This is a short game that makes people feel connected to each other very quickly, because they find surprising similarities.

Group Size
  • Any Size


  1. Ask all the participants to get into pairs, ideally with someone they barely know at all. It’s best if they get together with someone who, on the surface, might seem very different from them (based on superficial appearances, such as how they dress)
  2. Tell them that they have five minutes to answer the following question: What do we have in common? They should try to find as many commonalities as possible in that short time. Tell them to go past the obvious ones (they are all humans; they all were born to mothers; etc.) Indeed, encourage them to try to come up with as many uncommon ones as possible – to explore unique and creative similarities. The more wild the attempts are, the more surprising it will be when they find things in common.
  3. After 5 minutes, it’s time for a debrief.
  • You could also do this in groups of 3 or 4, but that could make finding “uncommon commonalities” very difficult
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This activity typically does not need a debrief. It’s just a great way to get energy in the room to a crescendo, and also to get people to feel like they belong to a community. People seem to appreciate getting to know each other. They are probably used to gatherings where they are anonymous, lost in a sea of people passively listening to a lecturer on a stage.


Research overwhelmingly shows that, when people perceive themselves to be similar to others, they are far more likely to trust them and cooperate with them. For example, in one study, researchers at Stanford and Columbia had business students engage in a negotiation. The ones who “schmoozed” first – the ones who shared personal connections and found a similarity – were more than 60 percent more likely to reach a successful agreement than those who did not.


Popular cooperative learning game (origin unknown); cited in Daniel Pink, To Sell Is Human

Additional Readings

Morris, M., Nadler, J., Kurtzberg, T., & Thompson, L. (2002). Schmooze or lose: Social friction and lubrication in e-mail negotiations. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 6(1), 89-100.

For a great overview of the principle of similarity, see Arizona State University professor Robert Cialdini’s masterful book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion