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Squiggle Birds

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

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

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Draw Toast


 

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

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

Duration: 10-15 minutes.

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

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

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

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

    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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    Caroussel

    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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    Job or Joy

    Object of Play:
    This game helps you discover what you and your colleagues like best and least about your jobs. When doing something you love, it is easy to get lost in the activity for its own sake, which stimulates creativity and commitment to the task at hand. This can be applied to your work to make it more enjoyable and productive. With Job or Joy, participants share their favorite hobbies, tedious chores, and what they like or dislike about work. This enhances your understanding of your colleagues while uncovering ways to make work more fun.

    Number of Players:
    5 – 8

    Duration of Play:
    1 hour

    How to Play:
    1. Before your meeting, draw a graph with four quadrants. Write “not-work” on the left of the x-axis and “work” on the right. Then write “play” above the y-axis and “not-play” below it.

    This gives each quadrant a specific meaning

    • Quadrant 1: Joy – work activities that people enjoy (ex. conferences)
    • Quadrant 2: Hobbies – activities outside of work that people enjoy (ex. reading, biking, cooking)
    • Quadrant 3: Chores – activities outside of work that people don’t enjoy (ex. cleaning)
    • Quadrant 4: Job – work activities that people don’t enjoy (ex. mundane office meetings)

    Job and Joy (work) = external to the individual; liking of the activity depends on the situation or attributes of it
    Hobbies and Chores (leisure) = internal to the individual; self-motivated activities outside of the workplace

    2. Pass out sticky notes and pens to your team members. Ask them to write activities they do that apply to each of the quadrants.

    3. After about 5 minutes, have your participants place their sticky notes where they feel the they belong on the chart. For instance, if someone likes cooking, they would put that in the “Hobbies” quadrant. If they don’t like cooking, they would place it in the “Chores” section. Things that people like to do at work go under “Joy” and work activities people don’t like go under “Job.”

    4. Ask each person to explain the activities they wrote and why they placed it where they did. Use this discussion time to learn about each other and collaborate on how to make work more enjoyable for everyone.

    Strategy:
    The writing and discussion time should begin with activities people love to do outside of work and move to more work-oriented activities. This will help everyone think of ways to make their jobs more enjoyable while creating a fun environment.

    Online Job or Joy

    Start playing Job or Joy immediately online! Clicking on this image will take you to an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com, where you can invite participants to play. Here, there will be two icons:

    • Happy face: what you enjoy to do
    • Frown face: what you don’t enjoy to do

    Simply drag these to the chart and collaborate about the moves in real time. When finished, your results are organized onto a spread sheet so you can get the most out of your game.

    Key Points
    When people enjoy what they are doing and become engaged through self-motivation, they can push themselves to form innovative ideas and breakthroughs. Their participation is catalyzed by the activity they are involved in and they channel their personal commitment toward achieving the goal. Discover what your colleagues like/dislike to do in order to better understand who they are and how you can all maximize your joy — both during and outside of work.

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    The Low Tech Social Network – an amazing experience

    At the recent Design Jam Oxford I was introduced to the Gamestorming book and have been pretty much obsessed with it ever since. Given the slightest opportunity I have been putting its ideas to use and one fantastic success was at a recent event in Nottingham in the UK.

    We are a group of artists called Livescribes and we have only just launched ourselves into the world of Visual Thinking, Graphic Recording and Graphic Facilitation. When you begin a new venture – I quit my regular 9-5 web job to do this – you never quite know what might happen. The first event we were due to attend as Livescribes was called ‘Show Off’ at Antenna in Nottingham.

    Antenna is a studio and office space for creatives based in and around Nottingham. We decided one thing we wanted to do to show the people there we do things differently was to instigate the ‘Low Tech Social Network’ straight out of the Gamestorming playbook (page 105). We would ask people to take a Post-It, draw themselves, write two things about themselves on it and ‘upload’ themselves to our piece of paper.

    The event had businesses associated with Antenna as well as visitors all with stands showing their wares in a large, and very nice, bar area which forms the main networking spot within the building (it does coffee and beer). We unfurled a giant piece of paper and masking taped it to a large wall on a slightly raised area in the bar area. And after politely negotiating with some hairdressers to move their stand so we could be seen awaited the first arrivals.

    As it was the hairdressers next to us became our first additions to the social network. We even drew a cartoon of them cutting hair. They went from a bit put out at moving to our new friends. Already the power of the social network was having an effect. We got everyone we could to ‘upload’ themselves and draw connections to other people. You can have a look at the final result on our site here (I have used the cloud zoom JQUERY plugin to create that effect incase you’re interested).

