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Hero’s Journey Agenda


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

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

Duration: 10-15 minutes.

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

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

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

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

You can also say,

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

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

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

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

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

3. Now say,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can draw a coffee cup or a teacup here.

6. Now say,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is an example of a completed agenda:

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

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

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

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Cost Benefit

This game is most probably the most simple collaborative cost benefit analysis ever.
It is applicable onto subjects where a group has expert knowledge about costs and/or benefits.

A group of developers is such an example.
Especially a customer or customer proxy will have interest when it comes to prioritizing work items.

Generation ideas

If the list of work items is not existent you can start this exercise by a silent post-up.
All individuals in the group start scribbling down about the work to be done. (one thing/sticky)
After 10 min or so ask the group to hang them on the wall.

Clustering
Ask the team to group items together by subject in silence. Items causing discussion you ask to park aside.
Explain that the only purpose is having a priority. So under what cluster it’s been put isn’t that important. What is important however, is all know where it’s under.
So on the exact scope (what-fits-best-where) there is no explicit consensus needed. A majority is fine.

In short:
* does everybody know the scope of the clusters?
* can the team proportionally estimate the size of the scope? (what is bigger/smaller then what)

Priories on cost

SortingCostBenefit-Sorting-Scaling
Next, ask the team to sort them top to bottom on cost. (5 minutes of work)
Park the items under discussion aside after all the others are done.
Discussion can only happen when the clustering did not clear things up or caused friction. This could indicate the team isn’t aware of the goal: putting priority.

Scaling
Next hang the lowest sticky way lower and the highest way higher then the rest of the sorted list.
Like that you’ll have room to position the stickies on a scale.CostBenefit-Y-axis
Write down on the board some marks of the scale.  E.g. (see image): 1, 5, 10, 15, 20.
Ask the team to position the other items on the correct place on the scale.
The sorted order must will stay ofcourse, a relative cost will emerge from the scale as they are positionned.

This all takes about 10 min: Sorting 5, scaling 5.
Depending on the position on the scale, write the relative number bottom left on the stickies.
E.g. stickies in the middle: 50%, top 0%, bottom 100%.
This will be your Y-axis coordinate to put your sticky on a 2D cost -benefit graph.

Priories on benefit

Do the same for the benefits with a product owner, customer if preferred.
Sort, relatively scale them, and write the number bottom right.

 

Cost Benefit Result

Putting it all together

Draw the X and Y axis with the top and bottom values from the exercise above:  the costs & benefits.
Hang the stickies according to the cost/benefit coordinates noted on them.

The low hanging-fruit and infeasible-expensive items are clearly found now.

 

Conclusion

Note that the same approach can be done with a Kano diagram or any other kind of 2D graph.
It’s a fun way of clearing things out and prioritizing is done through collaborative support.
Special attention on discussion starters is recommended. They are the time consumers, and can be stopped by guarding and communicating your goal: prioritizing.

Enjoy this game, feedback is mostly appreciated!

 

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35

Object of Play

This game has been designed to help prioritize different ideas or items in a quick and energetic way without getting stuck in endless discussions and avoiding any kind of influencing. It is similar to 20-20 game as it will compare items in pairs.

Number of players: 4 – 50

Duration: 15-45 minutes depending on the group size and items at hand.

How to play

  1. Organize or facilitate another game to generate items that require prioritization.
  2. Ask all attendees to put the items at hand in the middle of the group of people, one by one and shortly explaining the item at hand.
  3. When all items are in the middle of the group let each one of the attendees select their “Top”, “Most Important” item out of the pile and do this one person at the time. If their top item is gone then they could take their second, third… option out of the list, purpose it that everybody has 1 card at hand. (With a small group let them take 2).
  4. Now instruct the people to mingle amongst each other and find a partner in order to form pairs. Shortly discuss how to spread 7 points amongst the 2 items at hand with the 2 of them and add those points on the back of the card.
  5. Let the people take each others card and find another partner for a second round of weighting cards with each other.
  6. Do this 5 times (5 times 7 = 35)!
  7. Summarize all different weights to a single figure and sort highest number on top and so on…

Note: Even when the group does this a second time with the same items and interest at hand the sorting will be the same but figures might differ a bit.

