Sociometry is a technique to visualise social relationships. It can show underlying patterns of a group which can be difficult to surface through conversation. A sociometric exercise begins with a question that the group is required to answer by moving in the space and finding appropriate positions for all its members relative to each other. For example, if the question is 'How old are you?' the answer could be visualised as a line with the oldest member of the group on the left and the youngest on the right. Sociometry was originally developed by psychologist Jacob L. Moreno, researching the link between social relationships and mental health.

At FoAM we use sociometry as a warm-up exercise, in situations where we need to arrive at a sense of the group's or individual's preferences (e.g. deciding on the importance and uncertainty of a change driver, or deciding which scenario people want to work on), or as part of a debrief. Sociometric exercises tend to energise the group or provide space for laughter and confusion, which can be helpful in tense situations or with people who don't know each other well. Sociometry can also help in making quick intuitive decisions.

Process

The space in which you conduct sociometry should have enough room for the group to comfortably move around. If the room in which you work is too small, consider taking this exercise outdoors.

  • Step 1: Frame the exercise and provide concise instructions.
  • Step 2: Conduct a tryout using a simple question (concerning the participants' age, height, geographic distance).
  • Step 3: Pose the question and suggest the form that the answer might take (a line, a map, a network), as well as how the connection between people should be visualised (proximity, touch, gaze, etc.).
  • Step 4: Allow the participants time to arrange themselves in response to the question.
  • Step 5: Take a photo.
  • Step 6: Reflect on the answer and if appropriate incorporate results in the futuring exercise (e.g. by forming breakout groups, ranking things, etc.).

Read more about sociometry: http://www.sociometry.net/