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Reasons to Consider Using Blindfolds in your Learning Programmes

As I am contemplating yet another very large order of blindfolds from China (we sell lots of blindfolds as components in our Colourblind® training activity!) it has me wondering about what other uses that blindfolds can be put to – in a training & learning context! A blindfold may be an inexpensive training tool, but it can be very versatile & quite powerful!

When creating Colourblind® my colleague Geoff Cox decided to use blindfolds within the experiential learning game design to simulate the lack of a shared visual frame of reference between a pilot and an air traffic controller. This was because the original design of the Colourblind activity was to be used to train new air traffic controllers in the difficulties in obtaining shared meaning, and precise communications, when people don’t share the same visual frame of reference. While we could simulate this in other ways, for example having people in separate rooms, or having each individual only having sight of some materials, the use of the blindfolds provides some other, perhaps unique experiences. Outlined below are some of the areas I have noticed but also some ways in which I have seen blindfolds used in other learning contexts, and with some of our other materials.

1. Trust

Whether some or all of the training participants are blindfolded, there is a requirement for a significant level of trust between participants and the facilitator. When briefing the use of Colourblind I always make the explicit point that putting on a blindfold (particularly early in a programme) will require that the group trusts me. I find that asking early for this level of trust has advantages (if I then prove to be trustworthy!). In a teambuilding environment, using a blindfold with only some of the participants can be a useful way of getting them to build trust in each other (and is perhaps safer than trust falls, fire walking and other activities!). For example, having a sighted colleague lead a blindfolded colleague around a simple obstacle course, then developing a non-contact way of safely & successfully repeating the exercise, requires the building of a significant level of trust between them.

You can find this and some other simple trust activities on our Free Experiential Learning Manual.

2. Control (and leadership)

It is usually more difficult to exert personal control over a situation that involves some mechanical action if you cannot see! For experiential activities where participants have to build or manipulate something, the use of a blindfold can reduce a participant’s control. In leadership training it may useful to explore how a participant can ‘lead’ another to complete a task – for example in our Team Balance or Network 2i activities we can introduce blindfolds to the players, and have a ‘leader’ step out of an activity that they were all previously operating when sighted. How does the situation and behaviour change when an external leader now controls the situation and the remaining participants are reliant on the leader’s instruction to proceed? How does the new leader feel now that they have to achieve the task through the other (blindfolded) participants?

3. Remoteness

Our sight gives us so much extra information to process when viewing a situation than when we are remote from it. Consider the effect of remote management, or voice-only communications by introducing blindfolds to ensure the parties can’t see each other. How does the remoteness of the individuals affect them and their performance?

4. Focus

Using a blindfold seems to provide a focus on other senses. If you want a group to focus their attention on their listening skills, then using blindfolds can allow them to do that, and not be distracted.

5. Diversity

Using blindfolds can bring to people’s attention the notion of diversity in skills and abilities. Noticing what can and cannot easily be done when a significant change is introduced can be useful, including the fact that some people may have a deep aversion to being blindfolded and others are unconcerned about it. Always design-in choice for a person to refuse to wear a blindfold during the training activity but give them a role to play (even if it is as an observer). Use a blindfold to simulate a specific disability relating to eyesight issues, or for more general awareness of the challenges those with disabilities face in the workplace, or as customers.

I reckon I have another six good uses for a blindfold in a training context. Do you have more reasons to blindfold your participants? If so please let me know!

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