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THIAGI TRAINING TIP: Reduction Exercise

25 Nov 2019 3:28 PM | Anonymous

The closing event at the SIETAR USA conference was an activity that helped people distill what the conference meant to them. We also used it as a vehicle for giving away a free Master Workshop for the 2020 conference in Omaha. Our group of 3 judges had a hard time deciding who the winner was because so many of the bumper stickers were so good. I usually find myself referring to it as the Bumper Sticker Exercise but if you say that to participants, they know what is coming. So, I’ve changed it as you can see. Our winner was Russanne Bucci with “Change Behavior, Change Minds.” Some others: “World That Works=Everyone.” “Keep Opening Your Mind.” “Through Inquiry Comes Direction.” “Interculturalist On Board.” And one that I like that was repeated, “I Will Be Back.”

This is an exercise that I have found useful in many settings and I thought you might want to have it for your own use. Put your content into the frame and it should work well. It focuses people on what is important. It goes quickly and provides some good discussion as a result. I introduced it as the way to determine what you will say on the elevator when someone asks: “So how was the conference?”

Thiagi’s Reduction Exercise

Assign teams. Divide the participants into 3 to 5 teams, each with 2 to 7 members.

Get started. Ask an open-ended question (such as: What is the mission of our organization? How should we delight our customers?) Ask each team to come up with a response in exactly 16 words – no more, no less. Assign a 3-minute time limit.

Review the 16-word responses. Ask each team to read its statements. Encourage everyone to listen carefully so they can “borrow” ideas from other teams’ statements for later use. After reading all responses, ask a panel of judges (which is assembled from the participants) to identify the “best” response.

Shrink to 8 words. Ask teams to rewrite their responses in exactly 8 words. In this process, they may borrow ideas from other statements. Suggest that teams reduce the size of their responses by removing unimportant ideas, superfluous words, and redundant language. Assign a 3-minute time limit.

Reduce by 50 percent. Repeat the process of collecting and reading the 8-word responses. Select the best statement as before. Now ask the teams to reduce their statement to one-half of its current size (to exactly 4 words) while retaining the essential concepts. Encourage teams to leave out secondary ideas instead of words. Assign a 2-minute time limit.


1. Organize teams. Invite the participants to work with any number of friends, from 0 to 20.

2. Assemble a panel of judges. Gather 3 to 7 judges from SIETAR VIPs or representative participants. (Have them develop their criteria for judging the winner.)

3. Ask one of these questions: What was the most important event in the conference? How might your professional life change as a result of attending this conference? How was the conference? What did you learn?

4. 16-word response. Ask the teams to come up with a response in exactly 16 words. Announce a suitable time limit.

5. Judge the 16-word responses. Ask representative from different teams to read their responses. Ask the panel of judges to identify the best response, using what criteria they want.

6. Conduct two more rounds in teams. One for 8 words and the other for 4 words. Repeat the judging procedure as before.

7. Each individual: Prepare a bumper sticker. Ask each person to prepare a bumper sticker with the best 4-word response and display it on the wall.

Sandra Fowler
Guest Training Tip Author

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