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Team-Building Activities and Exercises (Part 4)

Team-Building Activities and Exercises (Part 4)

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Jaclynn Robinson, Learning Development Consultant at Gallup, was our guest on a recent Called to Coach -- the fourth in our series on managers and teams. Jaclynn and Jim Collison exchanged ideas about exercises and activities -- including the team grid, the CliftonStrengths Team Activities Guide, and Theme Insight Cards, but also some less formal activities -- that teams can use to build collaboration and maximize how they apply their talents in the workplace.

Download a free sample activity from the CliftonStrengths Team Activities Guide.

Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio and video are posted above.

We've created the ultimate guide to improving teamwork in the workplace!

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison and live from the Gallup Studios here in Omaha, Nebraska, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on January 17, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:20

Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room right above. There's a link to it on our live page in the YouTube instance. And we'd love to have you join us in the chat room. Many of you have, and we'd also -- if you have questions after the fact, send us an email: Don't forget to subscribe to us on your favorite podcast app, YouTube, all those places -- get it done; subscribe to us. We want to thank you for doing that as well. Jaclynn Robinson is our host today. She works as a Learning and Development Consultant here at Gallup with me. Jaclynn, it's great to have you and welcome back to Called to Coach.

Jaclynn Robinson 1:02

Thanks for having me.

Jim Collison 1:03

Yeah, good to have you. We spent some time ...

Jaclynn Robinson 1:04

It's great being here.

Jim Collison 1:05

We spent some time in the prior session, in Session 3, kind of really talking about building a better team. So we talked about recognition and conflict in that, which seem opposite, but are actually, I think, maybe not opposites in that.

Jaclynn Robinson 1:20

Yes, that brings brings people together.

Jim Collison 1:23

It does. And so Part 4 is, I think, a natural conclusion to the series, as we talk about some very practical kind of activities, and some things will continue a little bit in the flavor of what we were talking about in Session 3, but maybe even with some more details. As we, as we think about activities and exercises that help teams get better. I'm going to hold your feet to the fire, so to speak, to say, not just about how to do the activities, but why are we doing, right, what we're doing in this. So I think the natural place to start with this is a team grid, and and everybody like, we, right, we ...

Jaclynn Robinson 1:59

People love that.

Jim Collison 2:00

People love those things. So beyond putting it together, like, however that gets done -- do you get, do you get to a point where you get a team grid -- the grid itself, as an activity, what have you seen work well and where can we start with, once we have everybody's Top 5, all 34, whatever, put together in a team grid?

Jaclynn Robinson 2:18

Well, after the manager has reviewed the team grid as well -- so we're all on the same page moving into that team session -- I think it's a beautiful thing when you've got the grid posted. It's on a PowerPoint or it's, it's enlarged, or you just hand it out piece by piece to individuals. I think the power comes when they can look at the grid and start thinking about, are we Relationship Builders? Are we Executers? Are we Strategic Thinkers? Are we Influencers? And then having individuals look at the grid and start to say, what are our Top 5 that we start to see? Which starts getting them thinking about the culture, and that might be a question I pose too if they're just simply looking at the Top 5 to say, Oh, we have a lot of Positivity here; we're high Individualization. Let's talk about that a little bit more. How does that -- whenever you think about the culture of the team, how do you see that play into it?

Jaclynn Robinson 3:09

And then, alternatively, I like to throw questions at them, and have them think about, what are we doing really well as a team? So they're starting to see the value that they're bringing to themselves, but then expanding that, on the macro level, what's the value we're bringing to those other teams that we cross-collaborate with frequently? Or maybe we feel pretty siloed, and we want to actually be a little bit more influential in the workplace. What's the value we bring? And how can we then propose that and, and pitch that to other teams or start, you know, connecting with other teams?

Jaclynn Robinson 3:44

And then, going to that flip side, to say, OK, let's talk about some challenges you've had over this past year or the past quarter. Is this shedding light on that for you all, and let's talk about that, and bringing forth that feedback. And how do we account for that? If they're having some challenges based on what you're seeing in your grid, how do we account for that individually? How are you going to contribute towards that? But then as a team, how are we going to, going to rectify that without hiring new people? Because that's what people want to go to first, right? We have no Influencing; we've gotta hire Influencers. And that's, that's simply not the case. What we might say is, What can you use instead? Or what's another team that you actively cross-collaborate with? And maybe they're that partner for your your team. I think that's the value of the team grids.

