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Pro/Con list

Pro/Con list, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

It’s rare that we can clearly establish the provenance of a Gamestorming approach, but it’s very nice when we can. The Pro and Con list is a good example: It was invented by Benjamin Franklin and described by him an a 1772 letter to Joseph Priestley. Here’s the description in Ben’s own words:

To Joseph Priestley

London, September 19, 1772

Dear Sir,

In the Affair of so much Importance to you, wherein you ask my Advice, I cannot for want of sufficient Premises, advise you what to determine, but if you please I will tell you how.

When these difficult Cases occur, they are difficult chiefly because while we have them under Consideration all the Reasons pro and con are not present to the Mind at the same time; but sometimes one Set present themselves, and at other times another, the first being out of Sight. Hence the various Purposes or Inclinations that alternately prevail, and the Uncertainty that perplexes us.

To get over this, my Way is, to divide half a Sheet of Paper by a Line into two Columns, writing over the one Pro, and over the other Con. Then during three or four Days Consideration I put down under the different Heads short Hints of the different Motives that at different Times occur to me for or against the Measure. When I have thus got them all together in one View, I endeavour to estimate their respective Weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out: If I find a Reason pro equal to some two Reasons con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two Reasons con equal to some three Reasons pro, I strike out the five; and thus proceeding I find at length where the Ballance lies; and if after a Day or two of farther Consideration nothing new that is of Importance occurs on either side, I come to a Determination accordingly.

And tho’ the Weight of Reasons cannot be taken with the Precision of Algebraic Quantities, yet when each is thus considered separately and comparatively, and the whole lies before me, I think I can judge better, and am less likely to take a rash Step; and in fact I have found great Advantage from this kind of Equation, in what may be called Moral or Prudential Algebra.

Wishing sincerely that you may determine for the best, I am ever, my dear Friend,

Yours most affectionately

B. Franklin

Source: Mr. Franklin: A Selection from His Personal Letters. Contributors: Whitfield J. Bell Jr., editor, Franklin, author, Leonard W. Labaree, editor. Publisher: Yale University Press: New Haven, CT 1956.

Note about the image: I couldn’t find an example of a Pro/Con list by Benjamin Franklin, but I found this image as part of a Connecticut Historical Society blog post about the Rev. William Patton, who made this Pro/Con list as he considered the relative merits of living in Boston vs. Hartford.

Image: Pros and cons of moving to Hartford, Rev. William W. Patton diaries and account book, 1835-1889, Ms 68129. CHS, Hartford, CT

Online Pro/Con List

Pro/Con ListGiven Benjamin Franklin’s large and distributed social network, we’re pretty sure that he would have enjoyed playing this game with his friends and colleagues. And while dear Ben couldn’t engage his network very easily, we’re pretty sure that he’d be really happy to learn that you can engage your distributed team in an online Pro/Con game.

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

  • Blue Pluses: Use these to capture Pros.
  • Cons: Use these to capture Cons.

We’ve organized this game using multi-layered regions so that you can keep track of the importance of each item. There are High, Medium, and Low importance regions on the game board. As you’re moving items around, 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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How-Now-Wow Matrix

When people want to develop new ideas, they most often think out of the box in the brainstorming or divergent phase. However, when it comes to convergence, people often end up picking ideas that are most familiar to them. This is called a ‘creative paradox’ or a ‘creadox’.

The How-Now-Wow matrix is an idea selection tool that breaks the creadox by forcing people to weigh each idea on 2 parameters.

Object of play: This game naturally follows the creative idea generation phase and helps players select ideas to develop further.

Number of players: 1 to 30

Duration of play: 10 to 40 mins

What you’ll need: Flip-chart sized paper, some markers, lots of voting dots in 3 colors (blue, yellow, green)

Preparation:

  1. Draw a 2-by-2 matrix as above. The X axis denotes the originality of the idea and the Y axis shows the ease of implementation.
  2. Label the quadrants as:
    1. Now/Blue Ideas – Normal ideas, easy to implement. These are typically low-hanging fruit and solutions to fill existing gaps in processes. These normally result in incremental benefits.
    2. How/Yellow Ideas – Original ideas, impossible to implement. These are breakthrough ideas in terms of impact, but absolutely impossible to implement right now given current technology/budget constraints.
    3. Wow/Green Ideas – Original ideas, easy to implement. ‘Wow’ ideas are those with potential for orbit-shifting change and possible to implement within current reality.

