“Dump and clump” exercises are a fairly common tool in the world of workshop facilitation. Get people to think individually about a topic, and write down the things they think about on individual PostIt notes. (“No, Jeremy. One idea per PostIt note, please. Don’t worry, it’s not your stationery budget.”)
You then get people to put the PostIts up on a wall or whiteboard, and then get them to clump the things together into meaningful themes. The final stage is to get them to name the themes.
It’s fine. It’s also so common that people get bored. And the cheaper the PostIt knock-off, the less likely it will stick on the wall for a meaningful period of time.
For a few years now, I’ve been using an alternative method, based on the children’s card game Snap! It works like this…
First off, you need a stack of bits of cardboard. Ideal for the purpose are John Willshire’s Artefact Cards, but index cards, or cut-up bits of larger sheets will work too. You need something between business card and playing card-sized.
Give participants cards and a pen. Set them the topic. At this point, people are working in isolation.
When people are running out of ideas, you then start playing Snap! One person lays down a card, and then if anyone else has the same card they call “Snap!” and lay it down on top. You’ll get debate about whether some cards are the same or not, which is where the analysis really lies. Move clockwise or anti-clockwise around the group until all the cards have been laid.
To keep interest going, you can make it more of a competitive game. Award a point to anyone who lays down a card which is unique. I suppose you could then have a prize, but I tend to use points in a way that is akin to the famous radio game Mornington Crescent.
By the end of the game, your ideas will have been grouped, but the grouping will have been happening along the way rather than at the end. And I tend to find the dynamics of everyone sitting around a table more inclusive than people standing at a whiteboard.
The technique can also work online using a tool like Miro.
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