Portraits in the dark - Learn warmups

Waag Shares: A cheerful start to the day

Every morning at 9, my team and I start the day with an online ‘stand-up’: a half-hour check-in with each other to identify obstacles and give each other some moral support. In the time of social distancing, these moments of virtual closeness are very important. 

To keep up my own mood, I tasked myself with the assignment to organise a cheerful start of the day. For each stand-up I introduce a different warm-up exercise. I try to experiment as much as possible with work forms: some are make-assignments, some focus on team building and others require some brainpower. 

Not all are successful, but that is a part of the experimentation. In the coming weeks I will document the most successful exercises, including instructions, and publish them on Waag’s Co-Creation Navigator. For now, I want to give you a small taster of 4 warm-up exercises that work for almost any team. All exercises can be done in a video-conference application (like Zoom, Jitsi, Skype, etc.) and take about 2 to 8 minutes. It is the most fun to do these with 4 or more people. The maximum number of people that can take part is dependent on the type of application you use: it is the number of people that fit into 1 gallery of your video-conference tool. 

Connect the dots
This is one of the first exercises we did as a team in a video-call. Each team member needs to have a piece of paper and a marker in front of them. Then, everybody will place, randomly, 20 to 50 dots on their paper. Once everybody has done that, the dots can be connected to each other, with one continuous line – so without lifting the marker of the paper. This will create a random shape. You are welcome to show your shapes to your team members. After that, each team member will try to find an animal in that shape. You are allowed to add some lines to make the animal. This can all be done fairly quickly. If you have the time, you can even colour in your animals. In the end, everybody will give their animal a name, and present it to the rest of the team. 

Connect the dots Learn warmups second version

This is something that you can do with children as well. You don’t need to be in a video-call with each other to make this work: it is a fun exercise to do with your family as well. You don’t need any particular talent for drawing, and there is always a great result. This is an exercise to loosen up – an opportunity to not be too serious.

If you want to exercise your brains a little bit first thing in the morning, an ‘ABC’ might be a nice warm-up. Most people know this game; it is a very useful way to entertain kids on long drives. But 
(especially now) these ‘childish’ exercises are nice to do with your team. It gives levity, and boosts creativity. 

The goal is the run through the alphabet and give a word for each letter, in a specific category. Take for example animals: A is for Alligator, B is for Baboon, C is for Camel, etc. or pieces of clothing: R is for Raincoat, S is for Suit, T is for Tutu, etc. or cities: F is for Florence, F is for Geneva, H is for Hongkong, etc.

It is helpful to give your team member a number, so that everybody knows who to follow. When you are unable to come up with a word within 5 seconds, you are out. You stop when you are out of letters, or out of team members. Alternatively, you can make the exercise less competitive and work together as a team: ‘can we list as many things as possible?’ The challenge then is to continue as long as possible, even after you run out of letters. You just start with A again. 

Self-portrait in the dark
In these times of seemingly endless video-conversations a lot of people complain that they are tired of looking at their own faces all the time. To give some relief to that you can try ‘self-portrait in the dark’.
It is pretty self-explanatory: Everybody takes a piece of paper and a marker – and closes their eyes. The challenge is to draw a self-portrait with your eyes closed. 

This doesn’t have to take long. 30 Seconds would be enough. You don’t need any talent in drawing, and the results are very fun. These are, for example, the portraits me and my colleague Dick did:

Portraits in the dark - Learn warmups

All for one
The last exercise I would like to share is a real exercise in collaboration. Contrary to the exercises mentioned above, this one actually requires a video-conferencing application. The goal is to create a picture as one, by using the gallery of the video-call application. Each team-member represents one piece of the ‘puzzle’.

Because the gallery looks different for each user, one team member is the director. This is the person that makes sure that the right piece of the ‘puzzle’ is drawn in each square. The director is free to direct his or her team members in any way. When the drawing is complete, the director takes a screenshot and shares this with the rest of the team. We tried to draw a rabbit with six people. As you can see, the picture below, on the right, was not taken by the director. 

All for one - Learn warmups

The more people take part, the more difficult the puzzle will get. There are plenty of variations on this exercise. For example, you can make everybody hold hands, or you can create a word together. 

Final thoughts
It is a difficult time for everybody. It is easy to get a bit down, when you are home alone, or when you are overwhelmed by having a lot of people at home at the same time. So make sure there is enough levity and playfulness in your life – in your private life, but also very much in your work life. A cheerful start of the day makes the rest of it a lot easier. Good luck!




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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreements No 710780, 723521 and 723194.