How to Play:

  1. List down the ideas that emerge from the creative ideation phase on large charts of paper stuck around the room.
  2. Give each player 3 sticky dots of each color – that is, 3 blue, 3 yellow, 3 green. 9 dots per person is typical, but go ahead and reduce/increase that number based on the time at hand and number of ideas generated.
  3. Ask each player to step forward and vote for 3 best ideas in each category.  They need to do this by sticking a colored dot in front of each idea they choose.
  4. In the end, count the number of dots under each idea to categorize it. The highest number of dots of a certain color categorizes the idea under that color.
  5. In case of a tie:
    1. If blue dots = green dots, the idea is blue
    2. If  yellow dots = green dots, the idea is green
  6. You now have a bucket of Now/Green ideas to work on further. Make sure you also collect the low-hanging blue ideas for immediate implementation and the yellow ideas to keep an eye on for the future.

Note: Check your yellow dots in advance to ensure that they can be seen from a distance. If not, go ahead and replace them with another color. FYI, in the original matrix, WOW ideas are red.

Online How-Now-Wow Matrix

How-Now-Wow MatrixHere is another image of the How-Now-Matrix. But this one is special – clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at www.innovationgames.com. In this game there are 20 light bulbs that you can drag on your matrix. We’ve organized this game into a set of regions that match the How-Now-Matrix described above. 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!

How-Now-Wow MatrixHere is another version that based on Martien van Steenbergen’s comments, in which he recommends flipping the y-axis.


The How-Wow-Now Matrix is adapted from work done by The Center for Development of Creative Thinking (COCD). Information about the COCD Matrix was published in the book, “Creativity Today” authored by Ramon Vullings, Igor Byttebier and Godelieve Spaas.
 
 
 
 
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Argument map

…complex situations and infoglut.

You need a good oversight to think about your future, or to really understand your clients. You are committed to empathically include everybody’s reasoning and arguments. You want to make wise and just decisions.

✣  ✣  ✣

Making the right choices and decisions is crucial. Often too, we need to decide fast. Do we need to vaccine the world population against swine flu? Should we enter this new market? Can we still trust science after Climategate? Are we going to bail out Greece and Ireland? Can computers think? Do we need a new monetary system?

The [[argument map]] is a systematic approach to mapping a debate in a pleasant and high-quality way as a [[big visible chart]]. It’s process invites every stakeholder to carefully listen to each other’s arguments. It moves away from debate and towards mutual understanding, encouraging empathy. When people are forced to examine other peoples’ points of view there’s a chance for a real conversation.

Therefore:

Generate, collect, prune, and cluster all arguments for and against in a tree-shaped structure on a single A3 sheet of paper.

✣  ✣  ✣

Use the [[force field analysis|force field map]]  to chart weighted forces that direct change.

The [[argument map]] is originally conceived by the Argumentenfabriek.

Number of Players: 5–30

Duration of Play: 1–3 hours

Object of Play

Public debate often diverts into endless low quality discussions and exhausts both the debaters and audience. At the end, you still can’t make a well-informed choice. Many conversations suffer from lack of a central theorem or stand, scarce arguments in favor, or ignored counterarguments.

The goal is to get out all of the issues and arguments before talking about any one issue. Real-life dialogue makes this a challenging goal, yet it is the goal nonetheless.

If you immediately explore the first one or two issues instead of getting a complete argument list, you risk the following:

  1. You will never get the complete list and may miss significant opportunities.
  2. You will end up talking about an issue, which is not the most important issue.
  3. Even if you eventually discover the most important issue, you may have depleted the scarce resources of time and energy.

People have trouble to remember a lot of connections between statements and arguments, and suffer from infoglut—masses of continuously increasing information, so poorly catalogued or organized (or not organized at all) that it is almost impossible to navigate through them to search or draw any conclusion or meaning.

A [[big visible chart]] like the [[argument map]], [[force field analysis|force field map]], or [[hoshin kanri]] gives oversight. Visualizing reasoning helps in practicing critical thinking: clean reasoning, focusing on errors of reasoning, unspoken assumptions, and psychological digressions. [[big visible charts]] will increasingly take over long-winded texts. There is simply no time to read and understand the ever growing thickets of documents.

How to Play

Either use a whiteboard or flip chart or a computer projection and some handy outline software. Step through the process below, and everything important will surface. You will be complete and not miss any important issues or arguments. And you will be able to make a just decision.

  1. Just the Facts—Create a [[facts map]] and briefly share facts and figures related to the topic. No opinions, just (verifiable) facts, please.
  2. Quiet Brain Dump—Take ten minutes or so to find causes and consequences, pros and cons. Jot down any argument you can find in favor or against the case.
  3. Take Turns and Share—Take turns and share a single argument with the group at each turn. Got nothing more? Just pass. Write down the argument on the whiteboard or type in on the computer.
  4. Prune Your Arguments—Delete any argument on your list that someone else also brings up as soon as you hear it.
  5. Be Terse—Relentlessly end any discussions, long-winded stories, or salvo of arguments.
  6. Exhaust Yourself—She or he who passes last, ‘wins’. Still not exhausted? Loop back to 3.
  7. For or Against—Take two flip charts. Label one as “For” and one “Against”. Collect the arguments on their appropriate flip chart. If you are using an outliner software program, simply drag each argument in its appropriate “For” or “Against” class.
  8. Shape, Organize and Thicken—Shape, organize and thicken the arguments. Cluster and categorize the arguments into ‘themes’, facets or aspects. Pick one to three key words for theme name. Within each theme, further subcluster arguments and  label each cluster as a theorem, proposition, opinion, or stand, listing the arguments below. Often you will find similar themes and labels in both “For” and “Against”, but this is not a requirement; they can differ.

Instead of listing arguments and copying them to flip charts, you can also write them down on sticky notes, one argument per sticky note, and put those on the flip chart. Crumple any duplicate stickies.

Repeat this process with other groups of stakeholders.

If you have the time and money, process the harvest into a colorful tree-structured schema like the examples below. Make sure it fits on a single and handy A3-sized sheet of paper, while keeping it legible, of course.

Reasoning errors

Exempli gratiā

This article is a copy of Pareltaal » Argument Map and formatted like a pattern from a pattern language.

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Impact & Effort Matrix

 

Impact & Effort Matrix, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

Object of Play
In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Some ideas are costly, but may have a bigger long-term payoff than short-term actions. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.

Number of Players: Based on small groups, but can scale to any size

Duration of Play: 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the group

How to Play
Given a goal, a group may have a number of ideas for how to achieve it. To open the exercise, frame the goal in terms of a “What to do” or “What we need” question. This may sound as simple as “What do we need to reach our goal?” Ask the group to generate ideas individually on sticky notes. Then, using Post-Up, ask them to present their ideas back to the group by placing them within a 2×2 matrix that
is organized by impact and effort: Impact: The potential payoff of the action, vs. Effort: The cost of taking the action

Strategy
As participants place their ideas into the matrix, the group may openly discuss the position of elements. It is not uncommon for an idea to be bolstered by the group and to move up in potential impact or down in effort. In this respect, the category of high impact, low effort will often hold the set of ideas that the group is most agreed upon and committed to.

The source of the Impact & Effort Matrix game is unknown.

Impact & Effort

Clicking on this image will bring you to an “instant game” at innovationgames.com, where you can play Impact & Effort Matrix online. The same image will be used as the matrix, which has a different impact-effort combination in each quadrant.

• High Impact, Low Effort: The best ideas go here!
• High Impact, High Effort: Further study is likely required.
• Low Impact, High Effort: Probably best to avoid these.
• Low Impact, Low Effort: Further study is likely required.

The light bulbs you will see at the upper left corner of the chart represent ideas. Simply add an idea to the chart by dragging a light bulb to its corresponding quadrant and describing what it is.

All moves can be seen in real time by each participant, so everyone can collaborate to edit the descriptions and positions of the posted strategies. Communicate using the integrated chat facility to work together and form useful ideas.

 

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Forced Ranking

Geneva workshop

Object of Play
When prioritizing, a group may need to agree on a single, ranked list of items. Forced ranking obligates the group to make difficult decisions, and each item is ranked relative to the others. This is an important step in making decisions on items like investments, business priorities, and features or requirements—wherever a clear, prioritized list is needed.

Number of Players: Small group of 3–10 participants

Duration of Play: Medium to long; 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the length of the list, the criteria, and the size of the group

How to Play
To set up the game, participants need to have two things: an unranked list of items and the criteria for ranking them. Because forced ranking makes the group judge items closely, the criteria should be as clear as possible. For example, in ranking features for a product, the criteria might be “Most important features for User X.” In the case of developing business priorities, the criteria might be “Most potential impact over the next year.”

If there are multiple dimensions to a ranking, it is best to rank the items separately for each criterion, and then combine the scores to determine the final ranking. It is difficult for participants to weigh more than one criterion at a time, as in the confusing “Most potential impact over the next year and least amount of effort over the next six months.”

In this case, it would be best to rank items twice: once by impact and once by effort. Although there is no hard limit on the number of items to be ranked, in a small-group setting the ideal length of a list is about 10 items. This allows participants to judge items relative to one another without becoming overwhelming. By making the entire list visible on a flip chart or whiteboard, participants will have an easier time ranking a larger list.

To play, create a matrix of items and the criteria. Each participant ranks the items by assigning it a number, with the most important item being #1, the second most important item as #2, and so forth, to the least important item. Because the ranking is “forced,” no items can receive equal weight.

Once the items have been ranked, tally them and discuss the prioritized list and next steps.

Strategy
Creating a forced ranking may be difficult for participants, as it requires they make clear-cut assessments about a set of items. In many cases, this is not the normal mode of operation for groups, where it is easier to add items to lists to string together agreement and support. Getting people to make these assessments, guided by clear criteria, is the entire point of forced ranking.

The original source of the Forced Ranking game is unknown.

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Dot Voting

Dot Voting by @benry

Object of Play
In any good brainstorming session, there will come a time when there are too many good ideas, too many concepts, and too many possibilities to proceed. When this time has come, dot voting is one of the simplest ways to prioritize and converge upon an agreed solution.

Number of Players: At least 3 participants; in larger groups, tallying votes will be more time-consuming

Duration of Play: Short


How to Play
First, the group needs a set of things to vote on! This may be something they have just developed, such as a wall of sticky notes, or it may be a flip-chart list that captures the ideas in one place. Ask the group to cast their votes by placing a dot next to the items they feel the most strongly about. They may use stickers or markers to do this. As a rule of thumb, giving each participant five votes to cast works well.

Participants cast their votes all at once and they may vote more than once for a single item if they feel strongly about it. Once all the votes are cast, tally them, and if necessary make a list of the items by their new rank.

This prioritized list becomes the subject of discussion and decision making. In some cases, it may be useful to reflect on ideas that didn’t receive votes to verify that they haven’t been left behind without cause.

Strategy
This technique is used to collaboratively prioritize any set of items. It could be used to hone a list of features, to agree on discussion topics, or to choose among strategies and concepts. Giving participants five votes is enough to be meaningful while still asking for individual prioritization; however, this is not a hard rule.

The original source of the Dot Voting game is unknown.

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Scenario Slider

scenario_slider_web

After coming up with great ideas, the next challenge is figuring out the best way to make them happen. This exercise is one of many types of “scenario” games which can be used to test ideas and try out different approaches to bring them to life.

When having discussions about how to do something, we often get overwhelmed by all of the variables and reasons why it might not work, and can end up working in circles questioning our assumptions before we’ve even tested the idea. Setting stakes in the ground can clear the space we need to get down to it and discuss how to try something new under more specific circumstances…and doing it across groups helps to think through very different ways of doing the same thing.

OBJECT of the GAME: To get groups to model a business approach based on several extreme scenarios, using two to three variables.

WHEN to USE: After a brainstorming or prioritization exercise where a new idea, model, business or product has been selected.

HOW to PLAY:

  1. In advance, select two or three variables which would impact how your idea would be implemented. If it’s a project, it could be “money, people and time”.
  2. It’s helpful to set some context for your variables. Money could range from $10k to unlimited funds, for example, while time might be “done in 3 months” to “as much time as you need”.
  3. Set two or three different scenarios, adjusting the “sliders” in your three variables to a couple of possible extremes. Don’t be worried if this is actually the case in reality; playing with the extremes helps to find unexpected answers. One scenario might be “unlimited funds, all the people you need, must be done in three months.”
  4. Working with a number of groups in parallel, assign one scenario to each group. Ask the groups to come up with an approach based on that scenario. Instruct the groups to take the scenario as a given – don’t say it’s impossible in three months; tell us how you’d do it.
  5. Allow the groups to all share their work with the others, outlining their approach as well as explaining the tradeoffs and shortcomings based on the constraints of their scenario.
  6. Debrief as a large group to identify ideas that people agree should go forward, and which variables and constraints the group believes to be non-negotiable.

FACILITATOR NOTES: Getting the groups to produce something for the report out helps them crystallize their thinking and gives the broader group a something tangible to work with when debriefing. Getting them to draw models or doodles to illustrate their ideas can help get them focused on delivering a product.