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Change o’ Heart
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 06/29/2015

Heart of stone

The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

Teamwork is one of the most fundamental necessities in any job. In corrections, it is an imperative tool. Some wonder if teamwork is a matter skill or simple luck. Will pure skill always win over random choice? Or will luck triumph despite our set of abilities? What happens when both luck and skill are in the mix?

Change o’ Heart is a simple, two-part game of skill and chance. And it costs very little to conduct.

The requirements for people in this exercise are:
  • Two teams of two people. One person in each team will be blindfolded. The other will be a silent helper.
  • One person will act as a judge. This person will watch the two teams work one at a time on each task. The judge will time each of the teams in declare a winner at the end. The judge, a person of great professional integrity, has the duty to add a minute for each instance in which either team operates outside of the rules.
  • In addition, the audience may play the role of being useful by the facilitator; the audience will be encouraged to thwart the team for which they do not support through verbal banter or misinformation.
As for materials, you will need a total of 20 coins and two decks of cards. It does not matter that the denomination of the coins, as long as there are 20 coins.

The first part of this exercise starts with the skill set.
  1. Flip a coin to see which team goes first. After all, you have 20 coins at hand.
  2. Blindfold one person on the first team.
  3. Roles of the participants: A silent helper can only write down whatever the blindfolded person directs. This could be the end answer or parts of an answer to be added later. Note: The silent helper shall not talk. The blindfolded person is to remain blind and the silent helper is to remain mute.
  4. 10 coins are placed in front of the blindfolded team member. Timing starts when the judge says “go”.
  5. The blindfolded team member must, by feel, determine the value of all 10 coins. For more of a challenge, different size coins should be used. The silent helper may not talk, but can guide the hands of the blindfolded person to the coins. The silent helper will also write down any instructions or data given by the blindfolded team member.
  6. You may allow people the audience to give advice to the blindfolded one. However, there's nothing against giving the wrong advice, as any “helper" from the audience may have a valid reason to thwart the team in question.
  7. The judge will call “time is up” when the answer is given.
  8. The second part of this exercise has to do with luck. Place a well-shuffled deck of cards in front of the blindfolded team member.
  9. The judge tells the blindfolded team member that he or she must draw a heart in order to stop the clock. This must be done one card at a time.
  10. When the heart is drawn, the clock stops. The next team repeats the steps of both parts of the activity and tries to beat the score.
  11. The facilitator will note the total time for both teams, the time it took to perform the coin part of the task, and the time it took to draw a heart – the luck part of this exercise.
Trainers may throw a wrench into the works. For example, people may vote on which team will win. This should be done on paper in the absence of the four competing team members. Also, audience members can thwart the efforts of each blindfolded team member with false information. This should increase the suspense. After a winner is declared, the judge reveals the vote tally.

Another way that the trainer can guide the outcome is to literally stack the cards. One could remove all hearts from one of the decks. This may seem like dirty pool, but also illustrates differences and advantages we face a work life. It is up to the facilitator to decide to detract from the team likely to win in order to level the playing field or to increase the chances of likely winner. It may be that the facilitator has no inkling of who is likely to win. And therein lies the element of luck.

The facilitator can ask many questions about teamwork after these tasks are completed. Some of them are:
  1. How well can a silent person and a blinded person work together?
  2. How did the audience impact the outcome?
  3. Did you see or feel frustration in the process?
  4. What strategies did the second team learn from watching the first team?
  5. Considering the no talk rule what would you have done differently if you were one of the participants in the activities?
  6. What is more important for success – luck or skill?
Perhaps luck or individual skills do not wholly dictate the outcome as much as teamwork will. This is a good example of how people work together under adverse conditions. After all, in corrections we know that optimal circumstances are rare.

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

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