could ask the group to split into sub-groups to ‘write a story’ of the group. To help, you can provide starters such as
‘Once upon a time there was a group/group of people/team who...’
Or, playing on ‘In a land far away,’ offer, ‘In a room, just by here, there lives a team who decided/created/realised...’
Or suggest they choose a phrase to riff off – ‘to infinity and beyond’, ‘to boldly go,’ ‘in a deep, dark wood,’. Encouraging them to incorporate an odd ‘non-organisational ‘phrase like this to help them work with metaphor. Interesting use of metaphor tends to make writing more meaningful, impactful and memorable.
Encourage them to be playful and creative. I would also suggest giving them a word limit (a double-spaced typed page of A4 is usually around 500 words. In most cases this is likely to be sufficient).
Then share the stories. Get the group to note the common features of the stories shared. And the interesting differences.
From here, you can suggest they identify three things, as a team, that they want to do, and so start moving into action planning. By now there should be a lot of energy behind suggestions and ideas put forward for action.
If you have any queries about the exercises as described, please contact Sarahlewis@acukltd.com. We will publish any queries and answers in the next newsletter to the benefit of all.
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