This activity is a simple 60-second activity that packs a powerful metaphor. It’s not necessarily new, but reframing it with a small tweak has renewed it for me. I use it both in the virtual space as well as in-person.
I originally learned this from Karl Rohnke as a way to divide your groups. Simply ask your participants to clasp their hands together in front of them. If your left thumb is on top, then move to the left side of the room. If your right thumb is on top, move to the right side of the room. It’s uncanny, but often it is about a 50/50 split.
Now, the tweak I have made to the activity is around the topic of change management. So as mentioned before, ask your participants to clasp their hands in front of them. If their left thumb is on top, ask them to raise their hand. Then acknowledge the other group, and if their right thumb is on top, raise their hand.
Now here’s the kicker… Now ask them to try it the other way and interlace their fingers so that their other thumb is on top…
It feels so weird! I usually say something like, “Can you believe there are people walking around this world that think this is normal?!” And then I follow that statement up with, “This is why behavior change is hard.”
Other follow up questions:
- Is your way right and the other way wrong?
- If you were asked to do it this new way from now on, would it be difficult to not do it the old way?
- How does this relate to change management and behavioral change?
Once you have done clasped hands, follow it up with crossing your arms in front of you. It gets the same response, and some people actually can’t fold their arms the other way. Again, is your way right and the other way wrong? This is a quick, powerful metaphor for why changing habits or behaviors is difficult.
This activity can be done in the virtual space as well as in-person. It can be done with large groups or with an individual.