    We managed to collar nearly everyone who walked into the room over the course of the day. Not only is this an excellent ice breaker its a fantastic way to get talking to potential clients at an event like this. Once the penny dropped that we were not trying to get their credit card details for some ‘New Facebook’ people smiled, grabbed a sharpie and connected. And once the network had grown into a significantly large collective artwork it became one of the main draws of the event.

    My favourite moment was when I accosted a thin slightly stressed individual who was inspecting the work. After giving him the spiel and placing a Post-It and pen in his hand he got to it. Although one odd thing that struck me was, as I was speaking, he looked over my shoulder and made that sort of ‘no it’s ok’ hand gesture to someone. As the gentleman uploaded I noticed he wrote ‘politician’ on his Post-It, I looked around to see a coterie of sharp suited business delegates and political types holding clip boards and a few photographers all looking at us. It turned out I had button holed the head of Nottingham City Council. When he asked me how he should cut £20m from the city budget I immediately thought of the ‘Anti Problem’ Gamestorming session and was about to suggest we figured out how to spend £20m and then not do that – but he was whisked away by his army of followers before I could get him to a flip chart.

    My tips are for this are: it’s a highly effective ice breaker, a great way to get talking to people and it can run all day. Get a massive bit of paper to do it if you can, people like the tactile nature of it. And over the course of the day we only met one person who didn’t want to do it, so we drew one for him. I wonder if you can guess who…

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    Circles of Influence

    Object of Play
    The first step of achieving your business goal is always the most difficult. Where do you start? Who can you talk to? Is there anybody that will support you in your risky journey? Fortunately, Deb Colden’s Circles of Influence can help you reach your action potential by identifying connections that will lead you to success. Take advantage of this game to expand your network and turn your thoughts into plans.

    Number of Players
    5 – 8

    Duration of Play
    1 hour

    How to Play
    1. At the top of a large poster or white board, define your goal. This could be anything from finishing a task by the end of the day to increasing your sales before the end of the year. Write what you want to accomplish in one sentence to keep it concise.

    2. Draw two large circles next to each other, putting a check mark in the center of the left one and a smiley face in the middle of the right one. Label the circles as followed:

    • Left circle: “Circle of the Task”
    • Right Circle: “Board of Directors”

    3. Distribute pens and plenty of sticky notes to each person.

    4. Focus on “Circle of the Task.” This is designated for people who could help you reach your goal or provide contacts of people in their network who could assist you. Ask participants to write names of people belonging to the category on their sticky notes and to post them on the edge of the left circle. Avoid generalizations, such as “somebody from Company X,” or “a professor.” By using specific names, you can transform vague ideas into tangible actions and identify who will help you excel toward your goal. Also, it will get you thinking about specific questions to ask them so you can get exactly what you need in an efficient manner.

    5. As a team, reflect on and note how connecting with each person could be advantageous. Who benefits from the relationship? Who knows other potentially helpful people? Why is the interaction important? Focus on ways you can provide a win-win (give something, get something) experience to the people on your task circle.

    6. Move on to the “Board of Directors.” This circle is for people who will help you no matter what, and who you can rely on to provide encouragement and advice. These personal acquaintances are perfect to speak with when you don’t know where to start or want to practice forming focused questions. As before, ask players to write names on their sticky notes and to post them on the edge of the circle.

    7. Collaborate to uncover ways to use the support and advice of your “Board of Directors.”

    8. Work together to identify who to speak with first from your “Circle of the Task.” Who is the easiest person to talk to with the best return? If going straight to your “Circle of the Task” is too intimidating, then select someone from you “Board of Directors” who can calm you down and provide advice. These people want you to succeed, and can help you identify where to start. Also, look for two-fers: people who belong to both circles. These are valuable connections, as they can assist you with the task and provide support.

    9. After speaking with people on your “Circle of the Task,” make sure to ask, “Is there anyone else I should talk to?” This will encourage them to share their networks to help expand yours. When you return to the chart, attach a circle to the person’s sticky note, representing their connections. This will organize your potential contacts so you can see your expanded sphere of support.

