"I Know" vs. "I Wonder" Lists
"I Know" vs. "I Wonder" Lists

Given a particular idea, question, concept, or problem, generate two lists from the group and scribe them on flipcharts: one list of the things you know (bulleted statements starting with "I know..."), the other of the things you wonder ("I wonder..."). Keep going until you run out of time, flipchart space, or ideas.

10/10/10 Analysis
10/10/10 Analysis

From multiple potential options, have pairs discuss how they would feel about their ideal option in ten minutes, ten months, and ten years. Repeat with different options. Ask participants to share with the full group things they heard from their partner that felt poignant. Your goal is to surface revelations that influenced their decision-making.

100 (Bad) Ideas
100 (Bad) Ideas

The epitome of "no idea is a bad idea." Ask the group to generate one hundred (literally, or just as many as you can) ideas, one per sticky note, in response to a prompt or concept. Explain that the ideas can be bad, unpractical, or otherwise worthless. The only rule is that they can't repeat ideas. Set a time limit or keep going until you hit your count goal.

4 Squares
4 Squares

Have participants divide their page into four quadrants. For each quadrant, give them a distinct prompt or question to respond to through writing, drawing, key words, etc. Either have them write down all the prompts at once or deliver them sequentially. In both cases, provide ample time for participants to respond to all four. State your intentions for sharing before they start.

5 Whys
5 Whys

Provide each participant with five sticky notes, then ask a big question or highlight an important sticking point. For example, "What makes a great _____?" Everyone is to write their answer on a sticky note. Keep answers short. Next, have them stick a new note on top and answer "Why?" Repeat that process and ask "Why?" 3 more times.

Airport Signs
Airport Signs

Set up the space for easy movement. Provide participants with a prompt or question to respond to. Each participant then makes a sign proclaiming a statement (should be short and easily readable). After everyone has made a sign, have participants move around the space silently viewing each other's signs, giving them enough time to read all the signs.

Analogizing
Analogizing

Have pairs come up with analogies (i.e., comparisons of two otherwise unlike things) to describe the idea or concept you're focusing on. Ask the pairs to be specific about how it captures all of the elements of that concept. Give them time to consider multiple analogies, searching for the best fit.

Anonymous Q&A
Anonymous Q&A

Ask the group to write any questions they have on their index cards (instruct them to scribble something else if they don't have a question), then collect all the cards. Optionally, sort the questions prior to answering them (to remove duplicates, sequence them, filter questions out, etc.). Read each question aloud, answer it, repeat.

Case Studies
Case Studies

Prepare a case study handout for each group. Ideally, in addition to the explanation of the situation, include a series of questions for groups to work through. You can give all the groups the same case study (to compare different answers) or different case studies (to cover more ground). When they're all done, have a spokesperson from each group summarize their discussion for the full group.

Causal Diagram
Causal Diagram

Given a central concept, have each group create stickies for every component that is part of it (one per sticky). Then have them arrange the stickies into a diagram by determining what leads to what, using directional arrows on separate stickies to represent causality (arrows can go both ways). What happens to the arrows if a component is removed? If a new one is added?

Comparison Table
Comparison Table

Draw a table with potential options listed along the left, each labeling a row, and important criteria (or boundaries you're working within) along the top, each labeling a column (e.g., cost, timeframe). Prompt the group to review each intersection, placing notes, check marks, or other shorthand information in the cell. Once completed, compare options using the resulting information.

Concentric Circles
Concentric Circles

Arrange your group into two concentric circles facing each other such that everyone in the inner circle has a partner in the outer circle (with odd-numbered groups, fill in as a facilitator). Provide a discussion prompt or question, allow partners to converse, then have the outside circle move one participant to the right. Repeat several times with new prompts.

Counterfactuals
Counterfactuals

Give each group a fact, plan for the future, or something that has already happened, and ask them to consider how things would be different if that weren't true, if you did the opposite, or if that hadn't happened. What alternative timelines do you discover? What can you learn from these counterfactuals that can inform or alter your decision-making now?

Debate Club
Debate Club

Choose two participants (or small teams) to argue on behalf of different ideas or opposite sides of the same idea. Give one side a set amount of time to make their case. Give the other side the same amount of time. Then give time for open debate and retorts. Optionally, solicit questions from the rest of the group for them to respond to.

Declarative Pairs
Declarative Pairs

Given a theme or prompt, each partner has a short, set amount of time (e.g., three minutes) to talk uninterrupted, during which they can only make declarative statements. You may choose to limit speakers to start every sentence the same way: "I believe," "I know," "I am," etc. The listening partner can only listen or say things like "tell me more." Swap roles and repeat.