Jim Collison 4:34

Boy, that's a -- that's a great point you just made, is sometimes we create these -- and I haven't heard a lot of teams doing this -- but we create these team grids. So whatever your team size is; we'll say 10 or 15. And then you isolate yourself in the organization, and you don't say, Oh, wait a minute, who do we work with the closest, and how are they made up? Like and have cross-team collaboration, right. Have you seen that work inside organizations where the teams are doing that? And what's some best practices or what have you seen work really well in that area?

Jaclynn Robinson 5:05

I've seen some where they're -- they're a group of Strategic Thinkers. And then they're working with a team that has some high Influencing. So for them, it's it's been a fantastic partnership, because they're coming up with all these valuable ideas and resources and systems that might be able to put in place, and then you've got their other team that's influencing people to get behind them and create action around it.

Jaclynn Robinson 5:28

And then for some teams, I think they they recognize why there might even be conflict between them at times. So going right back to that healthy conflict, and what that might look like or bringing it forth. No wonder! We're a team of Executers; they're a team of Thinkers. We could actually work really well together. But no wonder at times we get frustrated because they might be internally processing and we feel like they're sitting on things more, and we just want to go and get things done. But actually looking at their, their team dynamics, they're seeing that they can actually be quite effective. And oh, we need your, your thoughts and your thinking process. And we're just those individuals that can carry it out. So we've got the cart and the horse, as they say. Yeah.

Jim Collison 6:12

Yeah. I want to put a pitch in for Season 6 of Theme Thursday. Maika and I are talking a bunch in context of, and I think, an enormous amount of resources this season for this team grid conversation. In other words, and let me ask you, because this happens all the time: Teams get a hold of the grid, and they're missing something or they're, they're "all something," right. And we tend to -- why do we, why, with individual themes, do we tend to -- we always say, tell people, Hey, focus on what you're best at. But teams want to go right to the bottom. How have you seen or what kind of advice would you give to teams to keep them from immediately going to the bottom and saying, "We need ..." instead of, "We are awesome at ... "? What kind of advice would you give there?

Jaclynn Robinson 6:57

Yeah, and that's the power of having that conversation with the manager ahead of time to start hypothesizing what the team might say and in collaborating together. Or if you're the facilitator or the coach that's going into that team session, to be able to say, It's not about what you don't have; what might you be using instead? So you don't see that you've got Individualization; no one has that. Your high Relator? How, how are you building those relationships using Relator? How do you start to connect with individuals and see what's unique within them?

Jaclynn Robinson 7:29

And that might be something, obviously, I'd want them to call that out themselves. But that's what you want to bring them back to is, Just because you don't have that theme doesn't mean that you're not figuring out a different method of getting to that same outcome. Let's talk about what you do have. And that did actually come up with a team before where they had no Context. But they were high Learner and Input, and that's a question I presented to them was, "How do you think you might be receiving information when you need to learn more about the past?" And their eyes went right to Learner and Input to say, well, that's, that's what we do; we, you know, we go down, we go down the Google rabbit hole, and we start learning about what we need to know, in order to inform us.

Jim Collison 8:12

Might be the best use of the domains that I've seen yet is when you're -- when we're looking at a specific theme, and it doesn't exist. How do we look at the other 7 themes in that domain, and then ask that question? OK, we don't have this; how, you know, we may be short on Executing, but we got a ton of Belief. How are we going to -- how are we going to use that that fits into that domain? Or, I think even sometimes, Maika is famous for saying this, and the fact that she sees domains as more of a curtain than a wall. Right? And so how can we start having these conversations of how can I turn my Woo or how can I turn my Input on to act like those things? I think that gives us some great solutions, right? It doesn't have to be exactly nailed down to the theme, right? But it's that discussion around how can I fill in, right?

