Energizer: Graphic Jam

A Graphic Jam is a great Energizer that has the tremendous added benefit of building participants' visual literacy. 


Graphic Jam with the Chesapeake Organizational Development Network (CBODN), March 22, 2017.

Have each participant hang a sheet of flipchart around the room, then write a word at the top. The word should be something relevant to the event or their organization. For example, for a strategic planning offsite, look for words like "Objectives," "Values," and "Vision." Words should be abstract concepts, not concrete objects.

Start a timer. Participants have one minute to draw a simple picture that represents their word. Then, they rotate on to their neighbor's flipchart and have one minute to draw the new word on their neighbor's flipchart. No redrawing allowed: if someone's already drawn a bridge to represent "Connection," no one else can draw a bridge on that chart. Read the energy of the group to know when to end the activity, but generally, 10-15 minutes with just as many rotations is a good timeframe for most groups.* 

By drawing the words, participants will develop their mental models of the concepts beneath them. They'll also have dented their own armor around performance anxiety and judgment apprehension. 


It's possible that two or more people could choose the same word. Here's two ways around that. 

1. Have them create and select from a common marketplace of words. (For more on the marketplace, check out the methods behind Open Space Technology by Harrison Owen.) 

2. Have participants call out their words, one at a time, as soon as they think of them to "reserve" their word. There's an incentive to choose quickly, so someone else doesn't take your preferred word.

If possible, try to redraw the participants' drawings over the course of the day in your own graphic chart. You'll take advantage of the strong mental models they're building around that concept.

The earliest mention of the Graphic Jam I could find is in the book "Graphic Facilitation" by the Grove Consultants. https://grovetools-inc.com/collections/books/products/graphic-facilitation-w-dvd

*The longest graphic jam I ever saw was facilitated by Stephanie Brown for the DC:GF Meetup group. It lasted nearly two hours... and we could've kept going!