Bright | Blurry | Blind

Type of Initiative:  Discussion tool, Processing and Debriefing Tool, Conflict Resolution

Source:  Michael Cardus,

Published in:   Setting the Conflict Compass, by Michelle Cummings with Mike Anderson

Purpose:    Creating a sense of community; intra- and inter-departmental communication; develop transparency and trust within organizations; allows participants to openly speak about issues of conflict within the team and organization.

Props Needed:

  • Flip chart paper—enough for two sheets per group
  • A variety of markers and writing utensils
  • Metaphor cards—cards with images on them with no definitive meaning. These cards are a way for participants to discuss and determine the team’s BRIGHT | BLURRY | BLIND areas.

Group Size:  5–500; participants are asked to work in their existing teams (i.e., Accounting is together in one team, Human Resources is together in another team, Sales, etc.)

The important point is that the teams are made up of people that work together sharing similar tasks, supervisors, roles, responsibilities, and culture.    

Goals:    Giving the teams and participants an opportunity to think and speak about concerns and give accolades to each other so a powerful bond is created.  Additionally, by illuminating topics within departments and the organization teams can brainstorm and strengthen the team.  Facilitating a “one team” atmosphere and then empowering the participants to share information and techniques that are successful.  Often, this information has not been shared in an open forum.

Directions:  Ask the groups to split into their work teams (mentioned above).  Ask for a representative to come and receive two pieces of flip chart paper, some markers, and a stack of metaphor cards. With large teams it helps to have clearly marked areas where the team should be located.  Have the materials already in place in a brown paper bag.  Ask participants to inventory the contents according to the inventory sheet inside.

Once the teams settle, give the following direction:

“Within our small teams and within the organization there are several ideas and issues that seem obvious to us and not to anyone else. As a team it is important to create a culture of transparent and open communication of needs and requirements for our teams and individuals to be their most effective.

In a moment I am going to ask each small team to choose three metaphor cards with different meanings attached to them. The team must be in agreement of which three cards to use and what each card will symbolize for each small team.

- One card is going to represent BRIGHT—Bright is an issue or topic that is out in the open, clearly evident to the team about the organization. Bright is common knowledge everyone knows that this is an area of concern for the team and the organization.

-  The second card represents BLURRY—Blurry is known and not spoken about enough; a subject that should become Brighter. Blurry is the undercurrent water cooler talk—the area that the team feels insecure about in reference to the organization and its status within the organization. Blurry is a topic or issue that, if it was made brighter, much of the “gossip” would cease to exist and questions would be answered.

- The third card represents what the team feels is BLIND—Blind is not known, lacking from the shared understanding and knowledge of the organization. Blind issues and topics are ones that the team feels only they struggle with and no other teams are aware of.  If the Blind issues and topics became Brighter the organization would become transparent and create a paradigm shift towards excellence.”

The teams are asked to choose the three metaphor cards (one for BRIGHT, one for BLURRY, and one for BLIND) and write these on flip chart paper.  Each group should present the BRIGHT | BLURRY | BLIND findings to the entire organization and teams that are present for the activity.

Debriefing Topics and Notes:

BRIGHT | BLURRY | BLIND is an initiative that can stir up some powerful emotions and discussions. Be prepared to be open to the team criticizing and touching on topics that create conflict. The way this initiative ends can create some real growth and increase trust within the organization.

After each team has had the chance to present their BRIGHT | BLURRY | BLIND charts, ask them to hang them on the walls. Give participants approximately 15–30 minutes (more time if necessary) to walk around and view the other teams’ flip charts; allow for some unstructured speaking and question-and-answer sessions.

Following the unstructured viewing time, call the participants back into their functional teams and ask them to gather by their flip chart papers. Some possible processing questions:

  •  How were the metaphor cards chosen for the BRIGHT the BLURRY and the BLIND?
  • How effective was the group’s communication process?
  • In what ways were disagreements settled?
  • What was the easy part? What made it easy?
  • What was the challenging part? What challenges were faced?
  • Are there any common themes that we noticed among all the departments?
  • What BLURRY topics can we discuss right now to make BRIGHT?
  • Any surprises that were found among teams with the BLIND areas?
  • Are the areas that were BRIGHT to one team BRIGHT to all or other teams?
  • What are the causes of BRIGHT | BLURRY | BLIND topics within organizations?
  • How can we as a team minimize the BLIND areas?
  • What are we going to do with this information?

* Possibly end the day by creating a team of individuals who are responsible for addressing and developing a system to enhance transparency and communication within the organization. The team can use the information gathered for a starting point.

*** DO NOT LET THIS INFORMATION GO UNUSED! If you lead this team-building activity and do nothing, you will create an environment that can be more hostile and subversive than before you began.

Where to find it/How to make it:  You can make your own cards using index cards and cutting out and pasting various images on the index cards or they can be purchased.


Purchase from the Training Wheels store: Setting the Conflict Compass, Metaphor cards, Chiji Cards, Postcard Processing Kit, Expression Cards

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