    Play Circles of Influence Online

    You can instantly play Circles of Influence online with as many members as you would like! Clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com; simply email the game link to your staff to invite them to play. In the game, the image to the right will be used as the “game board.” As with the in-person version, the two circles organize your “Circle of the Task,” and “Board of Directors.” You will see two icons in the top left corner, which represent people in your network:

    • Green person – in your “Circle of the Task”
    • Blue person – in your “Board of Directors”
    • Blue stars – goals

    To add the icons to the game board, simply drag them to their respective sections and describe what they represent. Players online are able to decide on multiple goals, symbolized by blue stars. As facilitator, engage your participants to discover which of the goals are most important.

    Everyone can edit the placement and description of each icon, which can be seen in real time. Collaborate through the chat facilitator to build from each other’s ideas. When finished, the results will be organized in a spreadsheet for you to carefully analyze in order to get the most out of the game.

    Strategy
    Write names of people even if you do not personally know them or if you believe they will be difficult to schedule a time to talk with. Doing so will get you thinking about that person’s network, which can be just as valuable.

    Key Points
    This game involves visual organization and extensive collaboration to identify people who will help you move toward your goal. By writing out specific names, you can turn potential connections into beneficial relationships and form a more focused approach on how to achieve your objective. Get the job done by expanding your network while utilizing the support of those who know you best.

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    Merrill Covey Matrix

    Object of Play
    Many of us are overwhelmed by our to-do lists, and work hard each day to accomplish just a few of our countless tasks. However, we tend to focus on urgent items while disregarding the importance of planning for tasks that are necessary to reach our overall goal. This negligence will lead to even more stress in the long run, as everything will eventually become urgent if not prepared for. Fortunately, Merrill Covey Matrix, based on  Stephen Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill’s description in their book First Things First, allows you to evaluate the urgency and importance of your tasks. The goal of this activity is to prioritize your to-do list in order to plan ahead and work efficiently. Play Merrill Covey Matrix with your team at work, key partners, or customers to clarify the purpose and value of your tasks and to discover which items should be minimized or eliminated.

    Number of Players:
    5 – 8

    Duration of Play
    1 hour

    How to Play

    1. Before your meeting, draw a 2×2 matrix on a large white board or poster. Label the axes as followed:

    • 2 left cells – Urgent
    • 2 right cells – Not urgent
    • 2 top cells – Important
    • 2 bottom cells– Not important

    2. Distribute pens and plenty of sticky notes to your players; participants will use these to write tasks.

    3. Allow 5 – 10 minutes for players to write to-do items on the post-its: one per note.

    4. Have players present their tasks to the group. As a team, collaborate to identify where each to-do item should be placed on the matrix.

    5. Once all of the notes are posted, rearrange the tasks in each cell in order of importance. Start thinking about how you can use the organization to make your to-do list more efficient. Keep in mind the value of each cell:

    • Cell 1: Urgent, important – these tasks should be at the top of your to-do list
    • Cell 2: Not urgent, important – these items are likely to be neglected, but are necessary for long-term success. Set aside time each week to focus on these in order to be more productive. We suggest making this cell a different color so you will remember its significance.
    • Cell 3: Urgent, not important – these tasks suck your time and are often the result of poor-planning. They should be minimized or eliminated.
    • Cell 4: Not urgent, not important – these items are trivial time-wasters that should be eliminated

    6. Collaborate to clarify the value of the items and to identify which team members will be responsible for each task. Write down the new order of your to-do list, but make sure take a picture of the chart or leave it up so you can refer back to it.

    Play Online

    Now you can play Merrill Covey Matrix instantly online! Clicking on the picture to the right will start an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com. Here, this image will be used as the “game board.” This chart is organized the same way as the in-person version, and the second cell is highlighted yellow to remind you of its importance. However, instead of post-it notes, there will be two different icons that players can drag onto the chart and describe to represent the tasks:

    • Green squares – priority tasks that require attention
    • Red square – tasks to minimize/eliminate

    All moves can be seen in real time by each participant, so everyone can edit the positions and descriptions of the icons. Also, the integrated chat facility allows you and your players to collaborate to form the most efficient to-do list.

    Strategy
    Delegation is an integral part of time management. Rather than assuming everyone will work together on each item, you must assign tasks in order to prevent social loafing. This way, people will feel more responsible for certain items and will accomplish them more efficiently.

    Considering how easy it is to neglect the items in the second cell, it is advised to highlight or surround the region with a different color to portray its significance, as seen in the images above. At the beginning of each week, set aside time to work on these necessary tasks.

    Avoid creating a long, intimidating to-do lists by breaking it down into smaller lists. For example, consider creating a task sheet for each person or a group list for each day or week.

