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Creative Twist: A Common Past Time


This is the fourth of a series in which Andy Rankin suggests quick and easy ways to add a creative “twist” to common development activities. This month he looks at creating a timeline.

Creating a timeline is a common activity for individuals to complete as a personal development activity in coaching or workshop scenarios. The timeline usually follows the story of how someone got to where they are today, but it can also be extended into the future. The principle is easily transferred to a group context to give a creative twist to an ice breaker, change management or relationship building exercise.

A group version needs plenty of space for everyone to participate and for the time line to be displayed. I prefer to use floor space but an expanse of wall could also be used.

The facilitator sets a context eg:
a) The story of how and when people joined the organisation and progressed within it.
b) The story of the history of the organisation (acquisitions; mergers; re-organisations; growth times; slumps; geographic locations etc.)

Lots of recycled A4 paper and felt tip pens.

The group clears a space for the activity. Tables may need to be moved. A decision is made as to which end of the line is the past and which is the present day.

The content of the time line is created by individuals writing information on pieces of paper and placing them in relation to the time line. Individuals are invited to share the context of what they write and where they place it. The facilitator can invite further reflections once a history has been displayed, to explore different themes related to the context at hand.

This will obviously depend on complexity of organisation and number of people involved. Allow a minimum of an hour.


  • Creates an organisational or team biography and participants learn how people came to be where they are.

  • Gives a creative twist to participants sharing a short bio about themselves.

  • Participants experience themselves as being part of the ebb and flow of organisational life.

  • Activity has applications across different topics, eg change management, team building, vision workshop etc.

    About the author:Andy Rankin is a director of Creative Metier Limited an executive mentoring consultancy. The business has developed an online interactive software tool that utilises creative processes to support people explore their long term future direction. This has applications for leadership and personal development, coaching / mentoring support, restructuring and career transition scenarios.
    [email protected]


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