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Altitude


Object of play
Sometimes it can be difficult to keep a meeting on track when people have a hard time staying focused at the right level. People can find themselves “down in the weeds” or operational details when the meeting is supposed to be strategic, or, conversely, they can find themselves being too abstract and strategic when operational detail is exactly what’s needed. You can use Altitude to agree on expectations and keep people focused at the right level to serve the goals of the meeting.

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

Duration: 5 minutes.

How to play
1. Create a chart like the one shown below.

2. Give everyone a sheet of paper. Ask, “Who knows how to make a paper airplane? and ask for a show of hands. If there are people who don’t know how, either show them or ask someone at their table to do so. Now ask everyone to make a paper airplane. If time permits, you might offer them a chance to test their planes to make sure they fly.

3. Reveal the altitude chart, and ask the group to define what they mean by the satellite level, or the airplane level, and the ground level. For example, if people say that the satellite level is too high but the ground level is too detailed, ask them for examples of the kinds of things that they would consider at the right altitude. Then ask them for examples of things that would be too low or too high.

4. When you have reached some consensus on the right altitude level, put a mark on the page to represent the “right” altitude.

5. Now tell people that whenever they notice the conversation going too high (abstract, vague, strategic) or too low (down in the weeds, tactical, operational) they can float their airplane and that will be a signal to the group.

Strategy
Meetings often go off track when someone pulls conversations into the wrong “altitude.” When this happens people often tune out, or even leave. In most meetings there is no simple, easy feedback mechanism people can use to keep the meeting on track. Giving people such a feedback mechanism (and making it fun) makes it easier for people to weigh in, keeping the meeting on track.

The Altitude game was created by Dave Gray

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Hero’s Journey Agenda


Object of play
The Hero’s Journey Agenda is a unique and different way to lay out the agenda for a meeting or workshop that creates a sense of adventure and builds anticipation for the meeting.

Number of players
One, usually the facilitator, created live in front of a group.

Duration: 10-15 minutes.

How to play
I am going to give you a script here, based on the video above. But this exercise works best if you make it your own, using a story you love and that you feel your audience will be familiar with, like a favorite fairy tale or movie.

1. Draw a large circle on a whiteboard or flip chart. Tell people,

“This circle represents all the things we’re going to do today. We’re starting out up here (point to the top of the circle), and we’re going to take a hero’s journey.”

If you have geeks in the room, can actually talk about it in terms of Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings, or another story you expect the group to be familiar with.

You can also say,

“Any story, any epic adventure follows this basic format. This is something that a guy named Joseph Campbell came up with. He wrote a book called The Hero Of A Thousand Faces, which you can look up. Basically, the hero’s journey works like this. You begin in ordinary life. This is where everyone is coming into a meeting. We’re actually in our ordinary lives right now, and we’re going to do some special work and we’re going to be moving outside of ordinary life.”

2. Draw a stick figure at the top of the circle. Now say,

“The hero’s journey basically has two big components to it. There is the known world, which are the things that we kind of already know, the regular work and so forth. There’s the unknown, which are the things that we hope we will discover and explore during the course of this meeting.”

Draw a wavy line to represent the boundary between the known and unknown.

“This is called the threshold. It’s the threshold between the known and the unknown.

3. Now say,

“Here we are on the hero’s journey. The first thing in the hero’s journey is the call to adventure. That is where we talk about things like: What are we going to do? What’s the work that we’re going to do? Why is it important? What brings us to this point?”

Write “The Call” at around 1 o’clock on the circle, and talk about the purpose of the meeting. You may want to ask people why they came and what their expectations are.

4. Now draw a couple of stick figures at around 2 o’clock, and say,

“You’re going to find in the beginning of any story, you’re going to find the helpers and the mentors. You’ve got, whether it’s Dumbledore or Gandalf or Obi Wan, whoever that character is, the droids, the characters that are going to help you. These are the characters that are going to help you find your way.”

Helpers can be things like teaching people how to use sticky notes in a certain way. There are a lot of Gamestorming tools in this category. We call them openers. So you can tell people “We’re going to meet our helpers and mentors.” Those helpers might be tools, or people, experts that we might bring in. It could be a keynote speaker.

5. Next you will talk about crossing the threshold between the known and the unknown.

“Now, where we cross the threshold, that’s usually a good time for a coffee break. It’s the end of the morning, coffee or tea, depending on what country you’re in. Maybe both. We’re going to have a break.”

You can draw a coffee cup or a teacup here.

6. Now say,

“Next, we’re going to start getting into the trials and tribulations. We call this problems and pitfalls. It’s the part of the journey where you’re exploring the problem space.”

There may be all kinds of activities or things that you’re going to do here. You might be brainstorming, you might be working stuff out, might be drawing a map of the system. There are a bunch of things that you can do to explore this problem space. In a story, you’re going to find all kinds of challenges: you have to climb the mountain, you have to fight the trolls, all the things that have to happen to move the story forward.

Write the words “Problems and pitfalls,” and draw some explosions here, or barbed wire, or something representing problems and pitfalls, at 4 and 5 o’clock on your circle.

