Musical Chairs for the next generation

Collaboration Series (Part 1)

Think back to your childhood.

You’re in a grassy backyard sitting on a classic plastic white chair. Seven more kids are sitting next to you forming a circle.

Everyone is happy and smiling. Ready to have fun. The music starts playing. You get up from your chair and start running around the chairs. Somebody takes one chair out. You keep running.

The music stops!

Desperately you try to find an empty chair. All are taken. You are out. No more smiles for you.

The music Starts! Laughter. Running. STOP!

One more kid is out.

Music. Laughter. Running. STOP!

OUT!

OUT!

OUT!

One winner, only one. One joyful solitary celebrant. The rest have lost the game, disappointed.

This is the game known as musical chairs. The mechanics are simple:

  1. N kids sit on N chairs.
  2. When the music starts they start running around the chairs.
  3. A chair gets pulled out. N kids, N-1 chairs.
  4. When the music stops, everyone has to find a chair.
  5. One kid’s can’t find an empty chair and is eliminated.
  6. Repeat steps 2–5 until there’s only one chair and one winner.

If you look at the game, you will soon find out that is a competitive game. Only one person wins. If you don’t want to get kicked out, you’re pitted against everyone else. What is the effect of this dynamic on kids? There are 2 main things that I can observe:

1. Fun per kid imbalance. While it might make kids excited for a while, it’s inevitable that there will only be one winner, that the rest have lost the game. Notice how the first kid eliminated will never get to experience as much fun as the rest.

2. Binary possibilities Me vs You. In the particular mechanic of the game: “sit on a chair,” in the context of scarcity and competition, there’s a tension that makes the kid try to defeat the other kid.

The unintended lesson of the game musical chairs: The other kids are not friends, helpers or allies to your success, They are potential rivals that we have to best in other to succeed and win the prize.

Full collaboration and joy, greatness and fun can be found in every game. One small tweak, just a little one, can make that happen.

Collaborative Musical Chairs. The mechanics are simple:

  1. 10 kids sit on 10 chairs.
  2. When the music starts they start running around the chairs.
  3. A chair gets pulled out. 10 kids, 9 chairs.
  4. When the music stops everyone has to find a chair.
  5. Everyone has to be seated (Old: One kid is eliminated)
  6. Repeat steps 2–5 until there’s one chair and all the kids arein one chair.

Can you imagine? All the kids hanging on to one another for dear life on top of a chair ready to crumble to the weight of 10 joyful children! Can you see them laughing?!

This small tweak teaches our children that we can enjoy life with the people around us. That we are connected to them for shared success and excellence. Only in collaboration can we all succeed. Our fates are linked together.

I stand for a world where all of us collaborate with each other. Where we unconditionally care for the dreams and passions of those around us.

Your turn

Write about 1 activity or game, just one, that by making a small shift it would become more collaborative. Share it on the comments.

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