Deborah Rim MoisoSessionLab

Cushions game

by for .  
15 - 3012 - 24 Medium

A fun, dynamic game useful for introducing topics related to decision making, conflict resolution, win-win scenarios and the importance of clear communication of goals.


Kick-start a conversation on topics related to decision making, win-win scenarios, and the importance of clear communication of goals. 




    1. Place a pile of cushions in the middle of the room. The number of cushions should be that of participants divided by 3. I.e. if you have 12 participants, 4 cushions, and so on (can be one cushion more or less, the game will still work). If you do not have cushions you can also use pieces of cloth, or even of paper. 

    2. Divide participants into three groups. Avoid using competitive language such as "teams". Explain that you will give each group separate instructions. You can give them written instructions or go around the three groups and tell each group their task.

    3. Instructions are as follows:

    • Group A - Your task is to place all the cushions in a circle.
    • Group B - Your task is for each member of your group to be sitting on a cushion.
    • Group C - Your task is to put all the cushions close to the door (or window, or whatever fixed element of architecture will work well in your space, can be a tree too!)

    4. Say "Go!" and enjoy what happens. Don't offer any further explanation. Participants are likely at some point to look at you for advice, you should just encourage them to figure the game out for themselves. If they ask if they can talk, I generally shrug: nobody told them not to!

    5. The group will discover the win-win-win solution (Members of group B sitting on the cushions arranged in a circle by the door). How much time this take varies greatly. I have seen groups reach a solution in 2 minutes and others struggle and set up a veritable pillow fight. 

    6. Congratulate the group and start a debrief. What happened? How did they find the solution? How did the game feel? 

    Facilitator's notes

    If anyone is uncomfortable with the physical aspect of the game, do invite them to step outside and observe. As with all such games, the key to learning is in the debrief discussion. Here are some points that might emerge:

    • The groups started with an assumption that they could not speak to one another or reveal their task (this is often the case). Where did that idea come from, since it was not in the instructions? Is this common in the real world? How would negotiations and discussions change if we shared our objectives?
    • The groups started with an assumption that they would have to compete and fight. Where did that idea come from? Is this common in the real world?
    • What helped the shift from a win-lose to a win-win mindset? What happened then?
    • How did it feel to reach a solution that worked for everyone? 


    I am pretty sure I first read about this game on Seeds for Change, I cannot find it there anymore, if you do please let me know the link in the notes and I will add the attribution. 

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