A Matrix of Possibilities

By Brian Remer

Just as every coin has two sides (and an edge), we know that every issue has at least two ways of being viewed. Sometimes it's a challenge to identify all the nuances of meaning in an issue. To make things more complicated, we are usually holding a handful of coins!

This can make it difficult to sort out and compare all the aspects of all the concepts. That's where a Matrix Activity can be invaluable. Take each concept and make it the heading of a column on a grid. Then take the same headings and run them down the left side of the grid so they become the headings for each row. Point to a cell of the grid and it shows the interaction of a row and a column. Each concept can then be compared to every other concept - and itself. That's your matrix.

Thiagi has devised dozens of activities using a square matrix game board to...

  • Compare and contrast different concepts

  • Discover the impact that increasing or decreasing one factor will have on the other factors

  • Identify cause-effect connections among different activities

  • Compare advantages and disadvantages of alternative solutions

  • Explore diverse perceptions or points of view

I often use a simple matrix to help people delve into a topic more deeply. Posting the empty spaces of a giant matrix at the front of the room, I invite people to speculate about how the various concepts are interrelated. As the group fills the cells with a statement or collage to express the relationships, a complete picture of the concepts and their impact emerges.