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Human Spectrogram

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20 +5 - 50 Medium

Applying a linear scale to gather a diversity of perspectives, opinions and responses.



Help people to hear each other's opinions, surface similarities and differences, and get know each other by physical movement along a linear scale before verbally sharing.





    Setting: One long piece of masking tape

    Pre-Work Required: In a large open space put a long piece of tape on the floor. It should be long enough for the full group present to spread itself out over. So for larger groups, longer tape or more room around the tape. For smaller groups, it can be as short as 3-5 meters.


    1. Ask everyone to stand up and gather around the tape. Explain that the tape is a continuum between two answers to questions they will be asked. Then kick off with a simple, fun question to demonstrate the method. (e.g. I love chocolate - go to that far end of the tape, I really really don't like chocolate, go to the other end, then everyone else move to spread themselves along the tape depending on how much they do/don't like chocolate.)

    2. (With a microphone if it is a large group) Walk up and down the tape and take a few responses from people as to why they positioned themselves on the tape the way they did. Usually it is good to sample from both ends and somewhere in the middle. If, upon hearing other people's responses, people wish to change position, encourage them to do so. This is about sense-making, not about an absolute measure of peoples' opinions.

    3. Then move on to your "serious" questions. These will vary based on the context. Start with simpler questions, and move to more complex ones.

    4. As you ask questions, encourage people to notice who is where on the line - this helps people find people in common or who have different views that could be useful discussion starters.

    5. Depending on time, use between 3- 7 questions. You can tell it is time to quit when people stop moving and are talking to each other more than participating. This means either they are bored, or they have become deeply engaged with each other. And the latter is a good thing!

    Potential pitfalls: This method is not appropriate for a group with mixed power levels, because participants immediately see how leadership figures vote and will be prone to simply follow their lead rather than thinking for themselves.

    Examples of successes and failures: The success of this exercise depends very much on the quality of questions asked. Special attention should be paid to the questions.


    Comments (3) (4.5 avg / 2 ratings)

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    • I've used this for years, but called it the "Line up icebreaker," although this is a better name! It is one of my favorites for large groups of staff. My favorite question is "I love change/I hate change." On a couple questions, I'll ask for them to arrange themselves silently (by birthday for example) which requires nonverbal communication.

      about 2 months ago
    • I have participated in a session that was skillfully facilitated with this technique for a group of 20+. This is a fun and flexible approach for use to support a broad range of topics from simple to those requiring deeper reflection, esp topics involving different perspectives. It helps to provide clarity when stating both ends (the extremes) of the continuum, e.g. "for" vs "against", to enable more meaningful engagement.

      about 2 years ago
    • If the questions are open-ended, and a bit broad, this is a great way to begin to understand perspectives that are very different. It may open ensuing dialogue in a powerful way.

      about 6 years ago