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Thiagi Training Tip: Clock on the Ceiling

11 Feb 2019 5:46 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

I just got back from China where I conducted workshops on designing training games in different locations for 10 days. I also consulted with game designers for 5 days. My recent experience confirmed what I learned from facilitating game design workshops in 26 different countries around the world: Playing games is a human universal. We are all homo ludens.

I have conducted training activities that last from 3 minutes to 3 hours. With intercultural audience, brief activities work better than lengthy ones. My intercultural trainees become more engaged and learn more effectively with the type of brief training games that I call jolts.

Jolts lull the participants into behaving in a comfortable way and deliver a powerful wake-up call. They force the participants to re-examine their assumptions and revise their standard procedures. Jolts typically last for a few minutes but provide enough insights for a lengthy debriefing.

Here’s a sample jolt from my collection called Clock on the Ceiling:


To explore how point-of-view determines what you see


One or more. Even large numbers of people can simultaneously participate in this individual activity


3 minutes for the activity. 5 to 15 minutes for debriefing.


Ask the participants to stand up. When the participants stand, ask them to extend their right arms and point their index fingers up toward an imaginary clock on the ceiling. Then ask the participants to lower their right hands below shoulder level by bending their elbows while still pointing their fingers to the clock on the ceiling.

Rotate the fingers around the clock. Next, ask the participants to raise their hands above their heads again and point to the 12 o'clock position on the imaginary clock. Then ask the participants to use their fingers to circle around the clock to the 3 o'clock position, then around to the 6 o'clock position, then up to the 9 o'clock position, then back to the 12 o'clock position. When the task is complete, ask the participants to continue moving their fingers in a clockwise rotation without stopping.

Ask participants to lower their hands. While the participants continue to circle the imaginary clock in a clockwise direction with their right index fingers, instruct them to keep their fingers pointed toward the ceiling and their eyes on their extended fingers as they circle around the clock. Instruct participants to slowly lower their hands so their index fingers (still rotating) come to a position below shoulder level.

Point to the direction of the rotation. Ask the following question about the rotation direction: "What direction is your finger moving now, clockwise or counterclockwise?" All the participants should be looking down at their rotating fingers (in contrast to looking up at their rotating fingers earlier). All the participants should clearly see a change in the direction of rotation. You can act surprised when participants report a counterclockwise rotation of their fingers.


A change of perspective. Ask participants why they think the change in direction of rotation occurred. Steer the discussion toward this conclusion:

The participants' fingers actually continued rotating in the same direction after their hands were lowered. What changed was the point of view.

Explain that when participants looked at their rotating fingers as they pointed toward the imaginary clock on the ceiling, the perspective was from the bottom up. Once the hands and rotating fingers were lowered below shoulder level, the point of view was from the top down. This change in perspective explains the perceived change in their finger rotation direction.

How does this relate? Continue the debriefing discussion by asking participants to identify situations in which a change of perspective results in a radical change in perception.

Learning Points

1. Our perceptions depend on our point of view.

2. By taking time to appreciate the power of perspective and its impact on perception, radically different understanding is possible.

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