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50 Word Epiphany

50 Word Epiphany


5 - 15 minutes, <5 minutes

Purpose/Objectives - Quick Description

Using the most basic elements of the alphabet and a volunteer, quickly establish a different and fun paradigm for examining problems  


  1. Ask for 3 volunteers
  2. Once they are at the front of the room, ask which of them is better with words, more verbose, more talkative, etc.
  3. Whichever person is selected, make the other person a timer and notify the other person that they will have to go second
  4. Then give very specific instructions:
    1. Say 50 words that DO NOT contain the letter A in 30 seconds or less
    2. Give them a few moments to ponder…
    3. Then say “Go”
  5. Most likely they will not be able to do it and it will be fun to watch them try
  6. Ask the 3rd silent volunteer to try. Keep the timer the same. “Go”
  7. Call for a 4th This time add more restrictions a, b, c, j, k, m or p
  8. If they can’t, call for any volunteers who think that they can do it
  9. Allow them to try. If they can’t, simply offer to whisper one sentence into the timers ear and explain the solution: simply count to 50 because no numbers spelled out have an A all the way past to one thousand!
  10. Debrief with the group
    1. Why is this message important to the content we are addressing today?
    2. How can we look at the work/the data/the options and realize that we don’t have to explore every option (word in the English language) to come up with a solution…
    3. How do calling for volunteers and pressure from an audience inform the way work is done? What if we had approached this in small teams instead?





Cool Possibilities/Options

  • Offer a bet/give $20 to the volunteers on stage who can get it quickly
  • Before the event begins, get people to list 4 countries that don’t contain the letter A to warm the audience up in this frame of thinking
  • Reference that there is an entire novel without the letter E in it: Gadsby a 1939 by Ernest Vincent Wright
  • Don’t whisper to the timer, but tell them earlier without the audience noticing so they can look like the superstar!

People Science Data Capture:

Not recommended. Capture who has seen this exercise so that you don't use it again as it is a one time show!


15 - 25 minutes, <5 minutes, awkward, beginner, bets, big picture, brain teaser, brainstorming, coaching, facilitation tool, gamification, idea flexibility, ideation


Unknown. Multiple web and text personalities purport originality

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’