The purpose of this exercise is to help delegates understand the concept of crowd contagion. This is particularly applicable to business meetings where emotional comments can easily lead to a suboptimal meeting. Crowd contagion captures the idea that emotions are contagious and if not controlled come to dominate a group meeting. If one person becomes angry, others are likely to become angry soon as the emotion is passed from one person to the next.
Simulate crowd contagion and expect a group’s performance to drop when engaged in a meeting. Identify strategies to prevent this from happening.
What You Need
- A series of scenario cards. You need to have one for everyone. All scenario cards should have the following sentence on them, apart from one:
- “You are participating in a meeting with others on a subject determined by your tutor. Do your best to contribute to the meeting.”
- The odd card out should have the following sentence on it:
- “You are participating in a meeting with others on a subject determined by your tutor. Act angry, agitated and emotional as you go through the meeting, though do it in a way that it is not obvious you have been instructed to do so.”
- Distribute one scenario to each delegate. You can either give the angry scenario card to a random person in the group or specially select a person based on your own judgment to make sure the exercise is executed successfully.
- Remind everyone that they are not allowed to see each other’s scenario cards. To make sure no one suspects that many scenarios are similar, you can print them in different fonts and sizes so they look different from a distance even if glanced accidentally. The less the delegates know about the setup, the better.
- Explain that you want the group to have a brainstorming session on a particular topic. You can give them a specific topic from the following list or one that is appropriate for their specific background.
- “Why should the government spend so much resources on helping the poor, when these resources can be spent to create elite individuals who can contribute significantly to the country?”
- “Should management receive bonuses based on short-term company performance?”
- Ask them to start their brainstorming using whatever method they desire.
- Allocate 10 minutes for this part. Stop the brainstorming if you thought the emotions are becoming problematic.
- After the allocated time, ask the group to analyse their performance. In particular, ask them to see if they thought there was something unusual taking place in their meeting.
- Ask the person with the angry scenario to reveal his role and then observe the reaction of others.
- Explain the concept of crowd contagion and how someone’s emotions can affect others. Ask for strategies on how to tackle this issue. They need to spot that someone is becoming emotional and should take steps to calm him down before it is passed to others.
- After the discussion, ask the group to go through another brainstorming session. This time pick a different topic.
- Randomly distribute the scenarios to delegates, but make sure you don’t give the angry card to the same person as in the first round. Now one person has the angry scenario, though no one other than him knows this.
- Ask delegates to initiate the brainstorming while making sure crowd contagion does not reduce the performance of their meeting.
- Allocate 10 minutes for this part. You are expecting to see that delegates spot the troublemaker and also observe the strategy used by delegates to handle this.
- After the allocated time, or when the objective of this exercise has been reached, get everyone back together and follow with a discussion.
Explaining the Exercise: 5 minutes
Activity: 10 min first round + 10 min discussion + 10 min second round = 30 minutes
Group Feedback: 10 minutes
What did you think of this exercise? How much better was your second debate in comparison with the first? Was being aware of crowd contagion helpful? How easy was it to spot who was becoming emotional? What strategy was most effective in handling the emotional situation and preventing the group in become too emotional while going through the debate?