Try this iterative drawing team activity

- Practices & Exercises

by Dov Tsal

Most team activities I know are either competitive, too darn didactic, or have nothing to do with work.

This time I’d like to introduce you to a fun team activity that will get them out of their comfort zones, will tap on their creativity, and is bound to get some insights about the value of teamwork.

I give you…The Iterative Team Drawing Activity!

Materials & duration

Duration: 10-minute activity and 20-30 minute showcase and retrospective.

Materials:

  • Two sheets of paper per participant (I used A5, to give intimacy)
  • Pens / pencils, preferably different colors, widths, etc — some whiteboard markers in the mix would be great!
  • Tables and chairs to sit around in groups of four to seven (one person can go around to change place)
  • One drawing model (statue/ toy) to draw per table (can be a Happy Meal prize, as you may see below)
  • A timer

Preparation:

  • Put the model at the center of the table.
  • The team (6 people is a perfect size) sits around the model, ready to draw what they see. You can have a few teams in parallel.

Instructions

Iteration number one: (read aloud)

You have three minutes to:

  • Draw the model (just as you see it)
  • Write at the bottom a meaningful six-word sentence (anything that comes to mind)
  • The facilitator will warn you when 20 seconds are left, and you should stop when time is up.

Iteration number two: (read aloud)

You have three minutes to (just as before)

  • Draw the model (just as you see it)
  • Write at the bottom a meaningful six-word sentence (anything)

However:

  • You will work in six 30-second sprints. (total of three minutes, as before)
  • In each sprint you will draw what you see, and write one word on the page.

When a sprint is over (30 seconds), the next starts immediately, and you will shift places:

  • Get up, leave the paper in place (for your successor), but take your pen with you.
  • Move to the sit on your left (around the table)

Continue the drawing on your new position, and add one word to the sentence that is there.

Note: there is no break between the sprints! The total time of this iteration is the same as the last one!

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Some facilitation hints

During the activity:

  • Be a strict time keeper
  • Remind people to write a single word each sprint in the second iteration.

Retrospective:

Run at each table a mini exposition, where each member presents the two drawings she has, and the table discusses their experiences.

  1. Which of the two drawings looks richer?
  2. Which of the two sentences is more interesting?
  3. Who is the owner of each drawing?
  4. In the first iteration,  
    1. Were there any incomplete drawings? 
    2. People who finished ahead of time? (what did they do in this time?) 
    3. How did people who ‘can’t draw’ feel?
  5. In the second iteration: same questions…
  6. Did the people who ‘can’t draw’ learn anything about drawing?, did the people who ‘do know’ learn anything?

Some additional points (from my experience)

About the second iteration:

  • It looks more wasteful ‘on paper’ but it isn’t (drawing are richer and more detailed/ complete)
  • People get to see the whole picture (not just the back or the front of the model)
  • There is uniformity in the results (for good or bad)
  • Different people bring complementary skills, some go into details, some draw big features, some fill areas, some lines, all this makes the result very rich.

Some additional points for discussion

  • How do you feel about ownership? Do you feel the second drawing is yours? Or were you ‘just’ doing something on it? Were you afraid to ruin someone’s work? Afraid that someone ‘ruins’ yours?
  • Is there someone who insists to ‘just add a line or two’ at the end of a sprint? Who blocks all the rest from sitting down and starting the new sprint, and they have less time to ‘work’?
  • If someone started drawing small, did the rest continue a small drawing? If big, will they continue a big one?
  • Sample text in first iteration: “I’m not sure what I’m doing”, second: “I’m drawing someone’s photo of an old raccoon.”

Let me know if you try it! What were your variations and insights?


3 thoughts on "Try this iterative drawing team activity"

  • Deepak Sharma says:

    I tried this technique as an experiment in a discussion about ‘user stories’ it went well and I would do it again!
    I was pleasantly surprised that the team all agreed the second version was much richer and overall a better shared experience.
    Might be fun to start uploading the pictures output somewhere online.

  • Dov Tsal says:

    Deepak, so glad you liked it!
    – No surprise the team liked the second one better.
    You can share the pics with me, I’ll post them 🙂
    And thanks so much for the feedback! knowing someone read what I wrote adn found is useful is awesome!

  • Thereságil says:

    voy a realizar el ejercicio con mi equipo!! 🙂

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