This is a very interesting exercise which illustrates, how our mind works when we get new information which is supposed to help us solve our tasks better and faster, but instead actually seems to make things harder and more complicated.


To show how information which is actually helpful and supposed to make things easier, at first might make simple tasks (routine) take longer.



Setting it up:

This requires a little preparation, but not too much really. You copy the “Numbers” sheet so that you’ll have 8 per participant. So yes, with 100 people, you’ll need 800 in total of those, and on top of that 100 sheets of the “Learning Curve” page and a pen for everyone. 

To make things easier we suggest making sets for easy distribution, and with that in mind we’ve included a “Learning Curve Set” pdf which should make copying and distributing a breeze – 1 Learning Curve + 8 Numbers – It’s in the download section to the right.

Hand out the sets. 


Explain that they’re on a time schedule and will have to connect as many numbers from 1 to 60 as they can in 1 minute. Start the time and have them go as far as they can get.

Ask them how far they got and get some answers. Some will have 14, some 21. Have them put down their number on the “Learning Curve” sheet.  Make it a small competition, inspire them to concentrate, focus, pick up the pace!

Repeat this 4 times and keep asking how far they got. Also, ask if someone improved (which they will) and how much. Between each round, have them note down the number they reach on their learning curve. 

NOTE: If you want to try this yourself, just for fun, now is the time to stop reading and do the above – try it! You’ll find the next part interesting…

The Kicker:

Okay, people are improving! You probably have a few in their 40’ies now, everyone should be above 20 (except that one person where numbers just aren’t a friend). Fact is, it becomes increasingly easier every time. People manage to take the result further and further because it becomes routine. We know where the numbers are. We’re learning!

This is where you introduce a piece of “helpful” information…

Notice the sheet with the numbers, they’re scattered all over the place, right? Wrong. You’ll notice that if you fold the sheet in half on the long side (left to right) and spread it out again, you have all the odd numbers on the left side and all the even on the right side. Cool right?


Now, the immediate thought typically is, “Hey, NOW it’ll be easy!” And of course! We’ve just introduced some logic to this number madness, so it should be.

With this new information, have them go again. 1 minute. Ask them how far they got. Surprise! They did worse! Worse? How can that be? They just got new information which was supposed to make it easier, and yet they perform much worse now than before!

Have them note down the result, then have two more tries. See if they start to improve again. On the 8th attempt, they should exceed the result they had after 4th attempt. Most will anyway.

Pretty interesting huh?


On the “Learning Curve” sheet you’ll see a very common result of what happens when you introduce new systems, new ways of doing things, new technology, work flows etc. Even if it’s supposed to make life easier, increase production or output, adaption takes time.

Does this sound familiar?

This energizer is very valuable if you’re in a situation where the company is about to implement something new. Also, it’s equally valuable for the supervisors and management to be aware, that this is in fact the case.

We see this when we implement new IT systems, introduce LEAN, start new workflows etc. Often you’ll hear people complaining about how it by no means made things easier or faster – this energizer and game with reflection build in (knowing or unknowing) clearly illustrates it.

Have a debate about what the cause of this is. How to handle it. Which attitude to approach new things with. How the individual can make a difference in ensuring success with the new adjustments.

There are many angles on this, and we hope you’ll enjoy this exercise. It tends to be an eye-opener for many because it illustrates this so vividly.

No! The IT guys aren’t out of their minds. This system WILL increase productivity, WILL make your life easier, but yes you have to understand how it works and practice first.

Facilitation notes:

Before this exercise it might be interesting if they’re currently undergoing a project of change, if they’ve just had one or one is coming. That way you can aim this directly at something important and relevant to the group.

About Us

After years of experience with thousands of participants at conferences, meetings, sales training, kick-offs and much more, we’ve decided to share some of our experiences and tools on the internet, to help battle boring meetings and help presenters, speakers, trainers, teachers, managers and more, to deliver more powerful and engaging sessions and meetings.

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