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Plus/Delta

Object of Play
The object of this game is to generate constructive feedback.

Number of Players: Any

Duration of Play: 10–45 minutes

How to Play
Make two columns: one for “plus” and one for “delta” (the Greek symbol for change).

1. Ask the group to reflect on what was positive or repeatable about an activity and capture their thoughts under the “plus” column.

2. Ask the group then to brainstorm about what they would change about it, and capture these under the “delta” column.

Strategy
This feedback method can apply to any activity, idea, work product, or action. By focusing on change as opposed to direct negatives, the group will be more likely to share its true assessment while also generating improvement ideas.

The earliest known use of the Plus/Delta game is at The Boeing Co circa 1980.

Online Plus/Delta

Plus/DeltaHere is another image of the Plus/Delta Game. But this one is special – clicking on this image, will start an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com. In this game, there will be two icons that you can drag on your online Plus/Delta Chart:

  • Pluses: Use these to capture positives.
  • Deltas: Use to capture what you’d like to change.

We’ve organized this game into three regions: High Impact, Medium Impact, and Low Impact. As you’re placing these items, use these regions to help you keep track of the most important ideas.

Keep in mind that that this is a collaborative game. This means that you can invite other players to play. And when they drag something around – you’ll see it in real time!

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Open Space

Meshforum 2006

Object of Play
Open Space technology is a method for hosting large events, such as retreats and conferences, without a prepared agenda. Instead, participants are brought together under a guiding purpose and create the agenda for themselves in a bulletin-board fashion. These items become potential breakout sessions, and participants have the freedom to “vote with their feet” by moving between breakouts.

Open Space was founded by Harrison Owen in the 1980s out of a desire to “open the space” for people to self-organize around a purpose. Many meetings and examples have been recorded at Openspaceworld.org. Hosting a small Open Space meeting is fairly straightforward, but requires an amount of “letting go” on the part of the organizer, who must recognize that the participants will develop a richer approach and solution to the challenge at hand.

Number of Players: 5–2,000

Duration of Play: A day or longer

How to Play

Setup: An Open Invitation
Perhaps the most important work of the organizer is developing a compelling invitation. The ideal invitation will frame a challenge that is urgent, important, and complex enough to require a diverse set of perspectives to solve. It might sound as simple as “How can we revitalize our city’s schools?” or “What’s our strategic direction?”

Create the Marketplace
At the start of the process, participants sit in a circle, or in concentric circles, to get oriented and start to create their agenda. Given the challenge of the meeting, participants are invited to come to the center and write out an issue they’re passionate about, and then post it on a “marketplace” wall with a time and place at which they are willing to host the discussion. All are invited to create an item for the marketplace, but no one is required to. Creating the agenda in this fashion should take between 60 and 90 minutes.

The “Law of Two Feet”
The breakouts then begin, typically lasting 90 minutes per session. Participants may organize their breakouts however they see fit; the host records the discussion so that others may join the conversation at any time. Participants are asked to observe the one law of Open Space, the Law of Two Feet, which asks that if you find yourself neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet to go somewhere else. In this sense, participants are given full responsibility over their learning and contributions.

Pulling It All Together
Breakouts may last for a day or more, depending on the scope of the event. Closing the event may take many forms, the least desirable of which is a formal report from the groups. Instead, return to the circle arrangement that started the event, and open the space again for participants who want to reflect on what they’ve discovered and their next steps.

Strategy
Keep in mind the four principles of Open Space that will help set the tone of the event:

1. Whoever comes are the right people. Passion is more important than position on an org chart.

2. Whenever it starts is the right time. Spirit and creativity do not run on the clock.

3. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. Dwelling or complaining about past events and missed opportunities is a waste of time; move on.

4. When it’s over, it’s over. When a conversation is finished, move on. Do the work, not the time.

You can read more about Open Space at openspaceworld.org.

Open Space game rules been popularized and incorporated into many self-organizing events which are known under different names, most prominently BarCamps and Unconferences. The concept of Open Space was put forth in Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide, by Harrison Owen.