Different Angles
Different Angles

Assign each group a different angle from which one might view a central concept. For example, different timeframes (e.g., past, present, future), components (e.g., people, rules, physical space), or processes (e.g., planning, delivery, accountability). Have each group discuss ideas, then present a summary of their conversation to the full group.

Dot Voting
Dot Voting

Write down potential options on individual stickies and put them on a surface. Have the group "dot vote" by placing their dots (circle stickers, marker dots, etc.) on the option(s) they support. You can vary the number of votes per participant, number of votes allowed per idea, etc. based on your goals. Can be repeated for several rounds, removing options that don't hit a critical number of votes.

Drawing Caricatures
Drawing Caricatures

Ask pairs to draw a caricature (i.e., an exaggerated, unrealistic depiction) of a concept, emphasizing the aspects they believe are the most important. After they've had enough time to finish, have pairs present their drawings, or collaborate as a larger group to construct a team drawing composed of features of the initial caricatures. State your intentions for sharing before they start.

Echoed Dialogue
Echoed Dialogue

Given a prompt or question, one partner shares for thirty seconds. The listener then echoes word-for-word, as best they can, what the speaker said. If the echo is satisfactory (the original speaker decides this), swap roles and repeat. If not, the original speaker reiterates and the listener tries again. Repeat with new prompts, new pairs, or both.

Fill in the Gap
Fill in the Gap

Share a sentence that contains an important gap. For example, "The best thing about working with this group is ___________." Then prompt the group to say the whole sentence and to fill in the gap. Repeat with new prompts as many times as you'd like, and you can mix up participation with new rules (e.g., "someone we haven't heard from yet").

Fill in the Model
Fill in the Model

Draw a preexisting conceptual model (e.g., pyramid, ladder, wheel, flowchart) but leave blanks where the labels would go. Introduce the model and the concept you're going to explore. Progressively fill in the blanks, sourcing suggestions from the crowd, and provide the correct answer when the group can't figure it out. Explain each part as you go, checking for understanding.

Finger Voting
Finger Voting

Explain that the group will be voting on potential options with their fingers on a scale of 1-5, detailing what the numbers mean (e.g., "one means I'm entirely against it; five means I'm entirely for it"). On a count of three, have everyone show their vote simultaneously. You can tally the counts for an average, discuss outliers, or keep voting on new options until you reach a consensus.

Fishbowl
Fishbowl

Arrange the group in a circle with an empty space in the middle, such that everyone can easily enter and exit the center. In the center, have one, two, or more participants process a question, respond to prompts, or discuss an idea, while the rest of the group silently observes. Repeat with new participants "in the fishbowl," a new prompt, or both.

Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions

Prepare a numbered list of "frequently asked questions" that the entire group can read. These can be questions you often answer for groups like this, things people are likely wondering but afraid to ask, or unanswered questions surfaced earlier. Ask for a volunteer to shout a number of a question they want answered. Read the question aloud then answer it yourself or have a volunteer try. Repeat.

Gallery Exhibit
Gallery Exhibit

Prior to the activity, create signs featuring images, quotes, facts, or questions you want the group to consider. Set up the space for easy movement and hang the signs in different places, like an art gallery. Ask participants to move around the space and view the signs, giving enough time for everyone to view the whole gallery.

Generate a List
Generate a List

Have the group share ideas aloud while you record them as a list or checklist on a flipchart. If you don't know how to summarize an idea, rephrase it for the participant to confirm (e.g., "Do you mean...?") before writing it down (sometimes this will inspire new ideas). Consolidate redundant shares into one item.

Go-Around Share
Go-Around Share

With the group arranged in a circle, deliver a prompt or question for the group to respond to. Start with a volunteer, a participant to your left or right, or a random participant. Everyone is expected to share. Repeat with new prompts as many times as you'd like, and you can mix up the order with new rules.

Heads Down, Hands Up
Heads Down, Hands Up

Ask the group to put their heads down (or close their eyes). Prompt them with a yes-or-no question, asking participants to raise their hands to symbolize a vote for "yes." Count the hands raised. Can be repeated with several prompts in a row. Optionally, sharing the results in between votes might inform the next decision.

Hot Seat
Hot Seat

One participant is chosen (based on a role, experience, stance, or other trait) to answer questions about a given topic for an allotted amount of time. The rest of the group is charged with asking them questions about the topic, including follow-up questions and clarifying questions in response to their answers. Repeat by swapping out the participant in the hot seat, the given topic, or both.

