Spoons – a lateral thinking game

When to use “spoons”.

I use this brief exercise if the group’s energy is a bit low or if we have been doing intense work and a bit of light relief would help. It may also help a group that is working mechanically to be more creative. It will work best in groups of six to twelve people.

The game

  1. Have the group (including you) sit in a circle of chairs (not behind desks!) where you can all see each other.
  2. Tell them you are going to pass two spoons or pens or markers around the group.
  3. Tell them there is one simple, unchanging rule that determines whether someone passes the objects to the next person “crossed” or “uncrossed”.
  4. The objective of the game is to work out what the rule is.
  5. You pass them, see 8 below, and say whether they are crossed or uncrossed.
  6. When the next person passes them on, you say again whether they are crossed or uncrossed but not why.
  7. When someone works out the rule, she or he should continue to pass the objects and say whether they are crossed or uncrossed until everybody has worked out what the rule is.
  8. The rule is that the objects are passed “crossed” if the person passing them has her or his legs, or ankles, crossed and “uncrossed” if they are not. Note what people do with the objects is irrelevant!

Guidance for facilitators.

This can be an intensely frustrating game for people, usually very intelligent people, who don’t get it. If you judge the frustration level is getting too high, then drop a few gentle hints like saying you are in two minds about whether the “spoons” are crossed or uncrossed while crossing and uncrossing your legs!

It is certainly time to do this if people are laughing at the person who is stuck rather than with him or her.

When you are done, you may want to have a brief discussion about lateral thinking and/or hear about the increasingly desperate hypotheses some people where imagining for the rule.

If you would like help using this idea, or have any comments or questions please contact me. Thanks, Nick