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Poster Session

Meshforum 2006

Object of Play
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what would 50 pictures be worth? What if 50 people could present their most passionate ideas to each other—without any long-winded explanation? A poster session accelerates the presentation format by breaking it down, forcing experts to boil up their ideas and then present back to each other via simple images.

Number of Players: 10–100

Duration of Play: 20 minutes to develop posters, an unlimited time to browse

How to Play
The goal of a poster session is to create a set of compelling images that summarize a challenge or topic for further discussion. Creating this set might be an “opening act” which then sets the stage for choosing an idea to pursue, or it might be a way to get indexed on a large topic. The act of creating a poster forces experts and otherwise passionate people to stop and think about the best way to communicate the core concepts of
their material, avoiding the popular and default “show up and throw up.”

To set up, everyone will need ample supplies for creating their poster. Flip charts and markers are sufficient, but consider bringing other school supplies to bear: stickers, magazines for cutting up, and physical objects.
Start the game play by first framing the challenge. In any given large group, you could say the following:

“There are more good ideas in everyone’s heads than there is time to understand and address them. By creating posters that explain the ideas, we’ll have a better idea of what’s out there and what we might work on.”

The participants’ task is to create a poster that explains their topic. There are two constraints:

1. It must be self-explanatory. If you gave it to a person without walking her through it, would she understand?

2. It must be visual. Words and labels are good, but text alone will not be enough to get people’s attention, or help them understand. When creating their poster, participants may be helped by thinking about three kinds of explanation:

Before and After: Describe “why” someone should care in terms of drawing the today and tomorrow of the idea.

System: Describe the “what” of an idea in terms of its parts and their relationships.

Process: Describe the “how” of an idea in terms of a sequence of events.

Give participants 20 minutes to create their posters. When they have finished, create a “gallery” of the images by posting them on the wall. Instead of elaborate presentations, ask the group to circulate and walk the gallery. Some posters will attract and capture more attention than others. From here, it may be worthwhile to have participants dot vote (see Dot Voting) or “vote with their feet” (See Open Space) to decide what ideas to pursue further.

Strategy
As a variation, the posters may be created in small groups. In this case, it’s important for the group to have decided ahead of time what their topic will be, and to give more time to come to a consensus on what they will draw and how they will draw it.

On a smaller scale, a group may do this around a conference table. A small group of experts may create posters to explain their different points of view to each other at the start of a meeting, to make their models of the world, their vocabulary, and their interests clear and explicit. Twenty minutes spent in this way may save the group from endless discussion later in their process.

The Poster Session game is based on academic poster sessions, in which authors of papers that are not ready for publication share their ideas in an informal, conversational group.

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Break

Take a break

Although not a formal game, unstructured time, whether it’s a walk in the park, an informal lunch, or just a short break, is not only helpful but critical to the creative process. A break allows people time to process new information. It gives teams time to gel as a unit so that all the players can get to know each other. It also gives people a chance to catch up on details of their work or personal lives, which helps reduce the stress in the session.

Thomas Edison and Leonardo Da Vinci were both known for taking short naps interspersed with intense working sessions. The break gives ideas a chance to settle and creates opportunities for them to merge and collide with previous knowledge or other people’s ideas.

Invites teams to take a walk, take informal time to get to know each other or catch up on outside work. Skipping breaks is a dangerous business. Don’t underestimate the power of a break to renew, refresh and reinvigorate your team.

Research confirms the “break effect.” In a 2010 study entitled ”
Idea Generation and the Quality of the Best Idea,” researchers found that a hybrid approach that combined group work with individual time for reflection resulted in the most quality ideas.

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Post-Up

Post-up, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

Object of Play
The goal of this game is to generate ideas with silent sticky note writing.

