You have two rows of people facing each other. Between them is one free space. The two rows now have to switch sides moving only using three types of moves.
This exercise is a combined physical and mental activity. It’s about teamwork, leaving room for everyone to join the dialogue and being able to keep track of the big picture.
No props are needed for this energizer.
Setting it up:
This is a very simple activity, and yet it causes some grief when the group faces this little dilemma. You want the participants to switch place so those on the left ends up on the right and vice versa. Split the group into two (make several teams of 6 (7) – 12 (13) if your group is too big to do this with just one team) and position people in two even rows across from each other with a space between them at the middle:
So, you have four people facing left and four people facing right. Between the two groups of four you have one blank space (E). When you move, you can only move in 1 of 3 ways; You either move forward into the blank space (as shown on illustration 2 – the person in space F moves to space E), you can skip 1 person and move into the blank space (as shown on illustration 3 – the person in space D skips the person in space E landing in space F, and finally you can move backwards one space if that space is blank (see illustration 2+3 below):
You can’t skip 2 people even if a space is available 2 spaces down. Just 1. You can go forward and backward as you please, as long as the above rules apply (there’s a free space).
The exercise is complete when the team manages to switch everyone so the 4 on the left are now on the right, and the 4 on the right are on the left. (see illustration 4 below)
If you have more participants then 8, let’s say 10, then you can either put them in the lineup just expanding to 11 spaces instead of 9. Alternatively, you can have them monitor from the sideline and help the team succeed. Often, it’s a great help to have someone standing with a different view of things to try and figure out how to manage and solve this.
Naturally, those from the lineup don’t have to stay in their spot either, they too can take a few steps away to get a better idea as to how to solve it.
If you have more than ten people, make two groups and make a competition out of it. You don’t have to supervise all teams at once, simply have them figure out the solution and have them call you over when they think they’re ready to demonstrate it for you. Time them or just call out a winner when the first team is successful.
If you have 1 person who is team captain and is calling all the shots as to whom moves where and when, make a rule that no one else can talk or give hints. This can make things a lot more difficult, but also very frustrating (something to talk about after the energizer) for those in the rows.
If you have more than one team captain calling shots, only those two (or three) are allowed to talk.
If you don’t have a team captain, have the people in the row take turns calling out the next move. This makes for an interesting dynamic, when one person moves someone from ie. D to E, and the next person moves that person back again. Often you’ll have some people who found the pattern/solution, while others are just guessing. They can’t talk or give hints to each other, only call out moves.
For a facilitator this is an excellent to observe the participants. Since it’s physical and people have to stay in place (to avoid confusion, not because you’re telling them to), for the participants seeing the bigger picture is really difficult.
What you should observe on is who takes charge. How do they take charge? How do they communicate with the teammates? Are they commanding, suggesting or asking? Do they seek advice or are they “all-knowing”? What is the behavior of those in the lines? Are they patient? Do they comply?
You’ll easily get an idea as to who takes the leading role (even if they weren’t given that role), who just follows orders etc.
If you need 8 people for The Switch, an idea is to assign 9 people to do the exercise. Name a random person the leader and see how they perform. If needed, inform the group that they can switch leader at any time, but that the leader makes the call as to who moves where. Introduce democracy. If they want to switch leader, at least 5 out of 8 have to agree to do so. Again, you can observe on this process and see who will stand by the leader and not sacrifice him/her just because they’re not 100% sharp on solving the problem.
We suggest max 12 people in this exercise per team. Otherwise it gets complicated to begin with. If you’re 50 people and you make 5 different teams for it, you can have them compete to finish first. Once they’re all done THEN you can line them up, 25 on each side and ask who has the courage to make The Switch with this amount of people.
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