Stinky Fish

2-40 people

At the beginning of a workshop or program centered around a particular theme, it can be helpful to engage in a brief activity that encourages participants to share any concerns they may have. The goal is to foster openness and transparency within the group. The "stinky fish" serves as a metaphor for those uncomfortable topics that individuals tend to avoid discussing, but which only become more unpleasant the longer they are ignored. By bringing these issues to the forefront, participants can connect with one another, feel more at ease sharing their thoughts, and identify areas for growth and development. This activity can be conducted in person or online, with templates available for both formats.

Workshop steps


Objective Introduce the goal of this activity in your own words. Clarify that the aim is to discuss and exchange our individual concerns or worries about the workshop or program theme, or the future in general, as a means to initiate a dialogue and start addressing or overcoming these concerns. Online: Access the Miro Template In-Person: Distribute a Stinky Fish template to each attendee. Describe the Stinky Fish metaphor: "The Stinky Fish represents something you carry with you but don't like to discuss; however, the longer you conceal it, the smellier it becomes. It symbolizes fear or anxiety; an issue that will only worsen if you don't recognize and tackle it." For virtual sessions, you can opt to share the template digitally or utilize an online Hyper Island template via Miro - a Hyper Island video demonstrates how to use it.


Allow participants approximately 5 minutes to identify their individual stinky fish, depending on the workshop or program's context. For instance, in a Digital Master Class, the stinky fish might involve concerns and worries about digital transformation. In an organizational change workshop, it could be about apprehensions and unease regarding internal changes. Participants should briefly write a few words or a phrase within the fish's body.


After everyone has caught their own stinky fish, gather the group together and ask each person to present their stinky fish to the others. Request them to share one by one, taking 30-60 seconds each. Keep going until everyone has had a chance to share.


Conclusion Conclude the activity by expressing gratitude to the participants and emphasizing that during periods of change and uncertainty, it is entirely normal to feel concerned about these issues, themes, or the future in general. Clarify that "laying out the fish" is a crucial initial step in addressing and managing these anxieties and fears. If applicable, mention that parts of the upcoming workshop/program will provide opportunities to delve deeper into some of these "smelly fish."

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Anna Lundqvist
UX Designer and AI Ethics Strategist guiding innovative product development and educational workshops
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Eddy Salzmann
Design lead and team culture enthusiast driving products and design processes
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Ola Möller
Founder of MethodKit who has a passion for organisations and seeing the big picture
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