Inside vs. Outside Thinking
Inside vs. Outside Thinking

View your potential options from two angles, the insider and the outsider. What do you know, as insiders, that is informing your decision? What might someone else, an outsider, use to inform their decision, not knowing what you know? List insights from both of those perspectives on separate flipcharts for consideration.

Magnet Statements
Magnet Statements

Set up the space for easy movement. Prime the group with a topic or concept, and ask for one participant to make a related statement they believe (e.g., "I think more clearly when I am alone."). Other participants respond by moving closer or farther away based on their agreement or disagreement with the speaker. Once everyone has moved, ask for another statement, then repeat.

Make a Model
Make a Model

Introduce several different types of models to the group (e.g., wheel, pyramid, ladder, cycle, flowchart). Explain that they're going to pick a model to use to elaborate on a topic. Once the group decides on a model, draw a large version of it on the flipchart, then fill it out by putting suggestions on sticky notes (for easy moving and editing) that label the different components.

Matchstick Convos
Matchstick Convos

Everyone in the group gets a certain number of small objects (e.g., matchsticks, paper clips) to use as tokens they spend every time they respond. Before you start the discussion, make a rule about whether or not you'll allow gifting of tokens among participants. Continue discussion until all tokens are spent.

Mindmapping
Mindmapping

In a bubble at the center of the paper, write a central concept that you want to explore. Have groups generate all the ideas, themes, and categories that branch from that central concept. Encourage them to continue to explore those sub-themes, combining sheets of paper with tape as necessary.

Minute Papers
Minute Papers

Provide a prompt (or several) and give participants a short amount of time (e.g., one minute) to write their responses. The papers can be collected by the facilitator, shared among participants, or neither. State your intentions for sharing before they start writing.

Opposite Thinking
Opposite Thinking

Prompt the group to come up with ideas (regarding a given concept) that are the opposite of what you're actually looking for. You might ask for the worst examples of something or how we know when we're failing. Scribe all unique suggestions. Rephrase any positive (non-opposite) suggestions to be the opposite, or negative.

Pair & Share
Pair & Share

Have pairs discuss ideas in response to a question, prompt, or concept. Optionally, give specific instructions for how they converse (e.g., one participant shares while the other listens, then swap). Once they've both had time to talk, have volunteers from each pair share their favorite ideas surfaced with the larger group. Repeat with new prompts as many times as you'd like.

Popcorn Share
Popcorn Share

In response to a question or prompt, invite any participant who feels compelled to share to do so, either by raising a hand or speaking up. Generally, there is no expectation for everyone to share or for people to only share once, but you can alter the rules for participation based on your goals. Repeat with new prompts as many times as you'd like.

Poster Presentation
Poster Presentation

Give each group a complex prompt. For example, "With your group, draw and label all of the elements you think are necessary for an environmentally sustainable community." Every group can have the same prompt or different ones. Provide ample time for groups to collaborate on their posters before presenting to the full group.

Pro/Con Lists
Pro/Con Lists

Using separate flipchart sheets, generate a pro (in favor of) list and con (against) list regarding your potential option. Welcome all suggestions, from the petty to the massive, and record them on the appropriate list, scribing any share that isn't a repeat. Continue until you run out of input or time, or until the decision becomes obvious.

Rank Order Voting
Rank Order Voting

Given a set of potential options, allow participants to rank their preferences (first choice, second, etc.) or give them a limited number of choices (e.g., "rank your top three"). You can prepare ballots, or use scrap paper and communicate the instructions verbally. Tally votes by assigning points weighted by preference (e.g., with three options, all first choice votes are worth three points, third choice are worth one).

Red Team vs. Blue Team
Red Team vs. Blue Team

Designate (randomly or strategically) some members of your group to be on the Red Team and play devil's advocates to your current plans. Empower them to point out the flaws they see. What vulnerabilities can they exploit? What responses does the Blue Team (believers in the current plan) have to the issues the Red Team surfaces?

Reverse Engineering
Reverse Engineering

Ask participants to imagine that they're in a future where you've accomplished your goals or achieved perfection in regards to a particular concept. Viewing that finished product, what steps were taken to accomplish it? What pitfalls were avoided? Have them record their reflections on paper. State your intentions for sharing before they start writing.

Sharing Withholds
Sharing Withholds

Prime the group that you'll be asking them to share things they've been withholding. Use leading statements and questions to surface thoughts, feelings, concerns, apprehensions, etc. that the group will benefit from knowing (e.g., "One reason I'm worried we won't succeed is..."). Don't allow cross-talk or responses, and only allow one share from each participant per prompt.

