Warp Speed

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Icebreakers/Warmups | Communication | Circle Games | Collaboration | Team Strategy

Group Size


  • 1 Throwable Object (Small Balls, Dog Toys, Etc.)
  • Timer (stop watch or watch with a second hand)

Set Up



This activity is a good one to follow Name Juggling.

Start by asking the group to stand in a circle and throw the ball back and forth from person to person so that everyone in the group gets it at least once, and it ends up back at the first person. For more info, see Name Juggling. Without telling the group, time the activity. Once the activity is complete, tell the group the time in which they completed it.

Then explain: "We are now going to see how quickly we can send this one ball from start to finish through the system. The only rule is that the ball must pass through the system in the same order that we have already established. (IMPORTANT: how you frame this rule will define the boundaries for how this task can be accomplished.) I will start time as soon as the ball leaves the first person, and I will stop time when it returns to him/her. You may begin when ready." Time their first attempt. Applaud their attempt, whatever it is (one second per participant or longer is quite normal). And prompt them with "you can do better." Allow for planning, additional attempts and more planning. At some point the group will ask you how fast this can be done or how fast you've seen it done or what the ultimate goal is. Answer for most groups of 20 people or less - less than one second. Continue until the group attains the elusive "warp speed" or ceases to be actively engaged in trying to reach it.

Facilitator Notes

Once the group learns of the goal (of less than 1 second), expect responses like "no way" and "are you kidding?" This will however alert them to the fact that the whole system needs to fundamentally change. Don't reveal this goal too early.

Fundamental changes that the group might progress through include movement (e.g. moving closer together, changing the position of the participants in the circle, moving out of a circle to a line or some other shape), changing how the ball moves through the system (e.g. from a toss to a hand off to a roll across hands or along the ground).

How creatively you allow the group to interpret its objective and the stipulation is a function of your assessment of the group and your learning goals. Groups sometimes ask if they can just put the ball on the ground and then touch it in succession, does this satisfy the objective? [Does it? Pause here and reflect ...] A good response in this case is usually to ask the group to answer its own question. Does the ball actually pass through the system in the correct order? Most groups usually choose to continue to seek another solution, and it is good to encourage their creative thinking even if it didn't exactly provide the solution - it shows movement in the right direction.

Debrief Questions

What went well? How did communication and planning impact the process? What major changes did you make in how you processed the ball through the system?