Jaclynn Robinson 9:01

It is! And even going back to domains, it's a great point you bring up. Because not only are we looking at gaps in themes -- is that something that teams often do when they look at the team grid, but they'll look at the domain and say, oh, we're missing Influencing. Uh-oh. But maybe they're high Relationship Builders. And so might you be Influencing people because they simply like you? They know that you're genuine, you're authentic, that you're true to your word and your bond and, and that relationship they have with you is meaningful, and they want to make sure that they -- they're doing what's best for you and for the team. And so maybe that's how you're Influencing people. So sometimes as a coach, a facilitator or a manager, we have to also help them see some other sides of how they might be, you know, accounting for a domain that seems to have quite a wide gap in it with something else that they're using.

Jim Collison 9:52

We've, we've talked -- in this team grid concept, you know, people make posters out of them, they post them. But there are other ways to do gridlike activities without, without having a team grid. And I think about our nametags being posted here, publicly, where everyone can see them -- like, that's a function of a team grid without it necessarily being a team grid, right?

Jaclynn Robinson 10:17

Yes, I encourage that all the time. That people -- one of the easiest ways and quickest ways you can implement CliftonStrengths from a team level is to start putting it in the signature of your email or to have your, your, your table placard that's got your name on it with your Top 5 on there, or have it posted on your office window so people can see it. But it starts to create that conversation. And I think when it creates a conversation, and you're starting to talk about your themes, as a, as a, as a colleague, now you can look at that person and say, Oh, you're actually a pretty good potential partner. I'm struggling with something at the moment and I see you have Ideation high. And now that I see that, I actually want to -- I'm going to switch topics here and I want to pick your brain about something for a moment. So I think that's, it can be so effective and so easy -- to your point, it's a simple way of starting to talk themes.

Jim Collison 11:09

And I think even having conversations -- I do this maybe twice a day now, where I'm talking with someone, and in the middle of the conversation, I'll say, "Hey, wait a minute. Tell me your Top 5?" Like, just because I'm trying to understand where that's coming from. I have a benefit that here at Gallup, like it's hard not to know your your Top 5, right? We've -- we've all pretty much got them memorized. And we spend a lot of time talking about them. But it is one of those, I think, one of those little tricks is to be asking from time to time, "Just tell me, like, remind me?" even if they need to look. I've had new employees go out and look at their name tag just because they want to they want to get the right order.

Jim Collison 11:46

And so it gives us an opportunity, right, beyond, kind of beyond the team grid, so to speak, of getting the things out in front. I saw -- one of our tech teams one time did a, kind of did a retreat for the teams, all day long. And they bought T-shirts for them that had their No. 1 theme on the T-shirts. So they ...

Jaclynn Robinson 12:04

Oh, how neat is that!

Jim Collison 12:05

... through the day, right, their theme and then all these exercises was kind of built around really maximize -- are we maximizing everybody's No. 1 theme? And it was super easy then to see, You know, we do placards, but those are sometimes hard to see when it's just, you know, when it's just on the shirt. What else have you seen -- have you seen any other, when we think about activities, and we think about making this real every day, what other activities have you seen that have worked?

Jaclynn Robinson 12:28

Another one that I love, and it's so creative, is coming up with your own strengths slogan. So choosing, it could be your No. 1 theme or it could be any of your themes in your Top 5. But what would your strengths slogan be? And then posting that on your desk or in the break room where everyone has their strengths slogan. So what's my theme? And what's my slogan? So for, you know, for Maximizer, it might be about, you know, I want to focus on excellence, or I'm here for the excellent work, or give me your excellent projects. So it's just, it's just whatever you want to do that's most creative, that, that resonates with you, but the team can start to identify that value as well.

Jaclynn Robinson 12:28

One is just to have each individual on the team, if you've got that large Post-it note paper that you can put on the wall, each individual writes down the one theme they feel contributes the most to the team. And then you've got people that go and take pictures of it because now that's embedded in their phone. So if they're on the road, or they work remote, or maybe they're not in the office at the same time, they've got that picture favorited and they can go and see who they can talk to that has high Communication or who they can talk to you with high Woo.

