Scrabble without the rules – It all spells creativity

30 April 2024

The 13th April was National Scrabble Day, and to play his part in the celebration, David Saint shared an activity he sometimes uses in awaydays to get the creative juices flowing.

Some individuals – and perhaps even more so some groups – find it difficult to be spontaneously creative. So I devised this game to use in strategic planning sessions, fundraising strategy sessions etc to get people thinking and talking creatively.

I realise that in writing this article I am rather giving the game away (although not entirely), so if you plan to ask me to run an Awayday for your organisation, please forget what follows as soon as you have read it!


Based on the number of participants, I work out how many groups we will need – with roughly 5-8 people per group. I then prepare one pack of 12-15 Scrabble tiles for each group, making sure that every pack has exactly the same mix of letters.

Round One

I divide the participants into their groups and give each group a pack of tiles. I tell them that they have to make as many words as possible out of the tiles in their packs in four minutes; that there are no rules; and that they can ask no questions. I say “Go!” and start my timer.

People will quite often ask, “Can we….?” “Is OK to ….?” To which I simply reply, “There are no rules, and you can ask no questions.”

When the timer alarm goes off after four minutes I ask them to stop, and add up the number of words they have made.

Round Two

I ask the groups to turn their tiles over, face down. I go round the room and remove two tiles at random from each group. I then give them the instruction, “You now have four minutes to double your previous score. There are no rules and you can ask no questions.”

The result is always feverish action (although one participant also commented wryly, “Typical voluntary sector – asking us to achieve more, with fewer resources!”)

And the result is always higher scores. Sometimes just quite a bit more than before; quite often double or more. One group even claimed to have achieved “Infinity” – although I forget how they justified that claim.

What’s the point?

The point of the exercise is to help people realise that we are very often limited by the rules we impose on ourselves. In Round One some groups lay out the tiles as if on a Scrabble board, using each letter once only, in its fixed position. Some groups think that the numbers on the tiles will be significant in some way (they aren’t in this exercise). Some groups will avoid proper names, abbreviations, foreign words etc, as these aren’t allowed in Scrabble. But this isn’t Scrabble and there are “no rules”.

So, in Round Two the groups throw caution to the wind. They use foreign words, swear words, made-up words… anything they can think of to achieve double their first score, with fewer tiles. By the end of the exercise, when we are ready to start strategic planning, fundraising strategy planning or whatever, the participants are buzzing and believe that almost anything can be possible.

If you would like to see this game in action at your awayday, please call 01737 814758 or email [email protected].

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