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4 Markers for Your Odds

4 Markers for Your Odds


<5 minutes

Purpose/Objectives - Quick Description

Using 4 markers or objects, instantly highlight the importance of group memory, idea retention and more.


  1. Hold 4 markers in your hands
  2. Ask the audience “What happens if you lose one?” For dramatic effect, literally drop the marker
  3. Accept the range of answers. And then share how with just “one less color, one less option, you lose 75% of your choice”
  4. Then ask “what happens when you take away one more?” Accept answer. Another 65% of your options disappear
  5. Debrief why this is important
    1. Ask what happens when a leader/executive lectures a group. (hint: think of executives as markers… and you are just holding one marker!)
    2. Discuss the impact of “group think” and its negative ramifications
    3. Share research around “brainstorming” and make comparisons to the effect and numerical failure by night highlighting each individual person/each individual color!
    4. Discuss the importance of keeping options open
    5. Discuss the importance of diversity
    6. Discuss the importance of using color and not black and white, practically and metaphorically

If you really need to explain the math: 4x3x2x1=24 So by taking away 1 color, you lose 75% of your color combination options. Similarly, 3x2x1=6 And then you lose another 65% of your options


Have 4 different colored markers on hand

Cool Possibilities/Options

  • Use in conjunction with brainstorming and other groupthink exercises
  • Use the Jeff Bezos Amazon 2 pizza rule instead of 4 markers: Check out the image part way through!
  • Use Wolfram Alpha to compute other interesting statistics for markers or team sizes. Did you know that 50 people produce 3.5kW of heat!

People Science Data Capture:

Not recommended 


<5 minutes, choice, color, diversity, front of the room, markers, odds, options, probability


Commonly used for a long time at

What’s a Maker?



  1. A simple exercise two or more people can do to develop a stronger relationship
  2. A way to avoid endless talk about being busy and the weather
  3. A catalyst to communities that can make an impact

Often times mistaken as an ‘icebreaker’ or ‘exercise’