Jim Collison 13:39

We, during last season, I discovered my Maximizer theme -- when you talk about having a slogan -- my slogan became, "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing." And having that -- knowing that in my own mind, and I've repeated that dozens, maybe hundreds, of times to my coworkers around me. So we'll be in the midst of doing something, and I'll be like, Look, you know me, whatever is worth doing is worth overdoing. And it's funny that connection that starts, right, at that, at that level. That -- that'd be interesting to think about how could I do that for each of my Top 5? And people having those little, those little statements. If you were, if you were going to lead an exercise -- and I'm going to put you on the spot here a little bit, so we'll see how good you are at this -- so if we were going to do a little exercise where we encouraged people to come up with those slogans, maybe one or two, how would you encourage a manager or a coach to kind of approach that conversation with people? And what kind of resources might you bring in to help with some kind of activity like that?

Jaclynn Robinson 14:38

Off the bat, the Theme Insight Cards; the Theme Insight Cards because they have the words and phrases that's going to help everyone start to identify the subtle nuances about their themes. So I love, I bring, I you know, dislike -- this is a metaphor that, that describes me. And I think that helps trigger people to go, "Oh, that's what this theme is about!" And then sometimes I'll even ask them, once they've looked over the Theme Insight Cards, think about songs or quotes or poetry that you've got around you. How do you see your theme tied into that? Because oftentimes, you just offered up a perfect example with Maximizer. It's a slogan, but it's got that catchy quote to it. For Maximizer, for me, I always think of Jim -- they say it comes from Jim Rohn, I'm not sure -- but "Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best." I say it all the time. And then for me it connected. Oh, my gosh, that's coming from my Maximizer theme. So I think, if you're using Theme Insight Cards, and they can look at words and phrases that resonate with them, or they start to think about their favorite quotes or stories, or, or, or poetry or movies and how do you see your themes incorporated? It can help them start to come up with that, that strengths slogan for themselves.

Jim Collison 15:55

Behind me, on the wall here, let's see, on this side, right there, is actually my family's Top 5. And so a little art that was made for me. My wife put that together when we moved to the old studio. And, but even a team and this is a Wordle, which is kind of an old concept, right? We've, we've been to Wordles, we've done those. But I think getting, getting some team frequencies outside of the grid a little bit, and getting them kind of brought together and maybe the team puts together some slogans like, What does it mean, you have in the 9 of us in my family, we have Adaptability super high. You know, so we could, you know, go anywhere, do anything, anytime, all the time, right? I mean, that could become, that, that could become a slogan for the family. And that we have this kind of family mantra. I'd kind of love to see teams have their own slogan, right? Have you ever seen anybody put team slogans together, something like that, where they, because as teams work with teams, they have that same experience. Right?

Jaclynn Robinson 16:54

Yes. I love that. I'm stealing it! I haven't -- I haven't had a team do that yet. So I'm stealing it as a best practice. And I love the idea that you tied that in also to your personal life. Because if we think about our personal and professional wellbeing, our family life, they're, they're a team. Or if we're students, those around us or team or they might be in a fraternity or sorority. So again, thinking about all those close connections that impact you outside of work that can enhance your wellbeing so that you feel even better within the workplace, or vice versa.

Jim Collison 17:28

Some dynamite activities we've talked about. Jaclynn, what else would you add? What else would you add to this conversation as we're thinking about things that teams can do to build better strengths and stronger strengths?

Jaclynn Robinson 17:39

One I like is, If you were a superhero, who would you be? I think that's a good one. And why? Because you start to hear the talent themes come out. And I think that's even more powerful if they've got their Top 5 in front of them. Because now the team can start to see, Oh, I see where that's coming from. So, case in point, I love -- Achiever's my No. 1. Wonder Woman is my favorite of all time. So for me, Wonder Woman!

Jim Collison 18:06

Listen, there's nobody cooler ...

Jaclynn Robinson 18:07

She powers through; she's so cool. She's so cool. And you know, Maximizer, Positivity. She's just, she's focused on, on the good of humans and wanting to fight for humans to make the world a better place. So she would be my favorite. But I think that's a creative and fun way where it doesn't feel like a more formalized activity and it breaks the ice and gets people talking, especially if you are starting to create some team activities and you want people to loosen up and they're not going, "What's going on here?"

