Need Ideas? It’s In The Bag

paper bagTrying to solve a problem?  Need help getting people to provide input?  When things are not working well or you are facing a challenge, getting a group of people together to brainstorm barriers or fixes can help bring things to the surface – that is only if they are willing to give input.  Sometimes people are afraid to speak up with issues.  They might feel like they will viewed as a non-team player or that they are pointing fingers.   So how do you get this discussion going?  “Pass the Bag.” It’s one of the best ways to get people talking about an uncomfortable subject or providing anonymous input.   I’ve done this several times and it has always yielded positive results.

You start the activity by asking  each person to write their concern on a note card.  They can write more than one.  The cards are folded and put in a bag.  Once everyone has their input provided, the facilitator starts going through the bag, selecting and reading the cards and prompting a discussion. Having a facilitator read the card is a safe way to introduce a controversial topic and once it is out in the open, others are more likely to provide their perspective.  No one has to know who put the idea in the hat.   If you want to spice it up a bit, add your own cards that address tough issues.

I remember one such exercise where someone wrote something on a card that was controversial and brutally honest.   When I read the card, the room went silent and then someone said, “Who had the guts to put that in the bag?”  Everyone laughed and relaxed a bit and when asked, most agreed with the comment.  It’s not a bad way to get candid feedback.  Usually people want to provide input and discuss issues.  Pass the Bag makes it safe and fun.