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Customer, Employee, Shareholder

Object of Play

The object of this game is to imagine possible futures from multiple perspectives.

Number of Players

1–10

Duration of Play

1–3 hours

How to Play

  1. Divide your group into three roles: Customers, Employees, and Shareholders.
  2. Ask the players to step into their roles and imagine their business five years from now. What will they value? What will their experience be like? What events or trends emerge? What specific, tangible things are different?
  3. Have the players draw their visions of the future and share them.
  4. Ask the group to identify themes and new possibilities. Capture them and consult the group on next steps.

Strategy

In this exercise, the group is given a chance to relate intuitive knowledge about the business that may not surface otherwise. If possible, allow the group to cycle through multiple roles by reshuffling the roles and repeating the exercise.

The Customer, Employee, Shareholder game is based on the Stakeholder Framework developed by Max Clarkson in “A Stakeholder Framework for Analyzing and Evaluating Corporate Social Performance” in the Academy of Management Review (1995).

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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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Heart, Hand, Mind

Object of Play

The object of this game is to examine an issue from another perspective, and find significance in the issue.

Number of Players

1–10

Duration of Play

10 minutes to 1 hour

How to Play

1. Look at an issue, product, or course of action using these three lenses:

  • Heart: What makes it emotionally engaging?
  • Hand: What makes it tangible and practical?
  • Mind: What makes it logical and sensible?

2. List the characteristics or features that appeal to each lens.

3. Score the categories from 1 to 10. Evaluate strengths and weaknesses.

Strategy

Significant products, activities, and experiences appeal to a whole person; they “feed the heart, hand, and mind.” Use these three lenses as a means of finding, clarifying, or diagnosing the meaning of any endeavor.

The Heart, Hand, Mind game was inspired by Swiss educational reformer Heinrich Pestalozzi.

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World Café

Object of Play

What’s the difference between a business meeting and a conversation at a café? The World Café is a method for improving large-group discussion by borrowing concepts from the informal “café” conversations that we have all the time: round tables, cross pollinating ideas, and pursuing questions that matter.

As a conversational process, the World Café may take on many forms. Here is a “quick start” flow to consider, which focuses on the basics.

Number of Players

24–30 participants in groups of 4–5 at round tables

Duration of Play

1.5 hours

Setup

As the leader, you will need to find the “questions that matter” which will guide the rounds of discussion. A powerful question will be evocative and simple; it should be immediately tangible and relevant to a challenge the group faces. The group may focus on one question or move through a group of subsequent questions. For example, “How might we start having more real conversations with our customers?” may be enough to sustain three rounds of discussion.

Develop your questions that matter, and then focus on creating an inviting and hospitable environment for the event. This may not be an easy task in typical conference spaces.  Some things to keep in mind include the fact that round tables are better for conversation than square tables, and each table should be equipped with drawing supplies such as markers, flip charts, and/or paper tablecloths.

How to Play

The event consists of three 20-minute rounds of group discussion at tables, followed by a group synthesis. After each round, one person stays behind to serve as a “host” of the next round, while the rest travel to other tables as “ambassadors.” In this sense, participants have a chance to go “around the world” and bring their ideas with them from table to table.

During the rounds of discussion, encourage participants to link ideas from one round to the next.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Spend the first few minutes talking about the last conversation. The “host” can present ideas left at the table, and the “ambassadors” should talk about what they’ve brought from their respective places.
  • Leave evidence. Draw key ideas out on the table. For the next group to appreciate the previous conversation, they will need some artifacts to respond to and build on.
  • Connect diverse viewpoints and respect contributions. If needed, use a “talking stick” or button to manage each other’s input.
  • Look for patterns. By the second and third rounds, themes and larger patterns will emerge in the discussion. Encourage participants to look for these and make them evident by drawing or writing them toward the middle of the tables.

After the last round, it’s time for a town hall discussion to synthesize what the groups have discovered. Referring back to the questions that matter, ask what the answers were at the different tables, and how they are connected.

A community of practitioners maintains the evolving methodology, process, history, and design principles at www.theworldcafe.com.

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Visual Glossary

Object of Play

The object of this game is to clearly define a set of terms so that a group has a common vocabulary.