Jaclynn Robinson 18:42

I've also seen some people round-robin and they say, "What are you grateful for today?" And that opens up a world of understanding as you learn about gratitude and what, again, kind of what motivates people; what that value might be; or what, what sparks them in terms of what they're grateful for. If you were a movie, what would you be? One that Jacque Merritt likes to use, if you all know her, is, you know, "If you were in a bookstore, what section would you be in?" Self-help, psychology, action? And again, Why? And so, creative ways once more to start looping in your themes and having other people see a more personal and creative side of you, but also how your themes influence who you are and the personality that you bring to the table.

Jim Collison 19:29

One of the effective ones I've seen, and we've talked about this before, but our -- is this deck of, of pictures. Listen, there's no magic in the pictures. This has maybe been the one of the most misunderstood -- a lot of folks are like, you know, Oh, these -- you know, especially overseas, like -- these are tough to ship. They're on paper, right? But really, they're just pictures. You could create your own set, your own deck of cards that are just pictures that you do.

Jim Collison 19:53

One of the things I want to challenge folks is, especially as we, you know, we've had Adam Hickman on here a bunch talking about remote teams. How do you do these things remotely? Well, this exercise fits in nicely remote, because you can go get a bunch of pictures, make them digital, and then share those across whatever medium you're using, right, in a virtual sense. And have -- share them that way. Like, go here and see this deck; I put this Pinterest deck together. Let's -- Pinterest would be great for this, by the way -- let's go and look at these and then let's have some discussions and we can talk about them all in real time in the same way. Are -- the cards we do in training are blank on the back; the ones we sell actually have some questions that you can, you can ask the teams or ask the individuals. But these roll up nicely to a team, right?

Jaclynn Robinson 20:41

They do. Yes. And and that really is effective with those that work remotely and want to feel like they're tapped in and tuned in to the team that might be on site. And yeah, people will put that in a zip file; they'll send it over. So I think that's a fantastic activity. It reminds me of the Powerful Partnerships -- the large poster we have that we offer; it comes in a packet. But it's the poster, it's got Powerful Partnership cards, and then it's a group activity. So you've got all the team together; you partner individuals off; it's got their name, it's got their Top 5. And then on the back, the person writes, "The value that you bring to the team is ..." and they fill that out. And then "This is how we can support you." And then that's read off in front of the room.

Jaclynn Robinson 21:31

So it's almost like a partnership ceremony. But everyone can hear that person's name, their Top 5, the value they're bringing, how they can support that person. And then there's stickers, and they look just like those picture cards that you just showed, Jim. And it's the partner that chooses a sticker that best represents that individual on the team. So I think that's so unique because then you get the perception of what others think about you. And the value is that sticker with the person's name and Top 5 is going on the poster. Now you've got basically this pictograph of every person on the team. And when you put that in a break room, it just creates a lot of energy and enthusiasm because you just -- you've got a visual of the person, for one. And you also see that -- every person on the team's Top 5.

Jim Collison 22:16

I have a Marines son who's stationed overseas right now. And for Christmas, we put -- we did the 12 Days of Christmas, and we created 12 cards for him to open. And we started the exercise with a pilot. When you said, "Stickers," this kind of just -- we, we started with just a pile of stickers and some blank cards. And everyone created those cards with the stickers and whatever else they wanted to do. And you know, that can be another, just like another exercise, where you get -- instead of starting with a picture, you start with a blank card and a whole bunch of stickers. Now stickers are cheap, right? And you can find them everywhere. And, and allow people to tell their story through the stickers they find. And they stick on these cards and then they have -- it's both a representation of whatever you want it to be, however you want to do that, right? And it gets some artistic -- they get to have the input in it, right, at that point. They get to kind of dictate what it says. They're not being put in a box, but it gives them an opportunity to kind of work that thing out. So I've never seen that done. But I, I think that could be kind of -- you guys can have that for free, by the way.

Jaclynn Robinson 23:20

No charge.

Jim Collison 23:21

Yeah, no, kind of. Jaclynn, we have maybe 1 more minute left. Anything else you'd throw in here as we think about activities?

