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Squiggle Birds

Squiggle birds is a quick exercise that you can use to get people stretching their visual thinking muscles. It takes about five minutes and quickly, clearly demonstrates how little effort is really required to make meaningful, easy-to-read images. The main point of the demonstration is that our minds are already pattern-making machines, and very little drawing is actually required to convey an idea. The mind will fill in the rest.

I learned this exercise from my friend Chris Glynn, a fine teacher who teaches fine things.

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Draw Toast


Object of play
You can use the Draw Toast exercise to introduce people to the concepts of visual thinking, working memory, mental models and/or systems thinking. This also works as a nice warm-up exercise to get people engaged with each other and thinking visually. Plus, it’s fun!

Number of players
Any number of people can play this game.

Duration: 10-15 minutes.

How to play
On paper or index cards, ask people to draw “How to make toast.”

After a couple of minutes, ask people to share their diagrams with each other and discuss the similarities and differences. Ask people to share any observations or insights they have about the various drawings. You are likely to hear comments about the relative simplicity or complexity of the drawings, whether they have people in them, how technical they are, how similar or different they are, and so on.

Depending on why you are doing the exercise you may want to point out the following:

  • Note that althought the drawings are all different, they are all fundamentally correct. There are many ways to visualize information and they all enrich understanding rather than being “right” or “wrong.”
  • Although the drawings are different in content, they tend to be similar in structure. That is, most drawings of mental models tend to contain three to seven elements, connected by lines or arrows.

    The main point of this exercise is to demonstrate the power of visual thinking to represent information.

    Visualizations of this kind tend to be easily understandable, although they are visually as rich and diverse as people. Pictures can be fundamentally correct even though they are quite different. There is no “one right type” of visualization.

    When people visualize a mental model, they usually will include 5-7 elements, linked together by lines or arrows. The number of elements tends to correspond to the number of things people can hold in their working memory, also known as short-term memory (See The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two for more information).

    This is also a nice warm-up exercise that is fun and gets people talking to each other.

    There is an excellent TED talk by Tom Wujec which you may want to watch in preparation. It may also be useful to show to the group in sessions as a way to share insights after the exercise. Tom also has a page with ideas for extending this exercise into group problem-solving which you can find at

    The Draw Toast exercise was created by Dave Gray

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    Building partnerships

    Object of play: The partnership canvas is a tool that enables visualization of current and/or future partnerships. It can also be used for early testing of the value creating potential of a partnership between two partnership candidates. The tool’s purpose is to define your business priority for partnering, and empathize with your partner to explore whether there is potentially a match. The partnership canvas can be used as a stand-alone tool, but comes to full strategizing value when it is jointly used with the business model canvas, also available on this site.

    Bart Doorneweert & Ernst Houdkamp

    Number of players: This can be done by yourself, but preferably with 2 teams of max 5 people representing each side of the partnership. Alternatively, make multiple pairs if there are more people.

    Duration of play: 
    (60-90 min):

    – Step 1- Define intent (15 min)

    –Step 2- Design partnership (15 min/sketch)

    –Step 3- Bring teams to the negotiating table (15 min)

    –Step 4- Evaluate the negotiation results and define next steps (20 min)

    How to play

    1. Define intent
    a)    Describe the aim or goal of the partnership for your business
    b)    List what would be ideal partners to work with and why. Organize a post up. Select a top partnership candidate, or multiple candidates.
    c)    Create (multiples of) 2 teams; 1 representing your business, 1 for a potential partner’s business.

    2. Design partnership
    a)    Each team identifies their desired assets in their respective partner’s business model
    b)    Teams sketches out a partnership canvas from their own team’s perspective using stickie notes to define each building block

    3. Bring teams to the negotiating table
    a)   Each team presents their partnership canvas
    b)   Compare the two partnership canvasses by mirroring the partnership perspectives. Compare between  value offers of one team, to desired value of the other team, and whether there is mutual understanding of the transfer activities. Check for a clear fit.
    c)   Create agreement on the created value for each partner. Adapt partnership canvas and iterate step 3 if required.

    4. Evaluate the negotiation results and define next steps
    a)   Do the elements of created value provide clear added value to each partner’s business?
    b)   Define next steps to effectuate the partnership


    Mirroring partnership perspectives
    Mirroring partnership perspectives

    Strategy: The partnership canvas can be used to explore the idea of engaging in a partnership. A team can use the canvas to prepare for an upcoming conversation with a potential partner. Alternatively the session can be conducted jointly with a potential partner if there is already a mutual interest to explore partnering possibilities. The tool can firstly be used to determine whether there is a technical fit between two businesses. By working in teams and negotiating certain rivalry is always invoked, and teams can also get a sense of cultural fit between two partnering businesses.

    In order to obtain full strategizing value from use of the canvas, it is advised to integrally work with the business model canvas. In the end, the partnership discussion is a key step in business model innovation

     Interaction Partnership Canvas  Business Model Canvas

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    Fast Company discovers dot voting!

    Looks like Fast Company magazine discovered dot voting. So it’s officially a thing now. Woohoo!

    “Simple dot stickers, just like you can buy from any office supply store, are Google Ventures’ preferred voting mechanism used to narrow down a big pile of ideas to a small pile of good ideas. A concept, or several concepts, are taped to the wall, and team members are allowed to stick a dot on the parts they like most. What results isn’t just a design concept covered in stickers; it’s a heat map for the best ideas.”

