Hyper Island

Active Listening

by .  
60 - 1202 - 40 Medium

This activity supports participants to reflect on a question and generate their own solutions using simple principles of active listening and peer coaching. It’s an excellent introduction to active listening but can also be used with groups that are already familiar with it. Participants work in groups of three and take turns being: “the subject”, the listener, and the observer.



Helps participants to reflect on a question and generate their own solutions using simple principles of active listening and peer coaching.




    Step 1:

    Do a brief introduction to active listening. Explain that often, when we reflect and discuss, we tend to focus on multiple individuals and questions at once, moving around our attention and focus. Meanwhile, when we listen to others, we tend to do so in a discussion-oriented way, thinking about “what will I say next”, rather than listening to the other with full presence and attention. One powerful way to explore a question or a problem is to use active listening with focus on one person at a time. For this exercise, this is what we will do.

    Optionally, make a list together with the group of “What makes good active listening?” Invite people to spontaneously offer answers and write them on a flipchart.

    Step 2:

    Using a flipchart, Introduce the three roles that individuals will take on during the exercise.

    The subject:

    The subject’s role is to explore the question or problem from his/her personal perspective. The person in this role should keep in mind: allow the focus to be on you, and let your reflection flow naturally, being guided by the active listener.

    The active listener:

    The active listener’s role is to listen will full presence and focus. To listen with the whole body, to be curious, observe, paraphrase what he/she hears and guide the subject with open questions. This person should keep in mind: ask open questions to support the subject’s reflection; do not offer advice; listen with the whole body.

    The observer:

    The observer’s role is to observe the process without speaking. To make observations from an outside perspective, to see and hear things that the listener and subject may not. This person should keep in mind: stay silent throughout the process; observe and make notes about what you see and hear; after the subject finishes, share the observations with the others.

    Step 3:

    Set up the question or problem. The question or problem is what each subject will explore and reflect upon. It could be a common question for the whole group (e.g. “What are the biggest barriers to change in my work and how can I work to overcome them?”) or each subject can set his or her own question or problem (e.g. Choose a challenge in the workplace that you are struggling with currently.) Ensure that all participants understand what they should explore and reflect upon.

    Step 4:

    Have participants organize into groups of three. Make it clear that each participant should have each role for a set amount of time. Give groups one hour or more so that each round can last 20 minutes. Explain that groups should pay attention to the time and make sure that there are three equal rounds.

    Step 5:

    Once participants have finished, debrief the exercise, using questions like:

    • What happened for me during the exercise?
    •  How did it feel to be the observer?
    •  How did it feel to be the subject?
    •  How did it feel to be the active listener?
    •  What did I learn about myself?
    • How can I apply insights from this exercise?

    Tips for running this activity online

    • Pick an online whiteboard tool that allows you to use a large, zoomable canvas.

    • Use a video conferencing tool where you can assign the participants into breakout rooms (eg. Zoom).

    • When briefing the exercise and assigning groups of three to work together, keep all participants in the main video conference room and explain best practices. Use your online whiteboard to collect opening responses and feedback.

    • After this step is completed, turn on breakout rooms so each group can work on their questions and play each of the three roles.

    • After breakout conversations are completed, have participants return to the main room where you can debrief the exercise.

    • When facilitating group discussion, we recommend participants use non-verbal means to indicate they’d like to speak. You can use tools like Zoom’s nonverbal feedback options, a reaction emoji, or just have people put their hands up.The facilitator can then invite that person to speak.


    Source: Hyper Island toolbox

    Hyper Island designs learning experiences that challenge companies and individuals to grow and stay competitive in an increasingly digitized world. With clients such as Google, adidas and IKEA, Hyper Island has been listed by CNN as one of the most innovative schools in the world

    Comments (3) (5.0 avg / 3 ratings)

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    • J'utilise cet outil que je trouve apprenant. J'aime bien les suggestions qui sont faites.

      4 months ago
    • amazing

      5 months ago
    • Very powerful process!

      almost 2 years ago