25 Objects Game

45 minutes
Learning Outcomes

The objective is to demonstrate that creativity is more likely to flourish under unstructured than under structured supervision. (But don’t tell the group this in introducing the game.)

Before introducing the game, assemble 25 objects and place them in a big envelope or bag, one envelope or bag per team. Each envelope or bag should contain an identical 25 objects.

Resources & Preparation Needed

 25 objects in an envelope or bag for each group (the contents of each envelope should be identical), one per team.

  • Plastic spoon, highway map, ketchup in small plastic bag, sugar packet, coin, stone, small pine cone, aspirin, candle, piece of plastic, key, piece of wire, screw, or nail, hair pin, pencil, telephone memo slip, needles or pins, button, piece of cloth, matches, beer can opener, etc.

One flipchart paper and one market for each team

Printed instruction sheets:

  • Supervisor A – 1 copy for every other team 
  • Supervisor B – 1 copy for every other team
  • Group instructions – 1/group
Description

Before introducing the game, assemble 25 objects and place them in an envelope or bag like described above, one per team. Each envelope or bag should contain an identical 25 objects. 

2 supervisors will be assigned, these are participants in the game and one will give structured assignments and guidance and the other unstructured. If necessary take these participants apart and explain them what the goal is of this activity like described in the learning outcomes.

Divide the group into teams of five to nine persons.

Appoint a supervisor for each group. The leaders are to function differently—some will be relaxed, encouraging, unstructured leaders (Supervisors A); the others will be more structured (Supervisors B). 

In the templates, these supervisors can read their assignment but don’t let the other participants know.

Each supervisor receives only his/her instructions in writing and does not see the other instructions.

 

The instructions to be given to the unstructured supervisor, Supervisor A: Instructions for Supervisor A (print as an instruction sheet):

Your group has the task of grouping (classifying) a number of similar objects. Your group’s creativity will be measured by its ability to come up with as many groupings as it can in the ten minutes available. Your job is to unleash the creativity that lives in this group. Since the task is clear-cut, just start them off with an encouraging sentence or two. Then give them their instruction sheets, dump the 25 objects on the table, and begin to work for the ten minutes.

 

Instructions for Supervisor B (Print as an instruction sheet):

Your group has the task of grouping (classifying) a number of similar objects. Your group’s creativity will be measured by its ability to come up with as many groupings as it can in the ten minutes available. 

Prior experience with this game indicates that your group will perform well if it receives a helpful “pep talk” as an introduction to their actual work on the task. It is thus essential that you talk to them for four or five minutes on the importance of putting things into groups or categories. Use examples from:

  • Everyday experience—for example, a supermarket couldn’t function if it didn’t group its products properly (apples, oranges, cookies, cereals, meats, frozen foods, etc.); 
  • The auto industry couldn’t serve its clients if it didn’t carefully group its replacement parts using various lists and catalogues;
  • Imagine a library without a system of classifying its books, or stamp collectors who didn’t group their stamps by country, or zoologists and botanists who failed to classify fauna and flora.
  • Company experience—for example, the personnel office groups jobs in classes for recruitment and pay purposes; secretaries maintain groupings of letters (files) for easy reference.

After your introduction, don’t pause for questions. Just pass out the instruction sheets, dump the 25 objects on the table, and begin to work for the ten minutes.

The best arrangement for the game is to have each group work in a separate room. A large room may also allow for privacy and non-interference from the other group(s). If a private room is not available, let the teams work one at a time, with the non-players staying outside the game room.

  • Instruct each group to stay together and not to talk to each other, or it will spoil the game.
  • Each team should have a table to work on, a flipchart sheet or two to record their categories, and a felt-tip pen.
  • Have the team leaders hand out the following instructions to each member of their team when the task begins, but not before that time:

Group Instructions:

Divide the total group into subgroups and position them at different points in the room. Introduce the game as follows: “We are about to engage in a game which will test the creative power of your group. I will now appoint team supervisors and give them their instructions. Will the team supervisors please step forward and read your instructions privately?” After they have read their instructions, give them each the big envelope of objects and a group of participant instruction sheets.

Call each group of supervisors (A vs. B) aside separately to check if they have questions. Tell them that their sequence of operations is as follows:

  1. “Have everyone find a seat around the table.”
  2. “Deliver your introductory remarks and get going. Do not pause for questions since the participants are being given an instruction sheet.”
  3. “Pass out the participant instruction sheets and dump the 25 objects on the table. This is the signal to begin work.”
  4. “Conduct the task for ten minutes.”

This game is designed to stimulate the creative power of your group. Your task is to:

  • Come up with as many different categories or classifications as you can of the 25 objects that you have been given; for example, your ball point pen can be put into such categorie as plastic, metal, etc.
  • List the categories on the newsprint sheet.
  • Perform the task in ten minutes.

After all teams have done their work, either simultaneously or in sequence as privacy conditions may allow, have the team leaders post their flipcharts to the wall and count the number of categories their groups produced.

Ideas For Reflection

Leave it open and let the kids say which model worked better for them and why? 

Experience with this game indicates that these results will typically ensue:

  1. The structured team(s) will perform less well than the unstructured ones. Why? Because structure inhibits creativity: “If you give Johnny a paint brush and ask him to paint a horse, you’ll only get a horse. But if you say: ‘Johnny, draw whatever you like,’ you may get the Mona Lisa.”
  2. Sometimes both kinds of teams have a tie, or nearly so. If so, the question is: “If lectures don’t make a difference, why give them? Why run the risk of smothering creativity with a lot of patter? If you over-communicate, the group has two problems: the assigned task and how to cope with the leader’s input about the task.”
  3. If, as a less likely possibility, the structured team wins by a large margin, ask the observer what produced the creativity. Also, tell them that this result is unusual, for typically the added structure tends to confuse people, slow down the group, and inhibit its creativity. Conclude the discussion by asking participants to draw on their own experience concerning the impact of high/unnecessary structure on creativity.