Silent Reflection
Silent Reflection

Prepare several questions or prompts ahead of time and instruct participants to write each one down on a sheet of paper, then give them a few minutes to silently answer in writing. The papers can be collected by the facilitator, shared among participants, or neither. State your intentions for sharing before they start writing.

Spectrum Questions
Spectrum Questions

Set up the space for easy movement. Ask a question or deliver a prompt that participants can respond to by placing themselves physically along a spectrum from strongly disagree to strongly agree (or other poles). Denote where each pole is in the space with signs or verbal instructions. You can invite popcorn shares after the alignments. Repeat several times with new prompts.

Sticky Note Generator
Sticky Note Generator

Ask participants to come up with ideas regarding a concept (one idea per note). Stick all the ideas on a viewable surface. Optionally, you can limit the number of stickies per participant, have them pull from a communal stack, or require that everyone creates (at least) a certain number, etc.

Strike a Pose
Strike a Pose

Have the group rearrange so that everyone has room to move, but can still easily see one another. Explain that you're going to give them a prompt and they'll have five seconds to think of a way to express their reaction using their bodies. After a five-second countdown, everyone strikes their pose, holding it for a moment so others can notice.

Subcommittees
Subcommittees

Break a big idea into smaller parts, and assign each group a different component to discuss. On their own flipchart sheet, ask them to scribe definitions, keywords, or drawings that explain or problem-solve their component. When subcommittees have had enough time to work through their concepts, have each group appoint a spokesperson to share their findings with the full group.

SWOT Analysis
SWOT Analysis

Regarding a potential option, ask the group to highlight strengths (known advantages), weaknesses (known disadvantages), opportunities (potential benefits), and threats (potential setbacks). Dedicate a flipchart sheet to each category. Aim for breadth over depth, and continue until you have at least several bullets in each category or you run out of time.

Thinking & Feeling
Thinking & Feeling

Regarding a particular concept, or in response to a prompt or question, ask each participant to share one thing they are thinking and one thing they are feeling. For example, "We'd like to hear one thing you're thinking (with your brain or logic) and one you're feeling (with your heart or emotions)."

Timeline Map
Timeline Map

Ask participants to document stages of a concept along a horizontal axis of time. For example, a timeline could be used to trace important milestones of growth, assess where they have been and want to be in the future, or explain the history of an idea, organization, or process. Be clear about the level of detail you're looking for, and provide ample time for everyone to fully plot their timelines to that level.

Urgent vs. Important Grid
Urgent vs. Important Grid

Create a grid with four quadrants. Along the top, label the first column "Not Important" and the second "Important." Along the left, the first row "Urgent" and the second row "Not Urgent." Use sticky notes to place individual tasks or plans into the appropriate quadrant.

Vanishing Options
Vanishing Options

When the group is considering potential options for a decision (e.g., A, B, or C?), strategically remove one, two, or more from consideration (e.g., A or C?). Prompt the group to make a choice under those new conditions. Discuss the outcome. What new information comes to light? Can be repeated several times, removing and adding different options.

Venn Diagram
Venn Diagram

Compare and contrast different concepts by filling out a Venn diagram. For each concept, draw a large circle (labeled with that concept) that overlaps with the other circle(s). In the overlapping region(s), list the commonalities between those concepts. Write what distinguishes them in the non-overlapping areas.

What's the MVP?
What's the MVP?

This activity reduces all of the potential options to what would constitute the "minimum viable product": what is absolutely necessary (the minimum) in order to end up with something that is sufficient for you to move forward (viable). Sort all potential options, written on sticky notes, as either part of the MVP or to be saved for future improvements.

The Anatomy of
a Facilitator Card

What makes them so easy to use? Color-coding, icons, and the ability to make each card your own, to start.

Mindmapping
Mindmapping

Place a central concept that you want to explore at the center of the paper. Have participants generate all the ideas, themes, categories that spring off of that central concept. Continue by instructing participants to map the secondary concepts, tertiary, etc., to as many levels deep as you like.

Icons & Colors

Categories:

  • Emotion
  • Ideation
  • Clarification
  • Execution

Group Sizes:

  • Individual
  • Pairs
  • Small Groups
  • Full Group

Props:

  • Markers
  • Writing Utensils
  • Flipchart
  • Sticky Notes
  • Index Cards
  • Paper
  • Tape
  • Custom

More soon.

As we finalize the deck of cards and sort out details with our potential manufacturer, we'll update this page with things like the card & packaging materials, manufacturing process, carbon footprint (and sustainability efforts), and other nitty-gritties.