Mission Impossible

What is this method?

The Mission Impossible is a fun way for a group to bond by solving a challenge together. At the same time the challenge can be tailored to the purpose and content of the workshop. Most frequently used at the beginning of a workshop after the check-in.

How does the process look like?

1. Intro “We will now do a challenge. Who knows the Mission Impossible movies?” - “so many? Cool! Now we will get to solve our very own Mission Impossible!”

2. Read the challenges on the flipchart (prepared in advance), have the time covered with a post-it so people don’t know how much time they have (yet). Don’t hesitate to make it really challenging (up to 7 challenges or more).

Mission Impossible during one of our Community Forums.

Mission Impossible during one of our Community Forums.

Examples of challenges

  • How many stair-steps are in this building?

  • 30 reasons why it is better to be here than on holidays

  • 20 things we have in common

  • 1 drawing that summarizes your current situation as a landscape

  • 20 things you could start doing together now

  • Learn all names by heart

  • Come up with a slogan that represents your team-spirit and learn it by heart in the most exotic language present

  • Give everyone a high-five and make each other a compliment

  • Create a Love-story in 4 scenes (like in the journal Bravo). Take a picture and send them to xyxy@gmail.com - or show them at the end

3. Disclose the time they have directly (8-12min) or let them guess how long they’ll take for the challenge, and then disclose how much time you are willing to give them.

4. Play “Mission Impossible Theme Song (10 hours)” on Youtube and say: “Your time starts NOW!”

5. While people are solving the issue, you can observe the dynamics:

  • How are they making choices?

  • Who (if anyone at all) is in the lead?

  • What are the coordinating mechanisms?

  • How are they as a team building on each others strengths (e.g. some challenges require more of an extrovert attitude?

6. When the time is running out, make people aware of how much time they have left. As a facilitator, you may also want to shorten or extend the time accordingly to the speed of the group (not too much though).

7. Debrief: For the debriefing you can go through each challenge and help the group appreciate their success as well as facilitate a meta-reflection at the end:

-> What did we learn through this exercise that we want to take with us for the rest of the Workshop?

8. Learnings:

  • This exercise enables a team to learn something about their team-dynamics and collaboration-patterns.

  • It breaks the ice and gets people in a can-do mindset.

  • If the challenges are chosen well, the exercise can beautifully help people land in the topic and come up with the right framing of the theme themselves. It activates the mind to already think in associative ways about the challenges at hand.

  • Different people have different preferences of action.

Practical information (time needed, amount of people etc.).

  • Time: 20-45min

  • Material: Flipcharts, markers, music, more material is optional according to the challenges you choose to come up with

  • People: between 6 to 23

Our Experience with this Method

The Mission Impossible (MI) was, as far as I (Osi) know, invented by Arne Reis. Arne was at the time our Facilitation Trainer of the euforia Training Program. Later we took that method along when we started to work with teams of all levels (Top-Management to Sales-Teams) at Swisscom. The MI is one of my favourite methods to use because of its power to introduce the methodology of learning through experience, activating the group, breaking the ice, as a metaphor for challenges, and more.

Here I want to share quite a unique moment I’ve experienced as a facilitator practicing this method: the 3rd retreat of our Gender Lab.

In this 3rd retreat of the first Gender Lab Cycle we practiced the 4D Mapping. Which is a very powerful method to map the system in current and future reality using our bodies. As this is not a blog about the 4D mapping what matters to say is that after that exercise the energy of the group was quite low and there was a need to elevate the spirit and engagement of the people. At first, we thought “let’s wait for how things look like the next morning”. And so the next morning came and still it was quite obvious that if we wanted to end the workshop on a good end something needed to happen.

So we invented in a very short time our very own Gender Lab Mission Impossible with around 10 different challenges. Together with an encouraging but also a little bit provocative intro (“let’s see if you manage to Tom-Cruise this out!”) people just went at it and some of the people that previously hadn’t been very active in the process were participating with a high level of engagement as that high-energy-method was a better fit to their preferences. After successfully achieving this Mission Impossible together the Lab Cohort did not only feel better in the moment, something also had started to shift in terms of how some people looked at the happenings of the previous day. Just as with the Mission Impossible, things that previously seemed insurmountable started to become one more “Mission Impossible” that can be figured out if we truly work hand in hand together.

At that point the Mission Impossible had served us to shift the energy, perspective and cohesion of the Gender Lab Explorers. A person that is normally used to very slow and deep transformational process even said at the end: “It was great to, for once, just go at a speed so unusual to me! I can still feel the energy buzzing over my skin!”