Number of Players: 1–50

Duration of Play: 10 minutes to 1 hour

How to Play
There are many ways to work with ideas using sticky notes. Generating ideas is the most basic play, and it starts with a question that your group will be brainstorming answers to. For example: “What are possible uses for Product X?” Write the question or topic on a whiteboard. Ask the group to brainstorm answers individually, silently writing their ideas on separate sticky notes. The silence lets people think without interruption, and putting items on separate notes ensures that they can later be shuffled and sorted as distinct thoughts. After a set amount of time, ask the members of the group to stick their notes to the whiteboard and quickly present them. If anyone’s items inspire others to write more, they can stick those up on the wall too, after everyone has presented.

Harry Brignall at the 90% of Everything blog makes a great suggestion:

When doing a post-up activity with sticky notes in a workshop, you may want to use the FOG method: mark each note with F (fact), O (opinion) or G (guess). It’s such a simple thing to do, but it adds a great deal of clarity to the decision-making process.

Strategy
Generating ideas is an opening activity, and a first step. From here you can create an Affinity Map or further organize and prioritize the thoughts, for example using Forced Ranking.

The Post-Up game is based on the exercises in Rapid Problem-Solving with Post-it® Notes
by David Straker.

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Affinity Map

Affinity mapping, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

Object of Play

Most of us are familiar with brainstorming—a method by which a group generates as many ideas around a topic as possible in a limited amount of time. Brainstorming works to get a high quantity of information on the table. But it begs the follow-up question of how to gather meaning from all the data. Using a simple Affinity Diagram technique can help us discover embedded patterns (and sometimes break old patterns) of thinking by sorting and clustering language-based information into relationships. It can also give us a sense of where most people’s thinking is focused. Use an affinity diagram when you want to find categories and meta-categories within a cluster of ideas and when you want to see which ideas are most common within the group.

Number of Players: Up to 20

Duration of Play: Depends on the number of players, but a maximum of 1.5 hours

How to Play

1. On a sheet of flip-chart paper, write a question the players will respond to along with a visual that complements it. Conduct this game only when you have a question for the players that you know will generate at least 20 pieces of information to sort.

2. Ask each player to take 10 minutes to generate sticky notes in response to the question. Use index cards on a table if you have a group of four or less. Conduct this part of the process silently.

3. Collect the ideas from the group and post them on a flat working surface visible to everyone. It should end up resembling the following figure.

4. Based on guidance from the players, sort the ideas into columns (or clusters) based on relationships. Involve the group in the process as much as possible. Have the players approach the wall to post their notes—it saves time—and allow them to do an initial, general sorting in columns or clusters.

5. Create a sticky-note “parking lot” close to the display for ideas that don’t appear to fall into a natural category. Redundancy in ideas is OK; don’t discard sticky notes because they’re already represented. It’s helpful to leave repeated ideas posted since it indicates to the group how many people are thinking the same thing. At this stage, ask the players to try to avoid searching for higher categories and simply to focus on grouping the information based on the affinities.

6. Once the content is sorted, ask the group to suggest categories that represent the columns you’ve created and write the categories they agree on at the top of the column (or near a cluster if you chose a cluster rather than a column display). Don’t let the players spend an inordinate amount of time agreeing on a name for a category. If there’s disagreement over “Facilities” versus “Infrastructure,” write them both. If the players produce categories that are significantly different, pay attention to which category gets the most approval from the group and write that one. Your visual may end up looking like the one below.

Strategy

The value of the Affinity Diagram game increases when two conditions are met. The first is that the players generate multiple data points, ideally with good information. The second relates to the quality of the sorting. The cleaner the players’ insights when they form relationships within the content, the better the categories will be.

Fun, optional activity: Run through the Affinity Diagram game once, complete with categorizations. Then ask the group to reshuffle the sticky

notes and recombine the ideas based on affinities they didn’t notice in the first round.

Sometimes affinities within content are crystal clear, so the sorting becomes less pivotal, but when those relationships are more nuanced, it’s more important that the sorting process is done well. In a situation in which there are many ways to affinitize information, assume a stronger facilitative role. Ask questions about the columns or clusters to clarify the group’s thinking and steer them toward an appropriate number of categories. If there are too many, the data gets watered down. If there are too few, the analysis gets watered down. Help the players find the sweet spot.

