Designer Tags

Let me take you through a vicarious experience: You are attending a 3-day strategic planning session. This is the first day and you pick up your name tag (with just your name) and grab a doughnut. At exactly 8:30 am, the workshop facilitator, Ethan, welcomes everyone. He points out that the other participants are from different departments in order to encourage cross-functional cooperation in the planning activity.

To help you get better acquainted with other participants, Ethan is going to conduct an opening activity called Designer Tags. He asks everyone to secretly look at the back of the name tag and read the name of another participant who is your mystery client. You check your name tag and find the name, Lynne. Ethan explains that you will have five 2-minute periods to pair up with another participant and to share information about yourself and your job. One of the people you talk to during these five rounds should be your mystery client. However, you should not let the other person find this out.

Slightly confused, you talk to Karen during the first round. She seems to know how to play the game and bombards you with questions about your family, your hobbies, and your job. You too ask similar questions and listen to Karen’s answers. Just when you are about to run out of conversational topics, Ethan blows a whistle, announces the end of the first round, and asks everyone to switch partners. You meet Roy from the accounting department and hold an interesting conversation.

During the next round, you get to talk to your mystery client Lynne who is from the marketing department. You collect all sorts of intriguing information about Lynne, without making it obvious that her name is on the back of your name tag.

Two more rounds later, Ethan now gives everyone a blank name tag card and felt-tipped pens. He asks each participant to create a name tag for his or her mystery client by drawing pictures on the card, leaving enough space for the participant’s name. You are not good at drawing pictures, but you manage to sketch two identical babies because you remember Lynne telling you proudly that she is the mother of twin girls. You decorate the rest of the name tag with colorful balloons and stars.

After about 3 minutes, Ethan asks everyone to stop their artwork, write the name of the mystery client on the back of the card in small letters, and place the card on a large table with the picture side up. He now invites everyone to identify the specially-designed name tag, pick it up, and verify the name on the back. You pick up a garishly illustrated name tag with a dagger dripping blood since you have confessed your addiction to murder mysteries to several people during the earlier rounds. You confirm your guess by turning the card over and finding your name there.

Ethan now asks everyone to write their name on the decorated side of the name tag and replace the earlier bland tag with this one. As a final activity, he asks everyone to explain what the pictures signify and to guess who drew the picture. You make two incorrect guesses before you identify Roy as your name tag designer.

During the 20 minutes of the activity you had lots of fun and learned interesting things about other participants.