Team Tool: Popcorn

Anyone who has ever worked with red10 knows how much we encourage equal air time…there’s many ways to do this and If you’re tired of Creeping Death maybe it’s time to give Popcorn a whirl!

Creeping death?
That bit in the meeting when everyone responds in turn; around the table. Whether it be introductions, closing comments or key takeaways. It can feel like creeping death, where the last person to speak may feel they have nothing to contribute because it’s all been said or lost in time.

What do we mean by Popcorn?

You’ll remember how, when you heat the little hard golden nugget of corn, it eventually bursts into a new form making a great popping sound.

In the same way, the Popcorn system is that the group are asked a question and as soon as someone is ready to respond – or pop – they can.

The facilitator simply asks “who is ready to pop next?’, whilst keeping a mental note of who has contributed and who is yet to have their opportunity all the way until everyone has had a go.

Comparing Popcorn to other methods

On red10 masterclasses you’ll often hear us say that “systems breed behaviour’. Popcorn is a simple system that breeds good behaviours.

Because there is no predetermined order, people’s minds are freed up from thinking about where they are in the order to really hear other’s contributions. They can also then be inspired by what they have heard someone else contribute.

This all helps with being in an open-minded state.

And it is a very different type of listening:

Listening to hear and understand
rather than
Listening to respond

Comparing Popcorn to ‘Creeping Death’

Why is speaking in order of who you are sitting next to sometimes referred to as Creeping Death?

Seeing who is going to be next gives the system that element of predictably. In a large group you can get a feel for it creeping slowly around the group.

What impact can this have on us as thinkers?

For some, the next turn nearing you can create an anxiety or nervousness that behaviourally means they are so focused on what they might say that they probably don’t hear a good few people that go before them. Additionally, once they have made their contribution there is a good chance that they’re still dissecting what they said and not hearing others.

There’s pros and cons to every system. Another great Team Tool is nominating who goes next. It can often give more energy and pace and Popcorn, but it relies on people being comfortable when put on the spot.

What’s your preferred way of putting people at ease and ready to contribute in groups? Who’s ready to pop next?

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