Ermine or Vermin?

Every year we host a family Christmas quiz, called Ermine or Vermin.

There are 20-25 of us and it takes a little bit of organising to make it run smoothly and to keep it fun.

This is how we introduce it:

Ermine - The winter coat of the European Stoat and The Grasshopper Mouse of North America

European Stoat and The Grasshopper Mouse

  • The quiz has prizes, Hurrah!
  • There are 4 rounds of questions.
  • Each round someone wins and the group gets a bag of prizes wrapped in christmas paper.
  • Some of the prizes are desirable, some less so, hence the title of the quiz.

So why am I telling you this?

Well, it is the preparation that is key to keeping this light-hearted fun.

The first problem is how to divide up people into different groups.

We solved this one by passing round a tin of chocolates.  There are 4 varieties in the tin.  This year we used Cadbury’s Flake, Crunchie, Caramel and Dairy Milk. Yum.

Then we had the questions.   My friend (thanks Paul) provided these.  This year we had  questions about countries and capital cities, another had a list of dinosaur names, some made up, some real. And so on.

We get the groups to monitor one another for fair play, so that no-one secretly consults Wikipedia.  Peer pressure is a good self regulation mechanism, even in families!

The groups use score sheets we had prepared in advance.  At the end of each round they pass their score sheet to another group to mark.  Then we put the scores from each round on a matrix sheet on one of the doors of the room.

The winning group gets a bag of prizes and open them there and then.  Part of the fun for those who didn’t win is seeing the individual reactions to the rather diverse range of prizes each group gets.  🙂

After the final round, there is an overall winner and the group get the rather dubious pleasure of an extra bag of prizes!

This year everyone came away with at least one prize, and more importantly we’ve also added more fun stories to the family bank of memories.  It is the stories we tell one another that bind us together.

The preparation is the key to making it look effortless and smooth.  You can see how much work goes in to a family quiz, so you might be more aware of the behind-scenes effort that goes into our day job.

More of this in 2014.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, the scores on the doors revealed that the Flake group won this year with 45 points.

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One thought on “Ermine or Vermin?

  1. Nice analogy. Your festive season is obviously very different to ours – we tend to play ‘Grape or Grain’ rather than ‘Ermine or Vermin’, with very different consequences.

    I would say that in business life we often also make use of striking dichotomies which don’t necessarily stand ultimate scrutiny. We do this all the time in strategy. (‘The absolute cost leader versus the differentiator’ for example – is the Ryanair story full encompassed by the first label? No, but it is a useful lens all the same). So, the ISSG classifies Mustela Erminea as one of the worlds 100 worst invasive species, and the Vertebrate Pests Committee classifies it as an extreme threat. Sounds like vermin to me…

    There is a paradox in that these dichotomies are often excellent tools for providing clear direction and purpose, but that (business model) innovation often depends on questioning and over-turning them (“phones are for voice, computers are for data…”).

    And of course, it is often the Flakey team that comes out on top…

    *cough*. Happy New Year Adrian.

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