    Key Points
    While we are all busy working through our to-do lists, we may not be doing so as efficiently as we think. Play Merrill Covey Matrix to identify the purpose and value of your tasks and to minimize or eliminate time-wasters. Plan ahead to avoid unproductive busy work and to accomplish your goal in a productive manner.

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    Status Center

    What if Status Meetings were like Sports News?

    Object of Play
    Sitting through status meetings is boring, right? Well, then why do many of us go home and watch status reports for an hour or more every night?We watch news shows, ‘fake’ news shows, Entertainment Tonight, TMZ, ESPN’s SportsCenter, and many more. Something about those status reports must be working better than the ones we sleep through at work.StatusCenter is a ‘macro’ game structure that aims to apply the ‘rules’ of the TV status report game to the business status report game. The StatusCenter macro-game is populated with stand-alone games that can be linked throughout the meeting, following Gamestorming’s ‘opening, exploring, closing’ model.

    Number of Players
    4 to 40

    Duration of Play
    30 to 60 minutes for a weekly meeting; up to 4 hours for a quarterly or annual review

    How to Play
    Like TV, StatusCenter will link short game segments, in a manner that is interesting and time-efficient. While the segments are modeled after sports, news, or other television formats, they are equally effective for people who aren’t familiar with those metaphors.

    Opening Games

    1. Question Balloons: Simulating the controlled question-asking mechanisms of status shows like Larry King’s ‘email questions’, this game lets attendees literally float a question. As questions are answered, balloons are popped, and any questions still remaining at the end of the meeting are visible at a glance.
    2. Top Scores: Simulating the ‘Headlines’ or ‘Scoreboard’, this game delivers business metrics quickly and succinctly, acting as a teaser for the rest of the meeting.

    Exploring Games

    1. 60-Second Update: Mimicking a ‘Highlights’ segment, this game delivers short updates by each member, aligning everyone. More questions can be ‘floated’ here.
    2. Project Jeopardy: Allows one or two in-depth updates on key subjects, while creating audience involvement for those who may already know the answers. Rotating the ‘host’ from meeting to meeting gives everyone a chance to say a little more about their own projects or progress.
    3. Crossfire: This segment provides drama, while giving a ‘safe’ environment for those that like to argue. Meeting attendees select a topic of interest during the previous week, and two people prepare to discuss it from two different viewpoints. This segment is a great way to explore potentially controversial ideas, learn about new products or technologies, or assess the competition’s latest move.
    4. In-depth Analysis <link here>: This longer segment provides space for an investigative report, formal presentation, or guest commentary. Consider inviting speakers who are of interest to the group but don’t typically come to the meetings.
    5. Trade Rumors: What are the hot rumors? Clearly delineated from the facts that are delivered in the status updates, these rumors generate interest and energy. Again, keep it short – 15 seconds each. Remember that a juicy rumor could become next weeks’ Crossfire or In-depth Analysis topic.

    Closing Games

    1. Coming Attractions: What hot projects or decisions are coming up in the next week? What meetings should I attend? Give each participant 15 – 30 seconds to provide these ‘teasers’ that are quick and to the point.
    2. Question Balloons <link here>: Close out any questions that have not been addressed during the meeting.
    3. Cliffhanger: Use a suggestion box to choose the Crossfire and In-depth Analysis topics and participants for the next (or future) meeting. This builds drama and anticipation for the next meeting.

    Strategy

    1. We cannot recommend strongly enough that most status information should be pushed outside of the StatusCenter game. Dashboards, email updates, and the like should be used to distribute information that does not need to be reiterated with a captive audience.
    2. Alternate short ‘highlight’ games with longer ‘analysis’ games to satisfy audience members who want depth, while keeping the pace engaging.
    3. Stick to status subjects. Decisions, brainstorming, and other topics – no matter how legitimate – should taken off-line. Even Crossfire, which can be used to present two different opinions, should be seen as a way of exploring ideas, not as a way to come to a decision.
    4. Add, delete, or replace these games based on time and need.
    5. There are many proponents of standing status meetings (often called ‘huddles’). Try this method.
    6. Try ‘co-hosts,’ like many news shows.

    Key Points
    StatusCenter will be most successful if roles are clear and attendees have prepared in advance. Consider creating a template for 60-Second Update and Project Jeopardy to help attendees understand what kind of information to include. By moving basic status information to pre-meeting communications and then breaking the meeting itself into fast-paced chunks, you can transform a meeting that people tend to tune out of into one they will definitely want to watch.