Jaclynn Robinson 23:28

Yes. If you're doing a lot of activities, or you just want a book to help you, we did just come out with one last year, I believe. And it's, it's a strengths-based Team-building Activities Guide. So we give you 100 activities that you can do -- I think it's 100 -- activities that you can do. It's a book full, and it's based on are you trying to strengths build? Are you, are you just trying to get your team to understand one another? Are you taking it to the next level with the team grid? So there's a number of different activities that you can just pull from, based on what you're looking for in that particular situation or that point in time. But wonderful guidance -- at Gallup, we still refer to that oftentimes when we want to shake it up and do something a little bit more creative in workspaces.

Jim Collison 24:14

Yeah, no, right on, I think it's a great opportunity to get some ideas. I am -- I honestly, I'm a huge fan of -- I kind of take ideas from things I found, and I make them my own. And then, just like the sticker idea, it's kind of one of those things that are like, you know, I don't, I'm not good at following rules. Maybe that's the, maybe that's it, and I want to kind of break the rules and do it on my own.

Jaclynn Robinson 24:35

It's your Adaptability.

Jaclynn Robinson 24:36

Thank you. And thank everyone for listening in.

Jim Collison 24:36

So it is; it is indeed, and a little bit of Woo. Like I want to influence, and then, you know, there's there's all those themes in there that want to -- I never do the same thing twice, although I have created about 800 of these things. So I -- apparently there's something in there that works that way. But they're all different, right? And so for me, I like it to be a different experience each time. I like to kind of custom build those. There are others who like to buy it and follow it by the rules and do it by the book. And that's great too, right? That, that kind of works as well. So, Jaclynn, thanks for taking the time today to sit down and record 3 and 4 for us. We now have a complete package of -- for teams and managers, 4-part series, about an hour worth of material. If you just caught 4, we have 1, 2, and 3 that's available for you as well, either on YouTube, you can download it through the Called to Coach webcast, but we'd love to have you do that as well. Jaclynn, thanks for taking the time to do this with us today.

Jim Collison 24:58

It was it was fun. You hang tight for me one second, we'll answer a few questions in the post-show. With that, we will remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we have available at the -- now our new Gallup Access. It's easiest -- for strengths folks, it's easiest to access that through And we have tons of resources for you. Not just your Top 5, but there's a bunch on the tool and then on the /cliftonstrengths page, there is a ton -- an enormous amount; I can't even cover it here of resources that are available for you. So head out there, explore it; there's an About tab up there. If you click on that there's 5 sections that you should spend an afternoon on just by yourself, making sure you know what's in those sections. So lot of resources for you, as well. As I mentioned, YouTube, you can find us on YouTube, just search "CliftonStrengths." If you go to any podcast app, you can find this by searching "Gallup Webcasts." Love to have you go ahead and subscribe, while you're out there, so you make sure everything -- every time we post something new, you get it automatically. For every program we do, including this one, we do a post on And it has the complete transcripts. Some of you have asked for those. So you can search for -- anytime Jaclynn said "Teams," you could find that in there if you wanted to. At the very bottom of that, you can sign up for our new CliftonStrengths newsletter, available for you for free every month. We'll just send you reminders of some of these great tips as well. So get, get signed up for that as well. If your organization is struggling to implement any of these things, or you just have some questions for us, you can send us an email: You can also see a complete list of our courses that are available. We do offer those on site and some virtual; they're available on our courses page: We'd love to have you come out for the summer and join us June 3, no, 1, 2, and 3. Listen, Omaha in June -- it's no L.A.; it's better than L.A.! I'm just going to say that. OK, maybe not, but it's pretty close.

Jaclynn Robinson 27:23

You've got a great downtown space. Come join us at the summit!

Jim Collison 27:27

We'd love to have you: That is the way to get there and get signed up and just join us. Join us on our Facebook group:, all one word. On LinkedIn, search for CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches and I'll let you in. You don't have to be a coach to be there. You don't even need to be a trained coach. That's our public space on LinkedIn. We'd love to have you join us as well. Thanks for joining us. If you found this useful, we'd ask that you'd share it, and join us for another Called to Coach. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Jaclynn Robinson's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Achiever, Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity and Relator.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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