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2017-07-04, , Comments


There were 12 of us in the room, plus Jim the instructor.

We had moved the tables and chairs to one side. Jim asked us to stand in the space we’d created. He asked each of us to pick two other people in the room, without telling anyone who we’d chosen.

The object of this exercise, Jim said, is to move around until each person is at an equal distance from the two people they’ve chosen.

Jim appointed Jo project manager.

You’re the project manager, Jim said. Get your team organised.

Jo had no particular instructions but as a team we instinctively started moving, stepping and turning. I was tracking Mark and Jo — who I’d chosen before her appointment as PM. I imagined a straight line on the floor of the room between the two of them and equidistant from both and walked towards it, adjusting my trajectory as they too moved. Ruth and Paul must have been following me: as I moved they turned and moved too.

Quite quickly we slowed down, making fine adjustments, shuffling into a final position. Was everyone happy? Yes? We’d done it.

Good work Jo!

What had Jo done? She’d let us get on with it. We were a self-organising team. What had I done? I’d suppressed my mathematical instinct to think before moving — I’d leapt rather than looked.


This is a great team training exercise. It encourages exploration and trust. Evidently it works, too — however people choose who to follow, there will be a solution which can be discovered using a simple and sensible strategy. It made me think of shoal behaviour in animals, where there is no leader and each individual follows the same small set of rules, but the apparently sophisticated resulting behaviour suggests the shoal has a mind of its own.


I experimented with a computer simulation. The picture above is a static snap shot — click it to access the live page and explore different configurations. I plan to experiment with different shoaling strategies and to expose more controls. The source code is here