Here’s a jolt that traps the participants into making unnecessary assumptions. This jolt works only if your participants know their dates of birth (DOB).


Ask the participants to stand in a single line according to their dates of birth--without talking. During the debriefing discussion, point out that the participants over-generalized from Don’t talk to Don’t communicate.


To become aware of making unnecessary restrictions we place upon ourselves.


  • Minimum: 10
  • Maximum: Any number
  • Best: 10 to 25


3 minutes for the activity.

5 minutes for debriefing.

Supplies and Equipment

  • Stop watch
  • Whistle


Explain the restriction. Tell the participants that they have to perform a task without talking to one another. All the participants should keep their mouth closed until the task is completed.

Explain the task. Ask the participants to stand in a single straight line according to their dates of birth. Tell them that they should ignore the year of birth and use only the month and the date to determine their place in the line. Announce that you are going to use a stopwatch to determine how quickly they accomplish this task.

Monitor the participants’ activity. Blow a whistle and ask the participants to get started. Start the stop watch. Remind them that they should not talk during the activity.

Conclude the activity. When the participants have organized themselves in a single line, note the time. Announce how much time it took them and congratulate the participants. Beginning with one end of the line, ask each participant to announce his or her date of birth (without the year).


Ask these questions:

  • Did anyone hear me say, “You cannot communicate with each other?”
  • Did I just say, “You cannot talk to each other?”

Ask the participants why they did not write their dates of birth. Point out that there was no injunction against communicating with each other in the written mode. Explain that some earlier groups completed the task faster by holding up pieces of paper with the date of birth.

Relate the experience to the workplace. Explain that the participants over-generalized the prohibition against talking to a prohibition against all modes of communication. Ask the participants to come up with workplace examples of unnecessarily extending a restriction beyond what it was supposed to prevent.


What if the participants started writing their date of birth? Congratulate the group for not imposing unnecessary limitations on themselves. Explain that the earlier groups did not come up with this creative strategy. Conduct a debriefing discussion about what stopped the other participants from using the written mode of communication.

Learning Point

We tend to impose unnecessary restrictions on our behaviors.