While many trainers are familiar with the activity “Human Knot,” we demonstrate just how useful “Human Knot” is as a springboard to an effective meeting – particularly when you see how it can be debriefed. See how Human Knot is explained in the book, below, and watch our video of “Human Knot” to see how the book will enable you to get the most from this exercise.
||Group problem solving, Surfacing group dynamics
||10-15 minutes (not including processing)
||Must be able to move, twist, and turn
|Number of participants
||Open floor space
Note: This exercise and all of its variations are high-risk due to the level of physical contact involved. Observe carefully to ensure that people are respectful of each other’s bodies.
- This exercise works well with “knots” of between five and eight people. If the group is larger than eight, break into smaller groups.
- Have each group stand in a circle.
- Have people cross their arms in front of their bodies and join hands with two other people. People who join hands should not be standing next to each other, and everyone should be connected to two different people (that is, not holding both of one person’s hands).
- The group has now formed a “human knot,” and their job is to get out of it without letting go of each other’s hands. In most cases, with a lot of twisting and turning and stepping over and under each other’s arms, this can be done in a few minutes. It is all right if people end up facing outside the circle.
- If the group seems hopelessly entangled, have them pass a pulse (see Pass the Pulse on page ___). If everyone in the knot receives the pulse, they are in just one knot and are likely to be able to get untangled. If not, they are in more than one knot and should probably break up and try it again.
- The Human Knot can be used to illustrate the importance of group cooperation, trust, being considerate of each other, and working together.
- You can make points about teamwork and the flow of leadership in a group.
- What was it like trying to get out of the knot? Did people think they would be able to do it when they first began?
- Did anybody take the lead? If members of the group were not helping to get out of the knot, how did that affect the outcome of the exercise or people’s feelings about it?
- If the group gave up trying to get out of the knot: Who gave up? What were the dynamics of it?
- If you had two knots going at once: Did the groups become competitive? Did one group give up because the other group had finished?
- What kind of “knots” is this group in? What do we need to unravel those knots?
Variation: The Human Knot Director
Additional goal: Leadership
Number of participants: 8-10
- Select someone or ask for a volunteer to be the Director. Ask the Director to leave the room.
- Have the rest of the group get themselves into a human knot. They can do this by the method described above, or they can stand holding hands in a circle and create the knot by stepping over and ducking under each other’s arms.
- Once the knot is formed, the group calls for the Director, who comes back into the room and tries to undo the knot. The rest of the group should just follow the Director’s instructions and not try to untangle themselves.
Additional processing suggestions
- This exercise can illustrate different things depending upon the success of the Director. Exploring the role of the Director can lead to insights into the nature of effective leadership.
- If the Director gets the group out of the knot smoothly, this can illustrate how sometimes a person who is not involved in a problem can see the situation more clearly than those who are involved in it.
- Conversely, if the group felt that the Director did not direct them well, it can show how sometimes an “outsider” cannot solve a problem as well as those who are directly involved in it.