It’s not in our nature to admit ignorance. When greeted with an unknown or abstract term, many people find it easier to pretend they understand than to ask for clarification.  This is dangerous in knowledge work, where a common understanding is necessary to work together.

Groups that make time to define their terms visually will work faster and more effectively by starting on the same page.

Number of Players

2–10

Duration of Play

30 minutes to 1 hour

How to Play

  1. Introduce the exercise as a means to create a common language. The first step is to brainstorm the tough phrases and terms that make up the group’s shared language.  Have the group brainstorm these individually on sticky notes.  Examples might be jargon, slang, technical terms, or acronyms that they use in the course of their everyday work.
  2. Have participants post their notes in one large pool and examine them. Discuss which terms were the most common and which are of the highest priority for visual definition.
  3. At this point, you are ready to make the glossary. From the pool, assign the most important terms a space on the wall. Pick a term to start with, and ask the group to describe it first with words. The group may uncover points that are foggy, conflicting, or inadequate in their verbiage.
  4. Then try to clarify the term with a picture.  Ask: what does this look like? If the term is abstract, try a diagrammatic approach.  Start with the people or things involved and connect them in a way that visually captures the definition. For example, the word social has many definitions and contexts, but by asking the group to describe a picture of what they mean, you will get a clearer definition.

Strategy

Don’t try to define everything up front. Find the most important terms, where there is the most opportunity to clarify, and do those first.

A good visual glossary will have utility beyond one meeting. Use the visuals in follow-on activities; make them available online, or in training materials, if appropriate. Encourage participants to use the visual elements as shorthand when communicating and working with these terms.

The Visual Glossary game is credited to James Macanufo.

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Ethos, Logos, Pathos

Object of Play

The goal of this game is to channel Aristotle’s assessment of your argument.

Number of Players

1–10

Duration of Play

10 minutes to 1 hour

How to Play

Aristotle laid the groundwork for persuasive communication in the 4th century. Although the times have changed, effective communication hasn’t. Evaluate a communication, such as a value proposition, by using the three elements of rhetoric.  Role playing as your audience, score your message from 1 to 10 on these categories:

  • Ethos/Credibility:  Who are you, and what authority do you have on the topic?
  • Logos/Logic:  How clear and consistent is your reasoning? How do your facts measure up against my facts?
  • Pathos/Emotion: How vivid, memorable, and motivating is your message?

Look for areas of improvement or imbalance.

The Ethos, Logos, Pathos game is credited to James Macanufo.

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Memory Wall

Object of Play

Employees are human beings, and every human being likes to be acknowledged. To appreciate employee contributions, celebrate their accomplishments, and build camaraderie among team members, a Memory Wall works wonders.

Number of Players

10–50

Duration of Play

45 minutes to 1.5 hours

How to Play

1. During the meeting, give each player markers, paper, tape, and a flat surface to draw on. Make sure you have usable wall space for display purposes.

2. Ask the players to survey the other players in the room and take 10–15 minutes to write down positive, stand-out memories of working together, learning from each other, or participating in some way in organizational life.

3. Once the players have written down a few memories, ask them to draw each memory on a different sheet of letter-sized paper. Tell them they can take 20–30 minutes to draw these “memory scenes.” They can partner with any person(s) involved in a memory to conjure up the details of that memory—visually or contextually.

4. When drawing time is up, ask the players to tape their scenes on the wall, forming a visual “memory cloud.”

5. As the meeting leader, first ask for volunteers to approach the wall and discuss memories they posted and want to share. When you’ve run out of volunteers, approach memories on the wall that catch your eye and ask for the owner to share the story.

6. Summarize the experiences and ask the players to take a moment to silently recognize and appreciate those who have contributed to their work life in a positive way.  Follow this game up with Happy Hour!

  • Optional activity: Have volunteer players approach the wall, select a memory, and try to guess who it belongs to. If they get it right, give them a door prize and ask the person whose memory it is to elaborate. If they get it wrong, open it up to the audience to guess whose memory it is. Give door prizes to multiple people if more than one gets it right.

Strategy

The Memory Wall isn’t a game of strategy, but of appreciation. The only rule is that players should recall and draw positive, uplifting memories—nothing offensive or negative.  And there is a general guideline about drawing the memory scenes: players should be discouraged from judging their drawings or the drawings of others. Tell them that the activity is designed to share anecdotes and stories—not win a drawing contest. The images are there to illustrate the scenes and, absolutely, to provide good-natured humor.