7. Now write the word “Pit” and draw a pit at the bottom of the circle. The pit, in a day long meeting, might be lunchtime.

“Every story has its pit. The belly of the whale, the cave. I just call this the pit. We’ve hit the bottom. This can be a tough space to be, because we’ve just opened up all these problem spaces and issues and things that we have to deal with. It may feel like we’re never going to get home. The pit is also the place here Bilbo Baggins finds the ring. It’s the place where the deep reflection, the real powerful learning can also happen. Over lunch might be a good time to explore what is down here in the pit. What are we feeling like? What are the emotions?”

8. Now write “Powers” and draw some stars, or a superhero stick figure with a cape, something that represents powers, around 7 or 8 o’clock, and say,

“We come out of the pit after lunch and we’re creating new powers. We’re solving problems. We’ve learned how to use the force. We’re now solving problems, we’re creating solutions, we’re working on things together. These kind of tools we might be using here would be customer experience map, service blueprint, we might be designing, we might be prototyping a product. This is where we’re actually getting cool results out of the meeting, but we still have to take that back to work.”

9. Now write “The return” at around 10 o’clock, and say,

“That’s part of the hero’s journey, too, the return to ordinary life. We have to go back and cross the threshold again. This time is all about those powers that you’re bringing back. We want to come back to the workplace with gifts. Think, new ideas, new thoughts. We want to spend some time thinking about, “How do we take this back to work?”

This is the part of the meeting where you make some time for the group to think together about how they are going to bring the new ideas from the meeting back into the organization. What am I going to do in my next meeting? How am I going to explain this to my team? You might actually work on the PowerPoint together or work on some documents that are about sharing what you actually did during the meeting.

10. At this point you can close the exercise by asking people if they have any thoughts and additions before you proceed with the meeting.

Here is an example of a completed agenda:

Strategy
This is a very powerful way to set up an agenda for a relatively large scale session of work. Spend some time upfront on this. Draw it out and talk through it with key stakeholders, either before the meeting or at the beginning of the meeting. It is also a good litmus test to help you think through the goals of your meeting. If you can’t answer questions like, “What’s the call to adventure? What are the problems we want to explore? What are the things that we want to find? What are the things that we want to bring back to work?” and if you can’t sort of think these through at the beginning of a meeting, then it’s legitimate to ask yourself, should we really have this meeting?

The Hero’s Journey Agenda seems to work really well, not only for designing the agenda but for making sure you have all the major bases covered and creating positive energy and enthusiasm for the whole endeavor.

The Hero’s Journey Agenda was created by Dave Gray. It was inspired by The Hero’s Journey, popularized by Joseph Campbell, and the Pie Chart Agenda, which comes from James Macanufo, co-author of Gamestorming.

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The long table

The Long Table is a dinner party structured by etiquette, where conversation is the only course. The project ingeniously combines theatricality and models for public engagement. It is at once a stylised appropriation and an open-ended, non-hierarchical format for participation. Both of these elements – theatrical craft and political commitment – are mutually supporting in this widely and internationally toured work. The (often-feminised) domestic realm here becomes a stage for public thought.

Learn more.

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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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Carousel

Object of Play

This game has been designed to gather facts and opinions from the participants on different aspects of the issue at stake. It will help gain and share insight from all points of view, since everyone will have had the chance to contribute.

Number of Players: Up to 50

Duration of Play: 15min to an hour depending on the amount of participants

How to Play

  1. Prepare 5 up to 10 flip-charts where you address different aspects of the topic at hand. On each flip-chart you address a certain aspect of the issue by posing a powerful question about it, these questions should be impersonal and ask for facts and opinions. Focus on “what”, “when” and “how” questions.
  2. Spread the flip-charts through the entire room, making sure there is enough distance in between to allow group discussions between participants without disturbing the others too much.
  3. Quickly introduce the topic at hand and go through the questions of each flip-chart, making sure everybody understands the questions correctly.
  4. Aks participants to split into pairs, or groups up to 5 people if you have a bigger group. You should have one group per flip-chart/question.
  5. Ask each group to answer the question by adding their ideas, facts and opinions on the flip-chart either with images, writing or post-it artifacts in a way that it is possible for others to interprete the data presented.
  6. Give each group 2-3min time to add their information and rotate to the next flip-chart (clock-wise or counter clock-wise)
  7. Repeat until each group has answered all the questions.
  8. Give the entire group another 5-10min to review all generated content and move to the next step: prioritization and/or deeper research into some of the ideas generated.

Strategy

By limiting the time a group has to answer a question you will make them focus on the most important things. The idea is not to gather all information per participant but to gather meaningful information as a group. This gathered information will form the basis for a prioritization and/or deeper research into some of the ideas and opinions.

Gamestorming Training - 3396

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Code of Conduct

Object of Play

This game has been designed to help set the right culture in a group of people and help build mutual trust. It will empower all participants to act upon the results of this game.