Strategy

Getting a group consensus about priorities between different related items is not easy and 35 will give them an easy way to effectively and repeatedly prioritize items according the groups consensus. The technique is build in such a way that people can not cheat the system and influence the outcomes as you compare, weight items related to each other. By constantly changing cards from hands and switching from partners one is can never influence the outcome. A great way to achieve a fast consensus about the priority of the items at hand.

 

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Circles and Soup

Object of Play
The goal of game, introduced by Diana Larsen, is to efficiently form high-quality plans through retrospective analysis by recognizing factors that are within the team’s control.  During retrospective activities, it is easy to hit a wall of unproductive blame. The moment the group reaches this barrier, “someone shoulds” and “if only you coulds” bounce around the room, knocking out any practical ideas for future advancement. Before determining what you can improve, you must first be clear on the dimensions you are able to regulate and what you need to adapt to. By identifying factors your team can control, influence, or cannot change, you can collectively discover how to respond to and overcome various situations.

Number of Players
5 – 8

Duration of play
1 hour

How to play
1. Before your meeting, collect sticky notes or 3×5 notecards. In a white space (a poster, whiteboard, etc.), draw three concentric circles, leaving enough room between each one to place the notes. Each circle represents a different element:

  • Inner circle: “Team Controls” – what your team can directly manage
  • Middle circle: “Team Influences” –persuasive actions that your team can take to move ahead
  • Outer circle: “The Soup” – elements that cannot be changed. This term — explained further by James Shore – refers to the environment we work in and have adapted to. Ideas from the other 2 circles can identify ways to respond to the barriers floating in our “soup.”

2. Hand out the sticky notes to your internal team members and describe the significance of each circle.

3. Allow time for each person to write their ideas on sticky notes. Once finished, ask them to post their notes into the respective circles.

4. As a group, collaborate to identify how each idea can be used to improve your project. Ask team members to expand on their ideas in order to further develop potential plans.

Strategy
In earlier stages of your retrospection, it is best to concentrate on “Team Controls.” This allows you to identify immediate actions that can be taken. As you see what works, you can alter potential plans and respond to any restraints.

A neutral facilitator is recommended to keep the activity from becoming too emotional. Evaluating negative aspects of your project is a sensitive but necessary exercise, and can leave people feeling upset or hopeless. Avoid any discussions about blaming people or wishing something would happen. This frame of mind places the control out of the team’s hands, both halting all forward motion and creating a negative environment. Keep the atmosphere fun and enjoyable so people will feel comfortable sharing their ideas.

Online Circles and Soup

You can instantly play the Circles and Soup online with as many members as you would like! Clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com.

As facilitator, email the game link to your staff to invite them to play. In the game, this picture is used as the “game board,” and you will find an icon of blue squares at the upper left corner. Each square represents an idea, which players describe and drag onto the respective circle.  As with the in-person version of the game, the game board is organized into three concentric circles, representing “Team Controls,” “Team Influences,” and “The Soup.”

Players can edit the placement and description of each square, which everyone can view in real time. Use the integrated chat facility and communicate with your players throughout the game to get a better understanding of each move.

Key Points
Negative self-evaluating activities often end up emotional and unproductive. Take advantage of this game’s visual organization and extensive collaboration to avoid the blame and hopelessness that cover up ideas for future improvement. By identifying factors your team can control, influence, or cannot change, you can collectively discover how to respond to and overcome various situations. Play Circles and Soup to determine what you can do to avoid barriers and gain insight on what actions will most effectively enhance your project.

