Mara Svenne IAF Methods

The Chair Game

by for . Last edit was about 2 years ago
20 - 60 15 - 100

The Chair Game teaches groups that the world is not a zero sum game.  If you collaborate, everyone can achieve their individual team goals.

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Demonstrate that teams can win-win if they collaborate


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  • You'll need at least one chair per participant


1.  Ask the participants to self-organize into 3 teams and choose one leader per team

2.  Ask the leaders to join you at the front of the room. 

3.  Give each leader (in private, without revealing to the other leaders) their team's objective.

4.  Tell the leaders to go back to their teams.  Tell the teams that their leaders have an objective, and their job is to get their team to help them achieve that goal - without speaking.

5.  The three goals are: - team A needs to put all chairs in the room so that they are touching each other. team B needs to put all chairs upside down.  team C needs to put all chairs in a circle.

6.  Step back and watch!  

7.  Debrief with questions after they achieve the objective (or stop the game before they do).  (For example - here are some debrief questions:  What did you notice?  How did you feel while trying to accomplish the objectives - as a leader/as a participant?  How did you solve the puzzle?  How would you apply this back 'on the job?')

NOTE:  Neither the leaders or the participants are allowed to talk during this game.

What you will likely see happening, is that each team will start by working in 'silos' to follow their leader in putting the chairs as he/she does.  (The leader typically starts by demonstrating what is needed.)

If teams stop after achieving their objective for a sub-set of the chairs - tell them that they need to achieve it for all chairs in the room.

You may see teams start to take chairs from other teams - or even lie down on their chairs, to stop the other teams from taking them.

Eventually, you may see some observers notice what the other teams are doing, and they'll find allies to help them collaborate to accomplish 2 objectives - and then all three.


I learned this game at a Play4AgileNA conference.  The idea is to teach Product Owners that, working together, they can all achieve their goals.

Comments (1) ( 5.0  avg / 2 ratings)

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  • Great way to demonstrate the power of collaboration!

    over 2 years ago