Erica Marx

You! Patterns

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Establish pattern to pass in a circle. Create a category that each person has a contribution (ie. breakfast cereals). Add another category. 



Become aware of clear communication


This pattern game takes a while to set up but proves well worth the wait, challenging the group’s attention muscles and bringing to light waves of insight for communication in chaotic settings.

Start with the group standing in a circle. Explain that you’ll be forming a pattern in the group that will include each person once before returning back to you. Gesture directly at someone else in the group—an open hand comes across as less aggressive than a finger point—and say “You.” That person then gestures to someone else and says the same “You.” Those who have received the “you” already should keep their non-pointing hand on their heart or on top of their head to show they’ve already been included. Eventually the pattern comes back to you, the facilitator.

Once the pattern is complete, review the pattern—each person pointing to the same person they did when the pattern was established—a few times to make sure the group has it well remembered. Experiment with starting a few simultaneous runs through the pattern so the group has three or four “you”s operating at once. Pause to debrief as necessary.

OK. So that’s the first pattern. Next, get a suggestion for a new category that has plenty of options to it (“animals,” “breakfast cereals,” “types of shoe” or something similar). This time, establish a new pattern where each person adds a different example of something in that category while pointing to a new person—not the person they pointed to during the “you” pattern. If animals were the category, we might hear “Iguana,” then “ocelot,” “seahorse,” “duck,” “leopard,” “owl,” “tortoise,” “honey badger,” “coyote,” “scorpion,” and “peacock.” Again, folks should indicate in some way that they’ve already been selected for the pattern.

As with the first, you can review the new pattern to make sure the group has it down, initiating a few concurrent cycles. Once the group has demonstrated mastery there, reintroduce the “You” pattern and see if you can get that successfully running with the new pattern at the same time.

When the group has two patterns down, establish a third with a new category—again, with folks pointing to another different person—and see if you can get all three going at once.

Insider Tips:

The first time through, recommend that folks pay careful attention who they send the “you” to and whom they receive it from.

If the group “drops” a pattern—you find that it has simply disappeared—you can simply reinitiate that pattern or, maybe more valuably, explore with the group why and how patterns get dropped. That conversation often proves fruitful for exploring a crucial component to the game. Your job as a sender is not just to put your message out there, it’s to make sure it was received.

Feel free to make the game even more challenging by adding even more patterns, establishing one pattern by throwing a koosh or other soft object, or by having people mill about the room. Or maybe you do one pattern silently. For an even crazier experience, add in a Go! Pattern. Get creative and see what happens!


From Ted's blog

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