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Taking Risks

Submitted by Jack Byrd, Jr.

Often groups will default to safe choices. As a result, groups fail to identify possibilities that are bold, anticipatory, or break new ground. This activity demonstrates a process that encourages groups to take risks together.

average rating is 5 out of 5, based on 1 votes, rating(s)
Man leaping between boulders in the desert

Learning Goal

  • Become more aware of the role that risk plays in group imagination and decision-making.


Set Up: Prepare for the Activity

Organize participants into pairs or small groups (3-5 ppl).

Begin by introducing the learning goals of this activity.

Step One: Take Inventory of Initial Reactions (5 min)

Share the following prompt or create a relevant prompt for your group:

Institutions of higher education need to reimagine their role in society. What do you think the future university should look like?

As a full group, take a few moments to generate responses to the question posed and record them on a board, flip chart or shared screen.

Step Two: Silently Reflect and Write Responses (10 min)

Invite everyone to think bolder by asking them to respond to one or two of the following questions. Share these questions on the board or screen:

  • Emphasis on Time. What would the university look like if it were forced to change in only two years?

  • Emphasis on Change. How would the university look different if it were required by law to be accessible to all people?

  • Emphasis on Structure. What if universities took on a corporate partner? How would this affect the role that it plays in society?

  • Emphasis on Technology. How might your vision of the future university change if all instruction became automated and offered via AI? Or, entirely online? Asynchronously?

Provide ten minutes for silent reflection and writing.

Step Three: Re-imagine the Future in Groups (20 min)

In small groups, ask participants to share some of the ideas that they wrote down. Invite them to re-imagine together what a future university looks like. Prompt:

  • Describe your future university in a series of bullet points.

Reconvene as a full group, and invite groups to share their visions of the future university. Discuss:

  • What are some common themes?

  • What are the outliers?

  • Can we agree on a future vision?

Step Four: Generate a List of Risks (15 min)

As a full group, imagine the risks that a university would encounter in moving toward this particular new model.

Generate a list of these risks. Then make a parallel list of risks that a university would be taking if it didn’t move to this new model when other universities moved in this bold new direction.

Decide as a group on the preferred course of action.

Step Five: Debrief as a Full Group (10 min)


  • Where did the boldest ideas come from? Individual reflection? Building on the ideas of others in discussion? Thinking about risks?

  • How, if at all, did our vision for the future university change by following this process?

  • How might you use this activity in your daily life?





Creative Collaboration

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average rating is 4 out of 5

Sovi Herring

May 30, 2024 at 6:42:10 PM

This activity is great when a group is comfortable sharing thoughts--but it is modified to be more introspective at first. There are two versions of this, one to recognize "normalized" feelings, the other is labeled "extreme" as the group was practicing navigating high emotion. This first one covers parents, cats, dogs: This one is to recognize more difficult to talk about feelings of fear, disgust, etc.:

average rating is 5 out of 5

Sovi Herring

May 30, 2024 at 6:28:11 PM

This activity was modified for a Business & Professional Communication class. It is best when the groups have gone through the guidelines activity to help facilitate how to communicate and even the 3.4 ambiguity. This is a difficult activity if the class is uncomfortable speaking (and in my case they were very adverse to discussing these in any group). Here is how I set it up (along with a print out of the words). It is modified to fit the business world, but worked well as a concept.

average rating is 5 out of 5

May 28, 2024 at 1:33:05 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

May 28, 2024 at 1:31:01 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 14, 2024 at 1:03:34 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 14, 2024 at 1:02:20 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 11, 2024 at 3:55:15 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

January 4, 2024 at 7:22:22 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

December 12, 2023 at 11:56:40 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

Lori Britt

October 3, 2023 at 5:00:05 PM

Have done this in the past, but today a group really blew me away. I did this as a Fishbowl with 7 students taking roles. Prior to the converstaion they could seek input from a few other students about what which decision they think the person in their role would support and why. I also asked them to come up with some things that were concerns for them. This 10 minute of prep time helped my role play participants really embody and feel confident in their roles. Great discussion about what deliberation looks like in practice and about how power can impact conversations and how a facilitator can try and minimize these power imbalances. I used the scenario above and assigned these roles (I was not sure my students woul be able to consider roles that would offer different perspectives): • Facilitator (non-voting) • Mayor • High school teacher • 17-year-old high school student • Transportation planner for the region • Local business owner • Economic development office for the region (your community and the surrounding communities served by the train) • 50-year-old who lost his job last year and who has been on unemployment

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