An exercise to unblock teams and overcome resistance

The mindsets your team apply can block or amplify their performance.

The way we think filters reality. Mindsets can clarify or cloud our perception. This exercise will help your team upgrade their mindset.

What

Any team can benefit from this exercise. It can help adopt a positive mindset or turn a blocker into and an amplifier.

Participants will play with different mindsets. And experience the positive and negative effects of each.

Goals for the team:

– Acknowledge the mindsets they usually use when working together

– Reframe blocking mindsets into amplifying ones

Here are the most common blockers and amplifiers that affect team performance.

How

Depending on group size, either a circle of chairs or tables set up for small groups to interact. Standing up always works best.

This is a good reflection exercise to realize the impact of our mindsets.

First, the group will practice using blockers. Then, they will reframe the same conversation by using amplifiers instead.

blockers and amplifiers to shift our mindsets
Blockers and Amplifiers exercise by Liberationist.

“That will never work.”

Rejecting an idea even before analyzing it is a usual way of blocking creativity. We immediately reject what we don’t know. Or focus on the negative impact rather than seeing its bright side too.

First Round: Ask people to share different ideas. Each time someone makes a recommendation, another person replies with “That will never work because…” and provides a reason why the idea might fail.

Second Round: Repeat the same sequence.
This time, once someone posses an objection, someone else chimes in with a solution. People should respond using the “What if we try this…?” format.

The responses should help neutralize the whole objection or part of it. The idea is to keep the group moving forward. Instead of getting stuck by a blocker, they use an amplifier to neutralize it.

“That’s not how we do things here.”

This exercise works exactly the same as the one above. Just replace the blocker and amplifier.

In this case, the focus is on how traditions or cultural behaviors can get in the way of innovation. Encourage the team to challenge how they do things by exploring new possibilities

Organizations resist new approaches or ways of working before even trying them first. By asking, “What if we try this…?” we invite the team to experiment before jumping into conclusions.

From “No” to “Yes, and.”

Saying ‘no’ is the fastest way to block a brainstorming session.

This protocol developed by improv artists uncovers what happens when we block new ideas by saying, “no.”

First round: Ask participants to brainstorm on a particular topic. After an idea is shared, any participant must respond “no” and suggest a different idea. And then someone else replies “no” and, once again, proposes an entirely different idea.

Second round: Repeat the same sequence but using “Yes, but…” The effect is the same. People dismiss others’ ideas but with a passive-aggressive approach.

The brainstorming gets stuck too.

Third round: Repeat the same sequence but using “Yes, and…” People should build on someone else’s ideas.

This last iteration unblocks creativity and generates more engaging and exciting conversations. People use other ideas as a springboard. The team collaborate and work together rather than block other people’s ideas.

Read more about the “Yes, and” approach here.

“We don’t have resources for that.”

This exercise addresses a very frequent, yet unnecessary, blocker: the lack of budget.

I’ve never worked with a company that has all the money to do everything they want. The larger the budget, the more people want to do.

Money is always a limited resource. By rethinking our priorities, we can always make money available.

For this exercise to work, the team must address real issues. Ask them to bring up initiatives that they find interesting that lack funding.

After presenting the objection (“We don’t have resources for that…”) the team brainstorms. They must uncover new ways to fund an initiative. Or they can reallocate budgets to free money for the new idea.

This exercise can be applied to any resource, not just money. For example, when a team needs more people to finish a project. The same principle applies: reallocate people to find support for a new project.

Facilitation Tips

You can focus on one blocker/ amplifier or facilitate 2 or 3. It depends on the time available and how quickly the team gets it.

Reflect after each exercise. How do words affect our mindsets? What’s the role that mindsets play in everyday collaboration?

Discuss the mental shift when teams use amplifiers instead of blockers. What’s the impact? How do amplifiers help unblock communication and solve problems?

I usually start with the “Yes, and” exercise and then facilitate “That will never work…” and “We don’t have resources for that” in that order.