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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.

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Start, Stop, Continue

Object of Play

The object of Start, Stop, Continue is to examine aspects of a situation or develop next steps.

Number of Players

1–10

Duration of Play

10 minutes to 1 hour

How to Play

Ask the group to consider the current situation or goal and individually brainstorm actions in these three categories:

  • Start: What are things that we need to START doing?
  • Stop: What are we currently doing that we can or should STOP?
  • Continue: What are we doing now that works and should CONTINUE?

Have individuals share their results.

Strategy

This exercise is broad enough to work well as an opening or closing exercise. It’s useful in framing discussion at “problem-solving” meetings, or as a way to brainstorm aspirational steps toward a vision.

The source for the Start, Stop, Continue game is unknown.

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SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis

Object of Play
In business, it can be easier to have certainty around what we want, but more difficult to understand what’s impeding us in getting it. The SWOT Analysis is a long-standing technique of looking at what we have going for us with respect to a desired end state, as well as what we could improve on. It gives us an opportunity to gauge approaching opportunities and dangers, and assess the seriousness of the conditions that affect our future. When we understand those conditions, we can influence what comes next. So, if you need to evaluate your organization or team’s current likelihood of success relative to an objective.

Number of Players: 5–20

Duration of Play: 1–2 hours

How to Play
1. Before the meeting, write the phrase “Desired End State” and draw a picture of what it might look like on a piece of flip-chart paper.

2. Create a separate four-square quadrant using four sheets of flip-chart paper. If you think the complexity of the discussion and the number of players warrants more quadrants, create as many as you’d like.

3. At the top left of the quadrant, write the word “STRENGTHS” and draw a picture depicting that concept. For example, for “STRENGTHS” you might draw a simple picture of someone holding up a car with one hand. (Yes, you’re allowed to exaggerate.) Ask the players to take 5–10 minutes and quietly generate ideas about strengths they have with respect to the desired end state and write them on sticky notes, one idea per sticky note.

4. At the bottom left of the quadrant, write the word “WEAKNESSES” and draw a picture depicting that concept. Ask the players again to take 5–10 minutes to quietly generate ideas about weaknesses around the desired end state and write them on sticky notes.

5. At the top right of the quadrant, write the word “OPPORTUNITIES” and draw a picture. Ask the players to take 5–10 minutes to write ideas about opportunities on sticky notes.

6. At the bottom right of the quadrant, write the word “THREATS” and draw a picture depicting that concept. Ask the players to use this last set of 5–10 minutes to generate ideas about perceived threats and write them on sticky notes.

7. When you sense a lull in sticky-note generation, gather all of the sticky notes and post them on a flat surface that is near the quadrant and is viewable by the players. Be sure to keep the sticky notes in their original groups of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

8. Start with the STRENGTHS group of sticky notes and, with the players’ collaboration, sort the ideas based on their affinity to other ideas. For example, if they produced three sticky notes that say “good sharing of information,” “information transparency,” and “people willing to share data,” cluster those ideas together. Create multiple clusters until you have clustered the majority of the sticky notes. Place outliers separate from the clusters but still in playing range. (At this stage, it’s important to note that if you have a group with five players or less, you can eliminate the sticky-note clustering process and simply write and draw their responses for each category as the players verbalize them. After you’ve gone through each section of the quadrant, players can dot vote.) Repeat the clustering and sorting process for the other categories in this order: WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES, and finally, THREATS.

9. After the sorting and clustering is complete, start a group conversation to create a broad category for each smaller cluster. For example, a category for the cluster from step 8 might be “communication”. As the group makes suggestions and finds agreement on categories, write those categories in the appropriate quadrant.

10. When the players feel comfortable with the categories, ask them to approach the quadrant and dot vote next to two or three categories in each square, indicating that they believe those to be the most relevant for that section. Circle or highlight the information that got the most votes and make a note of it with the group.

11. Summarize the overall findings in conversation with the players and ask them to discuss the implications around the desired end state. Engage the group in a creative exercise wherein they evaluate weaknesses and threats positively, as though their presence is doing them a favor. Ask them thought-provoking
questions, like “What if your competition didn’t exist?” and “How does this threat have the potential to make the organization stronger?”

Optional activity: Lead the group in creating silly slogans for the desired end state. Let them be ridiculous: “Our lamps will light up the world.” The idea is to create humor and excitement around possibilities.

Strategy
The SWOT Analysis is at its best when the group is unabashed in its provision and analysis of content. The players are less likely to be shy about their strengths, but they may struggle to suggest weaknesses due to sensitivity to other players or to blind spots in their own thinking. Frame the notion of “weakness” to mean something that can be improved upon. Similarly, a “threat” is something that can act as a catalyst for performance improvement. Let the group know that the higher the quality of their contributions, the better they will be able to evaluate what’s on the horizon. You’ll have a good sense that
the game was successful when you hear the group thoughtfully consider the data and express insights they didn’t have before.

This game was inspired by Albert Humphrey’s traditional SWOT Analysis.

Online SWOT Analysis

SWOT AnalysisHere is another image of the SWOT Analysis Game. But this one is special – clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at www.innovationgames.com. In this game, there will be four different icons that you can drag on your online SWOT Analysis to capture your thinking. These icons are as follows:

  • Rocket ships represent opportunities.
  • The fit person represents strengths.
  • The weak person represents weaknesses.
  • The bomb represents threats.

We’ve organized this game so that the regions will capture where you’ve placed each of ideas.

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