Purpose of the Activity
This is a simple and respectful applied improvisation exercise for helping a group to begin to come to terms with a difficult change.
In essence, it is based on the idea that speaking words in a group, in a collective activity, can be the start of a “making sense”, and a moving on, and possibly healing.
Words are powerful and this is an exercise that can go through different phases – some easier and more difficult. The exercise can “explode” into a kind of brainstorm, and sometimes even feel rhythmic and poetic.
At other times there are dialogues, monologues and even “Battles” of words.
This activity follows a kind of simple word association activity.
Each member of the group finds a space and sits down. Eyes closed can work best but isn’t essential.
The group is invited to reflect on the organisational change that has taken place.
Then, anyone is allowed to speak a word that arises for them in relation to that change. It runs for about 5 minutes but can run as long as 15-20 minutes or even longer!
Different patterns will emerge:
– some people will speak more than others
– some will trigger each other
– some will repeat or contradict
Words can be spoken in a neutral way or with any level of volume or emotion. The only rule is that you cannot speak again until at least X number of people have spoken (I’d recommend varying it if you do it more than once – three works well).
The facilitator can record the exercise and play back to the group – either through a written record, or using audio.
The words can later be group, discussed very much as in a brainstorming exercise.
It works well for its simplicity and avoidance of phrase or sentence, focusing on the essence of the single word.
Respectful silence and focus on the exercise are necessary. You can set ground rules about swear words and personal names if this is appropriate.
Here are a few guiding questions for debriefing the activity:
– how did you feel about the exercise?
– how much did you contribute?
– what words came up most and why? What themes emerged?
– did the way different words were spoken reveal anything about the situation?
– what repetitions and overlaps in words were there?
– what different perspectives on the situation were revealed and did common ground emerge?
– were there any pointers in the words to moving on and finding resolution from the difficult situation?