This jolt dramatically explores the similarities and differences among people.


Assign the participants to two subgroups without specifying the characteristics that differentiate these subgroups. Invite the participants to try to discover the differentiating characteristics. Repeat this activity three times. During the third round, randomly assign the participants to the two subgroups.


To explore similarities and differences among people.

Training Topics

  • Critical thinking
  • Diversity and inclusion


  • Minimum: 10
  • Maximum: Any number
  • Best: 10 to 30


5 minutes for the activity. 5 minutes for debriefing.


Brief the participants. Explain that you are going to assign the participants to two subgroups. You will not specify the defining characteristics of the subgroups because you want the participants to figure them out.

Create two subgroups. Assign the participants, one person at a time, to one of the subgroups: Send the women to one subgroup and the men to the other subgroup. Stop when each subgroup has about five participants.

Invite guesses. Ask the members of the two subgroups (and the remaining participants) to try to guess the differentiating characteristic of the subgroups. Encourage the participants to yell out their guesses. Confirm gender as the correct differentiating characteristic and congratulate the participants for their astute observation.

Conduct the second round. Tell the members of the subgroups to return to their original seats. Inform everyone that you are going to create two new subgroups using another defining characteristics. As before, work with one participant at a time. Send each participant to a subgroup, one subgroup of people with glasses and the other without glasses.

Guess again. Ask all participants to yell out their guesses of the characteristic used for defining the subgroup membership. Confirm glasses as the correct differentiating characteristic and congratulate the participants.

Next round. Announce that you are going to repeat the activity with new defining characteristics for them to guess. Warn the participants that this characteristic will be subtle and difficult to discover (such as personality type of educational background). Invite the participants to suggest suitable differentiating characteristics. Listen to the participants’ suggestions (and ignore them).

Pretend to use the same procedure as before. However, this time randomly assign each participant to one of the two subgroups. Stop when you have about five people in each subgroup and invite the participants to yell out their guesses of the defining characteristics. Reject each guess.

Make a confession. After a suitable pause, confess that you randomly assigned the participants to the subgroups. Be ready to face hostile looks and angry shouts. Explain that you had an instructional rationale for your subterfuge. Proceed to the debriefing discussion.


Pair work. Ask the participants what they learned from the activity. Invite the participants to pair up with someone else and brainstorm the probable learning points.

Make presentations. Invite the participants to share their learning points and encourage the others to comment on them. Add your own comments.

Share the learning points. Present the two items listed below as ideas offered by earlier participants. Invite the participants to provide evidence from the jolt that supports or rejects these learning points. Also invite the participants to share workplace experiences related to the learning points.

Learning Points

  1. We share many characteristics and differ along many others. Some of these characteristics are clear and salient while others are subtle.
  2. In the absence of logical classification, we have a tendency to attribute differences between random subgroups.