Instructional puzzles can be incorporated into simulation games to act as metaphors for the realities of the workplace. Downsizing incorporates cryptic cluster puzzles that are presented elsewhere in this GameBlog.
To explore different aspects of teamwork, productivity, inclusiveness, and downsizing.
- Minimum: 6
- Maximum: Any number
- Best: 10 to 30
30 to 45 minutes
- Copies of different puzzles, preferably with instructional content. You may use the six cryptic cluster puzzles. Download the PDF copies of the puzzles.
- Pieces of paper
- Pens or pencils
Form groups. Organize participants into groups of four to seven participants each. Ask members of each group to sit around a table.
Appoint a Game Warden. Select the tallest member of each group to play the role of a monitor. Explain that the other members of the group will work as a team to solve a series of puzzles, but the Game Warden will not participate in this activity. Instead, this person will ensure that the team members follow the rules of the game.
Explain how to solve the puzzle. Distribute copies of a sample cryptic cluster puzzle to different teams. Demonstrate how to solve the puzzle by walking the participants through the process.
Begin solving the first puzzle. Distribute a copy of the first puzzle to each team. Ask team members to collaboratively solve the puzzle. Ask the Game Warden to let you know when the team has solved the entire puzzle.
Conclude the puzzle solving activity. At the end of 1 minute, blow a whistle to indicate the conclusion of the first round. Read the correct solutions. Identify the team that solved the puzzle first (or the team that solved most items in the puzzle) and congratulate its members.
Explain the downsizing move. Announce that as a downsizing move, each team has to eliminate one of its members. Ask the Game Warden to distribute pieces of paper to each team member. Ask team members to think back about the contributions of different people during the puzzle-solving activity, secretly write the name of the person who contributed the least, and fold the piece of paper to hide this name.
Eliminate a team member. Ask the Game Warden to collect the pieces of paper and place them on the middle of table, exposing the names. The person whose name appears on most pieces of paper is eliminated from the team. In case of a tie, ask the Game Warden to choose one of the tied names to identify the team member to be eliminated. Ask the eliminated team member to stay at the table and observe future activities, without participating in them.
Process the second puzzle. Distribute a copy of the next puzzle to each team. Repeat the process of asking teams to solve the puzzle, concluding the session after a minute, announcing the correct solutions, and identifying the winning team.
Eliminate the secondplayer. Ask the Game Wardens to repeat the process of distributing pieces of paper and eliminating the least-contributing member of each team. (The person who was eliminated during the earlier round does not participate in the voting process.)
Repeat the activity. Continue with additional puzzles and elimination of more players, one player per round.
Conduct the final elimination round. When the team is reduced to just two players, announce a modification in the elimination process: During this round, all ex-members of the team (those who have been eliminated during the earlier rounds) participate in the voting process.
Congratulate the survivor. Identify the person who did not get eliminated during this round. This person is the winner.
To ensure maximum learning from this activity, conduct a debriefing discussion. Encourage everyone to think back on their experience, come up with insights about teamwork, and share them with each other. Begin by asking the survivors how they feel about their current situation. Follow up with these types of questions:
- How do the people who were eliminated during the first round feel? How do the people who were eliminated during the final round feel?
- How did the team members feel about selecting someone to be downsized?
- What criteria did you use for deciding which team member is to be eliminated?
- What dilemmas did you face in naming a person to be downsized?
- Which was easier: to select the first person to be eliminated or the last person?
- What did you learn from this activity?
- How does the activity reflect what happens in the workplace?
- What if the final survivor received a cash prize? How would that have changed players’ behaviors?
- What if you were the Game Warden? How would you have behaved?
- What advice do you have for a person who is about to play this game for the first time?
Cryptic Clusters Puzzles
Effective training activities:
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Strategies for improving human performance:
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Forecasts about older Americans:
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Individual learning preferences:
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Activities in designing instruction:
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Differences that make a difference in the workplace: