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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.

    Strategy
    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 DrawToast.com.

    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 www.valuechaingeneration.com

    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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    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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    Do, Redo & Undo

    Object of Play

    When creating something, it’s easier to think in the affirmative. We think in a vector of taking actions and building things, and can forget that over time undoing those same decisions can be just as important. Do, Redo & Undo asks a group to focus on this, and to think through the implications of dismantling and altering.

    This is a useful exercise in developing any human-to-machine or human-to-human system.  Software provides myriad cases of undoing: users need to change configurations, fix mistakes, and remove software entirely. Business processes need to address this equally well: components need to change or dissolve, and often this flexibility is lost without clarity on how it is done.

    Number of Players

    Small groups

    Duration of Play

    1 hour or more, depending on the complexity of the existing

    How to Play

    The Best-Case Scenario

    Generally, the group would run this exercise after they have a concept or prototype as a starting point.  In the case of software, it may be a user story or feature list; in a process,  it may be a draft of the flow.

    The group should be given time to walk through and digest this example. The exercise opens with the group brainstorming answers to a simple question: “What mistakes can and will be made?”

    Using Post-Up, the group brainstorms a set of items on sticky notes and pools them to create a starting set of scenarios to explore “undoing and redoing.” It’s not unusual for a few humorous items to make the list. Other questions to consider asking in fleshing out the set include:

    • “What would happen if a group of monkeys tried to use it?”
    • “What happens if we pull the plug? Where is the plug?”

    The Worst-Case Scenario

    In generating the initial list in Post-Up, the group has identified at least one Worst-Case Scenario. Their task now is to address the items by focusing on three possible solutions:

    • Do: Change the design or plan to avoid the problem altogether. This takes the issue off the table.
    • Redo: Provide a means for altering action while it’s being taken. This may be a course correction or a buffering of the situation’s impact.
    • Undo: Provide a means for completely undoing an action and returning to a previously known state. This completely abandons the scenario.

    A group that has a large number of items in the Worst-Case Scenario may wish to prioritize them by likelihood and then focus on the hot spots. There is an implied order of preference in Do, Redo & Undo. A problem that can be entirely eliminated by changing the design avoids needing a “redo” or “undo” solution. For example, a feature that asks the user to enter her contact information might be eliminated entirely, if the information can be fetched from somewhere else.

    As the group works through Do, Redo & Undo, they should capture their solutions and revisit the original Best-Case Scenario. Their draft of solutions should accompany the design as it matures, eventually proving itself in user testing and the real world.

    The Do, Redo & Undo game is credited to James Macanufo.

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    Design The Box

    Object of Play

    Before you begin, focus on the end. In this exercise, teams create the physical “box” that sells their idea—whether that idea will ultimately become a tangible product or not. By imagining the package for their idea, the teams make decisions about important features and other aspects of their vision that are more difficult to articulate.

    This game is popular among software developers when setting out to capture the customer’s view of a new application, but its use doesn’t stop there. The game can help facilitate any vision-oriented discussion, and has been used to describe topics ranging from “our future methodology” to “the ideal hire.”

    In all cases, the box is a focusing device: it wraps up a lot of otherwise intangible information into a nice physical object, prompting decisions along the way. When teams present or “sell” their boxes to each other, a number of things come to life, including the natural translation of features into benefits. Also, it’s fun to do. The results of the exercise may be simple drawings or an actual box, which may live on well after as a friendly reminder of the big picture.

    Number of Players

    Although the exercise may be done with a small group, teams working in parallel on different boxes will result in a more robust discussion during the “selling phase.”

    Duration of Play

    1 hour or more, depending on the number of groups and depth of discussion.

    Setup

    Although paper and markers will work for drawing a box, don’t hesitate to bring heavier craft supplies to bear. Consider acquiring blank white cardboard boxes from an office supply or mailing store.  Markers, craft paper, stickers, tape and scissors are all worth the investment.

    It may help get the group’s creative gears moving by having sample boxes handy.  Cereal boxes, with their free prize offers, bold imagery and nutritional information, are good thought starters. Likewise, plain “store-label” boxes, gift boxes and toy boxes offer a range of voices. A group that is heavily entrenched in the business-as-usual paradigm will benefit the most from having this inspiration at hand.

    How to play

    The exercise moves through three phases: an introduction, box creation and sharing by “selling.”

    Phase One: Fill the Box

    Before a group can jump into creating a box, they need to reflect on what could be in it. To get people oriented, consider laying out some building blocks:

    • Possible names of the idea
    • Possible customers, end users, or buyers
    • Possible features, functions, or other important defining details.

    This may be familiar ground, or it may be entirely new to the group. They key in setting up the exercise is to give teams “just enough” information to feel comfortable starting.

    Phase Two: Make the Box

    Give the teams a set amount of time, 30 minutes or more, to create the box for their idea.  Ask them to imagine coming across the box on a retail shelf, shrink-wrapped and ready for sale. In designing the box, teams may be helped by a few of these prompts:

    • What’s it called?
    • Who’s it for?
    • What’s its tagline or slogan?
    • What are its most compelling features? Benefits?
    • What imagery would make it stand out to you?

    Teams may self-organize naturally; most participants will want to create their own box regardless of how they’re arranged. Make sure you have ample supplies for them to do so, and make sure they know that there is no wrong way to create their box.

    Phase Three: Sell the Box

    Each team or individual should be offered the chance to stand up and “sell” their boxes back to the group. It may be worthwhile to keep a timer for these stand-up presentations, and consider offering a prize to the team that does the best job “selling” their box back to the group.

    Look for a naturally occurring breakthrough as they present back their boxes. People put features on the box, but when they sell them, they translate those features into benefits.  Listen for the phrases “so that” or “because,” which bridge otherwise mechanical features into living benefits.

    The exercise works well as an open-ended, divergent process, but may be run so that the teams converge on an agreed-upon, shared box. If agreement and alignment is a desired outcome of the exercise, note the differences and similarities in how each team interpreted their box. Build on the common ground captured in the similarities, and isolate differences for discussion. Consider running a second round, this time incorporating these agreements into a final shared box.

    In any case, if there is a prize to be awarded for the best “box seller,” make sure it’s the teams that cast the votes. And have enough prizes so that if the box was created by a team everyone on the team will have a prize.

    Strategy

    Keep the boxes and display them in a prominent place. These may be more valuable (and visible) artifacts than any other documentation that comes out of the exercise. It may also be beneficial to record the presentations the teams give around their boxes, if it is not disruptive to the flow of the group.

    The core act of “designing the box” may be altered to work for different contexts and participants.

    This exercise goes by many names, and there are a number of good sources to look to for its variations. This version is based on and adapted from the game Product Box in Luke Hohmann’s book, Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play. Other sources point to Jim Highsmith of the Cutter Consortium, and to Bill Shackelford of Shackelford & Associates with the origination of the concept.

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    Understanding Chain

    Object of Play

    Communicating clearly and effectively is a challenge when there is a lot to say to a lot of people.  It can be tempting to try to explain “everything all at once” to an audience and fail in the process.  In the Understanding Chain game, a group shifts from a content focus to an audience focus, and draws out a meaningful, linear structure for communication.

    Number of Players

    1–10

    Duration of Play

    30 minutes to 2 hours

    How to Play

    To set up the game, the group needs to develop two things: an audience breakdown and a set of questions.

    The audience(s):  If there are a large number of audiences, break them down into meaningful groups.  The groups could be as broad as “Corporate leaders” or as specific as “The guys in IT who fix the laptops.”  As a rule of thumb, the more specific the audience, the more tailored and effective the understanding chain will be.  Each audience group will need its own understanding chain. This list of audiences could be created as a result of a Who Do exercise (see Chapter 4).

    The questions: Once the group has a clear picture of their audience, it’s time to brainstorm questions. The questions frame what people really want to know and care about. Questions are best captured in the voice or thoughts of the audience, as they would ask them. They may sound like:

    • “What’s cool about this? Why should I care?”
    • “How is this related to x, y, or z?”
    • “What makes this a priority?”

    Or, they may be more specific:

    • “When does your technology road map converge with ours?”
    • “How will it impact our product portfolio?”

    The questions will become the links in the understanding chain.  To generate them, the group puts itself in the mindset of the audience and captures the questions on individual sticky notes (see the Post-Up game in Chapter 4 for more information).

    Play begins by sorting the questions in a horizontal line on a wall or whiteboard.  This is the timeline of a communication, from beginning to end. The group may choose to:

    Arrange the questions in a simple story format.  In this understanding chain, the group clusters questions under three headings, from left to right:

    • Situation, which sets the stage, introduces a topic and a conflict
    • Complication, in which further conflict is endured and decisions are made
    • Resolution, in which a course of action is chosen which leads to a result.

    By constructing the understanding chain as a story, the group may find the “climax”—the most critical question that leads to the resolution.

    Arrange the questions in an educate-differentiate-stimulate format.  In this chain, the group arranges the questions from left to right, moving from:

    • Educate, in which a topic or idea and its parts are introduced
    • Differentiate, in which parts of the topic are contrasted to create a basis of understanding
    • Stimulate, in which actions are asked for or proposed.

    Arrange the questions as a conversation. In this chain, the group thinks through or role-plays a conversation with the audience and arranges the questions in an order that flows naturally. Although all conversations are different, one framework to consider is:

    • Connecting:  “What’s up?”  “What do we have in common?”
    • Focusing:  “What’s important right now?” “What do you know about it?”
    • Acting:  “What should we do?”

    Strategy

    An understanding chain, like any chain, is only as strong as its weakest link. By examining the questions as a whole, the group may uncover an area that needs work or find the “tough questions” that are not easy to answer.  A group that tackles the weak questions, and has the courage to answer the tough ones directly and honestly, will win.

    The Understanding Chain game was developed by Dave Gray as part of XPLANE’s consulting approach.

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    Synesthesia

    Object of Play

    By its very nature, knowledge work can be a head-heavy, deeply analytical activity.  Even when the results of the work are sensory, the process of getting there is often the opposite:  we think our way to solutions and filter out the five senses as irrelevant or frivolous. Through Synesthesia role play, participants examine a topic through a sensory lens, and let this inform their decisions and designs.

    Number of Players

    2–5

    Duration of Play

    15–45 minutes

    How to Play

    Participants may choose to examine an existing topic or explore a new idea. It may be something as simple as “the interface for our new site” or as complex as “the user experience.”

    Participants choose or are randomly assigned one of the five senses: see, hear, taste, smell, and touch.  Also consider including as choices temperature, position, and motion.

    Participants are given a few moments to interpret a topic from the perspective of their sense and to move on to the other senses as they see fit. They then describe to the group what they perceived.  For example:

    • “The interface is warm to the touch.  And it tastes like oranges.”
    • “When the app launches, it’s as if I can hear an orchestra tuning up to perform.  But I can’t see anything;  I’d like to see what they’re doing.”
    • “The user experience stinks.  It smells like a stack of dusty papers, and there is no motion.  I wanted to move forward but kept getting slowed down.”

    Strategy

    The Synesthesia exercise gives participants a chance to describe in visceral, memorable terms how they feel about an object or how they imagine it to be. It can uncover overlooked aspects of an idea or product or lead to new ones.

    The source of the Synesthesia game is unknown.

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    Staple Yourself To Something

    Object of Play

    The goal of this game is to explore or clarify a process by following an object through its flow. Through this exercise, a group will create a memorable, visual story of their core process. After it is completed, this artifact can be used to identify opportunities to improve or educate others involved in the process. The notion of “stapling yourself to an order” comes from process improvement, but can be useful in a variety of scenarios. A group with no documented process, or an overly complex one, will benefit from the exercise.  If the process is taking too long, or if no one seems to know how the work gets done, it’s time to staple yourself to something and see where it goes.

    Number of Players

    2–10

    Duration of Play

    1–2 hours

    How to Play

    1. The group must have an idea of what their object is, the “bouncing ball” that they will follow through the process.  It’s best to decide on this in advance.  Some example objects could be a product, a trouble ticket, or an idea.  A familiar example of this type of flow is “How a bill becomes a law.”
    2. Introduce the exercise by drawing the object.  The goal is to focus on telling the story of this one object from point A to point B.  Write these commonly understood starting and ending points on the wall.
    3. Ask participants to brainstorm a list of the big steps in the process and record them on the wall.  If needed, ask them to prioritize them into a desired and workable number of steps.  For a high-level story, look to capture seven steps.
    4. Before you start to follow the object, work out with the group the vital information you are looking to capture in the story.  Ask:  in each step of the process, what do we need to know?  This may be the people involved, the action they’re taking, or the amount of time a step takes.
    5. Now it’s time to draw.  The group will tell the story of the object as it moves from step to step.  As much as possible, capture the information visually, as though you were taking a picture of what they are describing.  Some useful tools here include stick figures, arrows, and quality questions.  Questions that produce an active voice in the answer, as in “Who does what here?” will be more concrete and visual. Other good questions include “What’s next?” and “What’s important?”
    6. Be aware that the story will want to branch, loop, and link to other processes, like a river trying to break its banks.  Your job is to navigate the flow with the group and keep things moving toward the end.

    Strategy

    Use the object as a focusing device.  Any activity that is not directly related to the forward motion of the object can be noted and then tied off.

    If possible, add a ticking clock to the story to help pace the flow.  If the object needs to get to the end by a certain time, use this to your advantage by introducing it up front and referencing it as needed to keep up the momentum and interest of the story.

    One trap to be aware of is that participants may move between the way things are and the way they want them to be.  Be clear with the group about what state in time—today or the desired future—you are capturing.

    Does the process have an owner? If someone is responsible for the process, you can use this person’s expertise, but be cautious not to let her tell the entire story. This can be a learning experience for her as well, if she listens to the participants describe “their version” of the story.

    There are many ways of conducting a “day in the life” type of visualization. This version of the game is credited to James Macanufo.

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    Post The Path

    Object of Play

    The object of this game is to quickly diagnose a group’s level of understanding of the steps in a process.

    Often, there is a sense of confusion about who does what and when. The team is using different terms to describe their process. The group has no documented process. Things seem to be happening in an ad hoc fashion, invisibly, or by chance.

    Through this exercise, the group will define an existing process at a high level and uncover areas of confusion or misunderstanding. In most cases, this can flow naturally into a discussion of what to do about those unclear areas. This exercise will not generally result in a new or better process but rather a better understanding of the current one.

    Number of Players

    2–10

    Duration of Play

    30 minutes to 1 hour

    How to Play

    Introduce the exercise by framing the objective: “This is a group activity, where we will create a picture of how we create [x].” X in this case is the output of the process; it maybe a document, a product, an agreement, or the like.  Write or draw the output of the process on the wall.

    Establish a common starting point of the process with the group. This could sound like “the beginning of the day” or “the start of a quarter” or “after we finished the last one.”  This is the trigger or triggers that kick off the process. If you believe the group will have a hard time with this simple step, decide it for them in advance and present it as a best guess. Write this step on a sticky note, put it on the wall, and then proceed with the exercise.

    1. Instruct participants to think about the process from beginning to end. Then give them the task: write down the steps in the process. They can use as many notes as they like, but each step must be a separate note.
    2. After the participants have brainstormed their version of the steps, ask them to come up to the wall and post them to compare.  The group should place their steps above and below one another’s so that they can compare their versions of steps 1, 2, and so on.
    3. Prompt the group to find points of agreement and confusion. Look for terminology problems, where participants may be using different words to describe the same step.  Points of confusion may surface where “something magical happens” or no one is really clear on a step.

    Strategy

    The group will draw their own conclusions about what the different versions of the process mean and what they can or should do about it.

    For a larger group, you may want to avoid individual readouts and instead have people post up simultaneously.

    If you sense in advance that the group will get caught up in the details, ask them to produce a limited number of steps—try 10.

    The Post the Path game is credited to James Macanufo.