    The dead simple way Google Ventures unlocks great ideas.

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    iPhone app

    Gamestorming Card Deck iPhone app

    Gamestorming iPhone app

    The Gamestorming Card Deck is drawn from the blog, the companion website to ‘Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers’ by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and Dave Macanufo. The cards are frequently updated and will help you learn the fundamentals of visual language, how to illuminate complexities by mapping the big picture and how to use improvisation and games to innovate and solve real problems and help you feel more confident about using visualization in meetings.

    The cards in this deck show you not only how to play — with images and instructions on both sides of the cards — but how to organize the games into favorites and ‘agendas’ for your meeting in the form of stacks. The stacks can be played by swiping through each of the cards as you proceed through your meeting or brainstorming session.

    Here’s how it works:

    Gamestorming iPhone app

    After you’ve downloaded the app, click on the app icon to open the app.

    Gamestorming iPhone app

    You’ll see a deck of cards that you can scroll through, just like you can scroll through apps. Each card represents a game from the Games Wiki. (The app syncs with the wiki, so whenever we add new games to the wiki you can add them to your app by going to the settings menu and clicking “refresh.”). Tap a card to open that card.

    Gamestorming iPhone app

    You’ll see the large version of the card. If you tap the little dog-ear to the lower right the card will flip over and you can read the instructions for that game on the back of the card.

    Gamestorming iPhone app

    The instructions are exactly what you would see in the book or on the Games Wiki. You can scroll down to read the whole card.

    Gamestorming iPhone app

    There’s also a stacks menu, where you can create a stack by adding cards.

    Gamestorming iPhone app

    Once you have a stack, you can click “edit” to rearrange the games in the stack. Create as many stacks as you want. For example you might create one stack for a brainstorming meeting, one for a company retreat, and another for your weekly status meeting. When it’s time for the meeting just open the stack and you can quickly flip through the games in that stack.

    Let the games begin!

    Gamestorming iPhone app
    Get the app now.

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    Agile UX Sketching and Scrum

    Last-Import-09-300x300“Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” That was the advice of Arthur BrisbaneEditor The Syracuse Post Standard March 28, 1911. Despite originally referring to newsprint, the adage still holds true in the digital age.

    Sketching for understanding” is an efficient and effective way to gather tons of ideas in a short period of time while cultivating shared understanding across agile teams. With the right structure and active participation, sketching with Scrum teams can really pay dividends throughout the release life cycle.

    Use the following guide to help plan and facilitate your next agile sketching session. Continue reading Agile UX Sketching and Scrum

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    Cost Benefit

    This game is most probably the most simple collaborative cost benefit analysis ever.
    It is applicable onto subjects where a group has expert knowledge about costs and/or benefits.

    A group of developers is such an example.
    Especially a customer or customer proxy will have interest when it comes to prioritizing work items.

    Generation ideas

    If the list of work items is not existent you can start this exercise by a silent post-up.
    All individuals in the group start scribbling down about the work to be done. (one thing/sticky)
    After 10 min or so ask the group to hang them on the wall.

    Ask the team to group items together by subject in silence. Items causing discussion you ask to park aside.
    Explain that the only purpose is having a priority. So under what cluster it’s been put isn’t that important. What is important however, is all know where it’s under.
    So on the exact scope (what-fits-best-where) there is no explicit consensus needed. A majority is fine.

    In short:
    * does everybody know the scope of the clusters?
    * can the team proportionally estimate the size of the scope? (what is bigger/smaller then what)

    Priories on cost

    Next, ask the team to sort them top to bottom on cost. (5 minutes of work)
    Park the items under discussion aside after all the others are done.
    Discussion can only happen when the clustering did not clear things up or caused friction. This could indicate the team isn’t aware of the goal: putting priority.

    Next hang the lowest sticky way lower and the highest way higher then the rest of the sorted list.
    Like that you’ll have room to position the stickies on a scale.CostBenefit-Y-axis
    Write down on the board some marks of the scale.  E.g. (see image): 1, 5, 10, 15, 20.
    Ask the team to position the other items on the correct place on the scale.
    The sorted order must will stay ofcourse, a relative cost will emerge from the scale as they are positionned.

    This all takes about 10 min: Sorting 5, scaling 5.
    Depending on the position on the scale, write the relative number bottom left on the stickies.
    E.g. stickies in the middle: 50%, top 0%, bottom 100%.
    This will be your Y-axis coordinate to put your sticky on a 2D cost -benefit graph.

    Priories on benefit

    Do the same for the benefits with a product owner, customer if preferred.
    Sort, relatively scale them, and write the number bottom right.


    Cost Benefit Result

    Putting it all together

    Draw the X and Y axis with the top and bottom values from the exercise above:  the costs & benefits.
    Hang the stickies according to the cost/benefit coordinates noted on them.

    The low hanging-fruit and infeasible-expensive items are clearly found now.



    Note that the same approach can be done with a Kano diagram or any other kind of 2D graph.
    It’s a fun way of clearing things out and prioritizing is done through collaborative support.
    Special attention on discussion starters is recommended. They are the time consumers, and can be stopped by guarding and communicating your goal: prioritizing.

    Enjoy this game, feedback is mostly appreciated!