People become a tribe when they share an experience, especially an experience with emotional impact. The impact can be serious, such as being stranded together on a desert island, or trivial, such as everyone being puzzled about something. A game has amazing power to unify a group of strangers and give it identity, and it uses a trivial emotional experience to do so-much easier to do than strand everyone on a desert island.
Some say humans best when they're part of a tribe of twenty or so, and games create a temporary (or not so temporary) version of this microcosm. Here's a game to do this:
This game is for people old enough to dance. That means from high school through about 95. This will even work with people in wheelchairs. It works best with more than a dozen participants, and works well with a group containing complete strangers. In a business context, coupled developing group unity, this game makes a good point about figuring out a solution and acting on it. If you do not dance, you can still play this game by making fun of dancing or calling it a gymnastic exercise.
- Get a broom. A normal floor-sweeping broom is best. Journal push brooms do not work quite as well (unfasten the head and make a crack about pole dancing). Its important features are that it be about human-height, easy to grasp in both hands, and fairly light.-So you can dance with it.
- Gather everyone in a circle with you (and the broom) in the middle. Announce that you are going to demonstrate a special dance, and it is their job to figure out the secret of the dance. Feel free to give preposterous background info, like this is what the boss does in his office when the door is closed, or you learned it from a Samoan witch doctor.
- Make a big production out of preparing to dance (bow, curtsy, greet the broom, ask for the dance, whatever), then dance with the broom. Spin around, make some goofy motors, fancy footwork. Sing. Whatever. The idea is to make everyone think there's something about the dance that they have to imitate. It's a good idea to do something more than once.
- After about ten seconds of this, approach someone in the circle, hand them the broom, and say, "Now you do it." This is the key to the game: After the performance, hand the broom to someone and say "Now you do it." Nothing else matters.
- You can prep someone in advance if you want. If you do, make sure everyone knows they know, so when they demonstrate and confidently hand off the broom, everyone will expect the confident hand-off.
- Demonstrate as necessary. Occasionally someone will catch on, and everyone usually figures it out fairly quickly after that because of the sudden confidence of the dancer.
Go immediately to another activity such as food, the main meeting, or another game, but make the transition in a relaxed manner so people can talk about the game.