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Bibliographic Details:

Lisa Heft. Opening Space. 2004.


The objective of this artistic activity is to help participants unlock a deeper level of thinking through reflection and use of the body / creative brain. It is utilized before group dialogue to deepen the level of discussion. This exercise was developed by Lisa Heft to help people move from their heads to a deeper level of thinking and discussing through first working with reflection, working in silence and use of the body / creative side of the brain. This is also a good activity to use as an introduction – either introducing group members to each other, introducing the topic of discussion or both.

A piece of chart paper for each participant plus a selection of colored markers; enough so everyone has access to a few different colors (these can be placed in a central location for all to share).

Number of Participants:
Any number

This can take about 20 minutes for the drawing part (less for some groups), then depending on the size of the group and the time you have, you could either spend another 30 minutes having the group show and explain their drawings and thoughts one-at-a-time, or you could have them break into duos or quartets to share their drawings. The full group can then reconvene to share common threads (optional). Before selecting and doing this activity be very aware of the time it could take as people want to tell their stories.

The 4 questions you ask should be pre-designed and should reflect the goals of the group's meeting or task. As for any activity, be sure to tell the group why you are doing this activity – how it pertains to their goal, task and work together. Also: let the group know there are no awards for artistic ability – scribbles, symbols, or drawings are all fine.

If this is an introduction for a group to get to know its new members better (such as for a Board retreat), you might ask participants to first go around and introduce themselves in the standard way (name, title, organization, and so on), and then to mention that this activity will help them to understand each other better as a team.


Fold your paper once, and then once again, so that when you open it up you have 4 quadrants.

In silence, draw (scribble, make symbols – just do not write words) a response to the following 4 questions.


  1. What in your personal style can help a team/group?
  2. What do you have trouble with / struggle with regarding ___?
  3. When are those times you laugh at yourself? (When do you realize you are taking yourself too seriously)
  4. What would you like to be remembered for?

Give the group time to draw after each question.

After the last drawing, invite the group to either break into duos or quartets to share what they drew, or if the size of the group is reasonable and there is enough time, invite the entire group to share their drawings.

After this the group can continue in discussion on the topic at hand.

Lisa Heft (Opening Space) is a facilitator and interactive learning specialist known internationally for her resources, tools and workshops on such participant-led processes as Open Space Technology and for her use of spoken word, graphics and movement to engage deeper reflection and dialogue. Clients on 5 continents include the International AIDS Conferences, U.S. Departments of Labor and Transportation, GlaxoSmithKline, One Ocean Marine Forum, National Forum on Information Geosciences, San Quentin prison and Columbia University Center for International Conflict Resolution (for whom she has consulted on Open Space process and design for conflict transformation work in Northern Iraq and East Timor). Lisa is the author of the Open Space Idea Book, Vice President of the U.S. Open Space Institute, founder of the Fabulous Facilitators learning community and current Poet Laureate of the global OSLIST.

Go to to learn more about Lisa's work.

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