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For the Gamestormers: A Gameboarding Template

For many budding Gamestormers, one of the trickiest challenges isn’t in running the games, but in sequencing them to get to a specific outcome for a meeting. This template should help you think through the process of organizing games to evaluate where a certain game path may take you. It’s called Gameboarding because it’s akin to Storyboarding – shuffling and reordering content until it creates a meaningful arc. Keep in mind that a good meeting is organized around a meta-structure of opening, exploring and closing, and also involves an awareness of the micro-structure of that same process embedded within each game. Ideally your session will be designed around this (often referred to as diverging, navigating and converging), while driving toward your primary meeting goal.

Click below for the PDF. Gameboarding Template

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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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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.

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Pain-Gain Map

Object of Play

The object of this game is to develop an understanding of motivations and decisions.

Number of Players

3–10

Duration of Play

10–15 minutes

How to Play

Many decisions often boil down to one’s basic choices between benefit and harm.  By capturing these specifics for a key person, your group may uncover the most relevant points to bring up in presenting or influencing the key person’s decision. This key person may be the ultimate user of a product or may be the leader of an organization whose approval is sought.  Start by writing the key person’s name or creating a quick sketch of him on a wall.  Ask about this person’s pains first by prompting the group to step inside his mind and think and feel as he does.  Capture the answers on one side of the person:

  • What does a bad day look like for him?
  • What is he afraid of?
  • What keeps him awake at night?
  • What is he responsible for?
  • What obstacles stand in his way?

A persona’s gains can be the inversion of the pain situation—or can go beyond. Capture these on the opposite side by asking:

  • What does this person want and aspire to?
  • How does he measure success?
  • Given the subject at hand, how could this person benefit?
  • What can we offer this person?

Strategy

Summarize and prioritize the top pains and gains from the exercise. Use them when developing presentations, value propositions, or any other instance where you are trying to influence a decision.

The Pain-Gain Map game is credited to Dave Gray.

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Virtuous Cycle

Object of Play

The goal of this game is to discover opportunities to transform an existing, linear process into a more valuable and growing process by taking a different viewpoint. This is useful in examining processes that are deemed “worth repeating,” such as the customer experience.

It might be a good time to play through this exercise if the current process is transactional,compartmentalized, or wasteful. Other indications are a group that is “navel gazing” and focused primarily on its internal process, or when there is a sense that after the process is complete, no one knows what happens next.

Possible outcomes include that the group may uncover new growth and improvement opportunities in an existing process by “bending it back into itself.”

Number of Players

3–10

Duration of Play

1–3 hours

How to Play

You will need a high-level understanding or documentation of the current state of things. Any existing, linear process will work.

  1. Introduce the exercise by “black boxing” the current process. This means that during the course of the exercise the group’s focus will be on what’s outside the process,not the fine detail of what’s going on inside the box.
  2. To make this visual, give each step in the process a box on the wall (medium-sized sticky notes work well) and connect them with arrows in a linear fashion.
  3. To start the exercise, ask the group to think about, to the best of their knowledge, what happens before the process: Who or what is involved? What is going on?  Repeat this for the end of the process: What comes after the process? What are the possible outcomes?
  4. You may ask them to capture their thoughts on sticky notes and post them before and after the process.
  5. Next, draw a loop from the end of the linear process back to its starting point. By doing this you are turning a linear process into a life cycle. Ask: “To get from here,and back again, what needs to happen? What’s missing from the picture?
  6. The group is ready to explore possibilities and opportunities. Again, sticky notes work well for capturing ideas. Have the players capture their thoughts along the line and discuss.

Summarize or close the exercise by generating a list of questions and areas to explore.  This may include looking at the internal, defined process for improvement ideas.

Strategy

Pick the right process to do this with. A process that warrants repeating, such as the customer experience, works well.  Knowledge creation and capture, as well as strategic planning, are also candidates.

Get the right people in the room. Some awareness of what happens outside the process is needed, but can also hamper the experience. One of the biggest potential outcomes is a visceral change in perspective on the participants’ part: from internal focus to external focus.

This game is credited to James Macanufo.