Skip to main content
photo
 
Appendix A.2 Tools for articulating a vision & choosing specific objectives

Hopes & Fears Exercises


Hopes and fears exercises are techniques that help members of a working group share their perspectives on the task at hand and build a common understanding of goals and potential problems. It is a way to help answer the question, "Do we share the same idea of what's supposed to happen here?"

Shared perspective for effective work. Coming to a more thoroughly shared perspective is necessary for effective group work and communication among its members. It is also useful to identify where hopes held by some members may be unattainable or even inappropriate to your overall goal.

Prevent sources of frustration. If these unrealistic or inappropriate hopes are identified early in the process, they are less likely to become sources of frustration and resentment that can interfere with your group's effectiveness. It is also reassuring to some members to learn that others in the group share their fears.

Simple, effective icebreakers. These exercises are also simple, unthreatening activities that are useful as icebreakers for new groups. They allow the members to learn about each other and begin useful interaction smoothly. The process of eliciting individual members hopes and fears, and giving them credence, also emphasizes the value of each person's contributions and can promote more enthusiastic participation in subsequent activities.

What are they?

Share hopes for project outcomes. A facilitator or team leader first asks each member of the group to articulate his or her hopes for the outcomes of the process. These are recorded on a board or other display so all members can see them, and organized into related clusters. Each item is discussed to be sure that it is well understood by the members.

Prioritize and discuss group hopes. You may use rating or prioritizing techniques to show the relative importance of the different hopes or expectations. The discussion can also include ideas about how to ensure that the most important hopes are realized.

Express project fears. The same process is then used to elicit and discuss the fears. Each member is asked to articulate what undesirable outcomes they fear will occur, followed by clustering and discussion.

Determine ways to prevent fears. As with the hopes, the discussion can include attention to preventing the most important or costly fears from being realized.

What are they good for?

Build common understanding of goals and barriers. These exercises are most useful in building a work group's shared perspective of its tasks and potential problems. This is particularly important near the beginning of a group work assignment. It is at these early stages that the members are likely to have the greatest differences of opinion about what they are supposed to do.

Shared perspective for effective work. Coming to a more thoroughly shared perspective is necessary for effective group work and communication among its members. It is also useful to identify where hopes held by some members may be unattainable or even inappropriate to your overall goal.

Prevent sources of frustration. If these unrealistic or inappropriate hopes are identified early in the process, they are less likely to become sources of frustration and resentment that can interfere with your group's effectiveness. It is also reassuring to some members to learn that others in the group share their fears.

Simple, effective icebreakers. These exercises are also simple, unthreatening activities that are useful as icebreakers for new groups. They allow the members to learn about each other and begin useful interaction smoothly. The process of eliciting individual members hopes and fears, and giving them credence, also emphasizes the value of each person's contributions and can promote more enthusiastic participation in subsequent activities.

Some limitations and considerations

Reluctance to reveal feelings. Since these exercises are commonly used for new groups or new tasks, members may be hesitant to reveal their hopes and fears to an unfamiliar group of people.

Skillful facilitation necessary ingredient. A good facilitator is required to get the hopes and fears process moving. Even with such skillful facilitation, it is likely that some members will withhold information for strategic purposes, or simple embarrassment. So the full range of hopes and fears may be unavailable for discussion.

Smaller groups most effective. Because the process depends on active and relatively free-flowing discussion, it is inappropriate for very large groups. The effectiveness of the discussion may also be reduced by disruptive behavior.