The name game

When I'm training/coaching a group of people I often haven't met any of them before and sometimes they haven't met each other either. So one of the first things we all have to do is get to know each others names. It can be boring and painful asking each person to briefly introduce themselves so here's an alternative...

Instead, announce that you want everyone to write their name on a flipchart (or whiteboard) and that you're going to time how long it takes. Your mobile phone probably has stopwatch feature (if not just count out loud). Then just say "go" and start the stopwatch. Some people will be puzzled and just sit there doing nothing for a while, but eventually everyone will realize you really mean it! When they've finished and sat down again tell them how long it took, comment on the illegibility of their writing, prepare a new sheet of paper on the flipchart (or wipe the whiteboard), and ask them to do it again making it clear that this time you want it done faster. And legibly! You have to be able to read the names! Say "go" again and restart the stopwatch.

You can easily and quickly repeat this up to ten times. You can allow a little retrospective time between iterations if you like. You can insist that the names are drawn in a way that bears some relation to where they're actually sitting. The variations are endless. The ingenuity shown by the groups when I've run this is often remarkable. They easily get the time down from about 2 minutes to a few seconds. I've also found it works very well if you rerun the exercise every morning (perhaps after hiding most of the pens ;-)

Quite by chance I've learned that my friend Henrik Kniberg has been using peoples names as the theme for a similar group exercise.