Number of Players: Up to 30

Duration of Play: +/-30min

How to Play

  1. You write down the words “Meaningful” and “Pleasant” in the middle of a flip-chart or whiteboard.
  2. You aks everybody in the group to shout out what they believe is necessary to make sure this meeting or workshop will be meaningful and pleasant.
  3. As participants are providing thoughts and ideas, you record the information given in a mind-map structure.
    Note: Preferably by using images instead of words.
  4. Quickly pass by each of the ideas recorded and make sure everybody has the same understanding of the idea at hand. If necessary adjust the item to avoid misunderstanding. = Values within the group.
  5. Now go back to the first item addressed and ask the participants how they believe would be a good way to make sure this idea is carried out during the meeting or workshop. Record the items attached to the given value addressed. = Actions.
  6. End the game with pointing out that this code of conduct that the group just created needs to be upheld by everyone. Every participant has the responsibility to make sure everybody in the group respects this code. = working agreement.
  7. Optionally: You could ask people if they want to take ownership of one of the actions registered.
    Note: Be aware that this may cause a typical human reaction from the others: “It is this persons problem to monitor, not mine anymore”.

Strategy

Make sure everybody contributes to the making of the mind-map. If you believe the group is not strong or comfortable enough for this, you could substitute the shouting of ideas by letting everyone write down their ideas in silence combined with an affinity map to achieve similar results that can be recorded in the mind-map. It will take some time to create this shared code of conduct but it will help groups of people where there is little to no trust and openness to break through the initial barriers.

code of conduct
code of conduct
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Impromptu Speed Networking

Gamestorming

Object of Play

Ideal activity for flex points in a gathering (the beginning, when coming back from lunch, at the end of the day). Give everyone at a gathering an opportunity to “get there” mentally by engaging with the purpose/subject. Give everyone a significant amount of “air time” so that everyone’s voice is in the conversation (no matter how many participants, everyone 5-10 minutes). Energize participants and get oxygen to the brain by standing and moving physically).

Number of Players

Unlimited. This activity “scales” really well from a minimum of around 12 to thousands.

Duration of Play

20 minutes

How to Play

1. Invite everyone to leave their “stuff” and move to an open space in the room where everyone can stand and there’s room to move around.

2. Pose a juicy question that is directly related to the purpose of the gathering.

3. Ask everyone to reflect on the question silently for a full minute

4. Explain the simple rules;

– When you hear the chimes, find a partner (someone you know less well than others is more interesting). If you’re looking for a partner put your hand in the air so someone else who needs a partner can find you easily.

– Have a 5 minute conversation about the question.

– When the chimes ring again, find a new partner (remember the hand up trick) and have another conversation.

– When the chimes ring continuously, stop and find out what happens next.

5. Three ‘rounds’ of the process are usually good.

6. At this point, there are many possible variations for a next move. Two possibilities: (1) Invite everyone to sit back down and start the next part of the gathering. (2) Invite partners to hook up with one or two other pairs and sit down in a knee-to-knee circle and talk about what struck them about the conversations.

Strategy

Debrief this process in addition to harvesting the content from the discussions Invite participants to reflect on what it was like to have the conversation using this process. Things they might notice include: How starting a meeting standing up builds rather than drains energy, how having several iterations of the same conversation with different partners changes understanding, and how questions open up more space for creative thinking than presentations. The goal is to introduce participants to the pattern language of these generative processes.

Source: Shared by Lisa Kimball of Group Jazz.

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‘Wikkid Awesome’ Gamestorming Workshop & Happy Hour in Boston – March 1st and 2nd

NOTE: We had to postpone the January workshop to March. We hope you can still join!

Gamestorming co-author James Macanufo will be delivering a one-day workshop in Boston as part of the WorkBar Workshop series. It is going to be ‘wikkid awesome’ as they say here.

“Work Better” Part One: GAMESTORMING

MARCH 2, 2012 | 10AM – 4PM

Picture taken by Dave Gray http://www.davegrayinfo.com/

Registration details here: http://workbarworkshopsgamestorming.eventbrite.com/

In addition, there will be a happy hour the evening beforehand starting at 7pm. Sign up here:  http://gamestorminghappyhour.eventbrite.com You do not need to be a registered workshop participant to attend the happy hour.

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Gamestorming iPhone app just released!

Today we are very excited to announce the release of the new Gamestorming Card Deck app for iPhone.

Gamestorming iPhone app

The Gamestorming Card Deck is drawn from the GoGamestorm.com 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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Talking Chips

Object of Play

A recurring challenge in group work is managing discussions so that every individual has a chance to contribute, and no individuals dominate the meeting. By using simple “talking chips” as a currency for contribution, a group can self-manage the flow of participation.

How to Play

  1. Before the meeting starts, each participant draws a chip (poker chip, coin, or similar) from the center of the table.
  2. A participant places his chip in the center to speak.  Once all of the chips have been placed in the center, participants may remove their chips from the center to speak in the same manner.  The process repeats.

Strategy

Talking chips make the value of everyone’s contributions tangible and give everyone a chance to speak. They are just as effective at drawing out otherwise quiet participants as they are at containing dominant ones.

Talking chips is based on the idea of currency and was developed by Dave Gray, inspired by Byron Reeves’s innovative email program, Attent.