The affinity diagram was devised by Jiro Kawakita in the 1960s. It is also referred to as the KJ Method.

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7Ps Framework

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower
Object of Play
Every meeting deserves a plan. Note that a great plan can’t guarantee a great outcome, but it will help lay down the fundamentals from which you can adapt. Sketch out these fundamentals by using the 7Ps framework.
Number of Players: Individual
Duration of Play: 20 minutes to 2 hours
How to Play
Use these items as a checklist. When preparing for a meeting, thinking through the 7Ps can improve focus and results, even if you have only a few moments to reflect on them.
Purpose: Why are you having this meeting? As the leader, you need to be able to state this clearly and succinctly. Consider the urgency of the meeting: what’s going
on, and what’s on fire? If this is difficult to articulate, ask yourself if a meeting is really necessary.
Product: What specific artifact will we produce out of the meeting? What will it do, and how will it support the purpose? If your meetings seem to be “all talk and no follow-through,” consider how a product might change things.
People: Who needs to be there, and what role will they play? One way to focus your list of attendees is to think in terms of questions and answers. What questions are
we answering with this meeting? Who are the right people to answer the questions?
Process: What agenda will these people use to create the product? Of all the 7Ps, the agenda is where you have the most opportunity to collaborate in advance with the
attendees. Co-design an agenda with them to ensure that they will show up and stay engaged.
Pitfalls: What are the risks in this meeting, and how will we address them? These could be as simple as ground rules, such as “no laptops,” or specific topics that are
designated as out of scope.
Prep: What would be useful to do in advance? This could be material to read in advance, research to conduct, or “homework” to assign to the attendees.
Practical Concerns: These are the logistics of the meeting—the where and when, and importantly, who’s bringing lunch.
Strategy
  • Each of the 7Ps can influence or change one of the others, and developing a good plan will take this into account. For instance, if you have certain participants for only part of a meeting, this will change your process.
  • Get others involved in the design of the meeting. Their participation in its design is the quickest route to its effectiveness.
  • Recurring meetings can take on a life of their own and stray from their original purpose. It’s a healthy activity to revisit “Why are we having this meeting?” regularly for such events.
  • Make the 7Ps visible during the meeting. These reference points can help focus and refocus a group as needed.
  • Have a plan and expect it to change. The 7Ps can give you a framework for designing a meeting, but they can’t run the meeting for you. The unexpected will happen, and as a leader you will need to adapt.
The 7Ps Framework was designed by James Macanufo.
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Quaker Conversation

The collaboratory

It’s very easy for the dynamics of a group to undermine the potential value of bringing a group of people together. If the same people speak every time, there is always a contingent whose voices are not heard; in creative work, a perspective lost can mean valuable ideas are never heard and “group think” can set in. Getting the greatest diversity of ideas from a group can depend on making the space for as many viewpoints up front before the flow of conversation begins its process of natural selection, and conversation is a funny thing; setting a few rules can disrupt the habitual dynamic of the group to allow for different outcomes.

OBJECT of the GAME: To give all voices a chance to be represented in a group with a potentially wide range of perspectives.

HOW to PLAY:

The rules of the game are quite simple…

  1. Begin by posing a question to the group
  2. Each person answers the question in sequence – usually going around the circle, but if someone is not ready, they can defer their turn until later.
  3. Each person answers as fully as they need to in order to feel they’ve fully expressed their point of view.
  4. No one should respond to, rebut or rejoin the comments of others; each response should be only to the original question

Point number four can be a difficult one for many groups, but if gently enforced, it can really encourage the less vocal members of any group to voice their opinions. This can lead quite well into a follow-on conversation if someone has been recording some of the ideas or perspectives on a whiteboard. Using these elements as launching points allows for a more focused drill down on the ideas that may have resonated with the group.