If you are training spies, this photocard activity will improve their ability to pay attention to the details in what they observe. Actually, you don’t have to train secret agents to benefit from this activity. You can use it to train any group of professionals (such as performance consultants, evaluators, or customer-service employees) who use systematic observation as a part of their job.
This activity uses photocards that are picture postcards depicting different activities. You can create your own deck of photocards or purchase ready-to-use decks from Glenn Hughes or others.
To pay attention to the details in a photograph.
Two players take turns to secretly write down a word that identifies an element in a photograph. One of the players (the Mind Reader) scans the photograph and guesses a letter in the secret word. The other player (the Observer) gives feedback about whether or not this guess is correct. These interactions continue until the secret word is correctly guessed.
Maximum: Any number, divided into pairs.
Minimum: 5 minutes
Best: 15 minutes
One photo card for each pair of participants
Display the photo. Place a photocard in the middle of the table so both players can see it.
Here’s a photocard Mark and I used when we played this game recently.
Assign roles. Name one player as the Observer and the other player as the Mind Reader. Explain that the players will alternate these roles as the game continues.
During the first round, I played the role of the Observer.
Choose a visual element. Ask the Observer to select a specific object or attribute in the photograph.
I could have selected any of these elements from this photograph: table, bottle, phone, book, name, pink, yellow, ball, glasses, cup, pen, thumb, light, flipchart, or marker.
Come up with a word. Ask the Observer to think of a single word to identify the selected item from the photograph. The Observer writes this word secretly on a piece of paper, folds the paper, and keeps the word hidden.
I chose the word “glasses” and wrote it on the piece of paper.
Draw blanks. Ask the Observer to draw as many blanks as there are letters in the secret word on a sheet of paper. This sheet (with the blanks) is placed in front of the Mind Reader.
Since the secret word I selected (glasses) has seven letters, I drew seven blanks on the piece of paper like this:
___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___.
Guess a letter. Ask the Mind Reader to guess a letter that occurs in the secret word.
Mark, the Mind Reader, guessed the letter “E”.
If this guess is correct, the Observer places the letter in all the blanks it appears.
Since this is a correct guess, I wrote the letter above the appropriate blank:
___ ___ ___ ___ ___ _E_ ___.
If the guess is incorrect, the Observer says, “Wrong” and writes the letter at the bottom of the sheet, away from the blanks.
If Mark had guessed the letter “M” (because he thought the secret word could be “man”), I would have said, “wrong”, and written the “M” at the bottom of the page.
Continue the activity. The Mind Reader guesses another letter and the Observer places it on one or more blanks or at the bottom of the page along with the earlier wrong letter.
During the subsequent rounds, Mark guessed these wrong letters: T, I, O, and N. He also guessed these correct letters: S, A, G, and L.
Conclude the activity. The guessing and writing letters are continued until all the blanks have appropriate letters, indicating that the secret word is correctly guessed.
It took Mark nine guesses before the secret word was revealed.
Score the round. The Mind Reader earns a negative point for each wrong letter guessed (and listed at the bottom of the page).
Since mark had guessed four wrong letters, his score for this round was negative 4.
Reverse the roles. Repeat the game with the Observer and the Mind Reader switching their roles. Score the round as before.
During the next round, Mark became the observer. His secret word was “water”. (He was thinking of the water inside the bottles on the table.)
Win the rounds. At the end of the second round, the player with the fewer number of negative points (for the wrong letters) wins.
Since I was not as sharp as mark, I guessed seven wrong letters during my round. So, mark won with his negative score of 4 compared to my negative score of seven.
Continue the game. Repeat the activity for as many rounds as time permits.
We played a total of eight rounds. Mark won six of them (but who’s counting?)
Want more action? Use your smart phone to shoot a video segment. Display the video to the group and warm them to watch carefully and take notes. Divide the participants into pairs and have them play the game based on their recollection of the same video.