If you see a player who seems to be having trouble pulling up a memory, ask open-ended questions to bring one to the surface. And when someone has shared a memory at the memory wall, you can ask others to raise their hand if they share that memory and can offer a unique perspective. You also can make the memory wall specific to a project or milestone by drawing a large-scale visual representation of that project or milestone and asking players to recall memories related to that aspect of their work.

The source of the Memory Wall game is unknown.

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Help Me Understand

Object of Play

Help Me Understand is based on the underlying (and accurate) assumption is that employees come to meetings with widely different questions around a topic or a change.It assumes leadership can anticipate some questions and concerns but can’t possibly anticipate them all. No one knows the questions employees have better than the employees themselves, so this game gives them a chance to externalize what’s on their minds and have leadership be responsive in a setting outside the once-a-year leadership retreat. It also allows the players to discover overlaps with other players’ questions and to notice the frequency with which those questions occur—something they may not have known prior to the meeting. It lets some sunshine in around a project, initiative, or change so that employees—who have to implement that change—have fewer lingering questions.

Number of Players

5–25

Duration of Play

30 minutes to 1.5 hours

How to Play

  1. In a large white space visible to all the players, write the topic of the meeting and the following words as headers across the top: “WHO?”, “WHAT?”, “WHEN?”,“WHERE?”, and “HOW?”. Give all players access to sticky notes and markers.
  2. Tell the players that the goal of the game is to help leadership understand and be responsive to any and all questions around the topic.
  3. Start with the question “WHO?” and give the players five minutes to silently write down as many questions as they can that begin with the word WHO.
  4. Ask the players to post all of their questions in the white space under WHO? and then ask for a couple of volunteers to cluster the questions according to topical similarity.
  5. Bring the largest clusters to the group’s attention—circle them if you prefer—and ask leadership to offer a response to the most common questions in the clusters and to any outlier questions that look interesting.
  6. Repeat this process for the remaining four header questions, each time asking leadership to respond to the questions that seem the most salient to the group.
  7. When the meeting closes, gather all of the questions so that leadership has the opportunity to review them later and respond to important questions that weren’t covered during the meeting.

Strategy

As the group leader, you can conduct this game in different ways. One way is to ask the five questions back to back, with the players creating sticky notes for all five questions—WHO?, WHAT?, WHEN?, WHERE?, and HOW?—and then posting and clustering them during the first half of the meeting. After they’ve completed that part of the game, the players ask leadership to address the major clusters during the second half of the meeting. Another approach is to let leadership intersperse responses while the players tackle the header questions one at a time. There are benefits to both approaches.

The first approach allows the players to write questions uninterrupted by content from and reactions to leadership. It also allows leadership to save some time since they only technically need to attend the second half of the session. The second approach breaks up the flow a bit but will inevitably affect the types of questions the players ask since they’re getting information from leadership as they go. Choose what’s appropriate based on your knowledge of the group.

During the clustering part of the game, you may want to write emergent themes near each cluster to give leadership summaries of where their employees’ attention is. This is also helpful for the players to reinforce that they have shared concerns. The themes should be one- to three-word phrases summarizing the general content of the clusters. And as the meeting leader, encourage employees to make the most of this game since it presents an unusual opportunity for them to pose real, substantive questions directly to their company leaders.

This game is an adaptation of WHO WHAT WHEN WHERE and HOW from The Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making by Sam Kaner. In his book, Kamen notes that his use of this tool was inspired by an exercise called “Five W’s and H” in Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, Second Edition, by A. B. Van Gundy, Jr., p. 46.

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Give-And-Take Matrix

Object of Play

The goal of this game is to map out the motivations and interactions among actors in a system. The actors in this case may be as small-scale as individuals who need to work together to accomplish a task, or as large-scale as organizations brought together for a long-term purpose. A give-and-take matrix is a useful diagnostic tool, and helps players explore how value flows through the group.

Number of Players

Small group

Duration of Play

1 hour or more

How to Play

To begin, you will need a list of all the actors in the system. This may be prepared in advance or generated at the start of the exercise.

Using the list, create a matrix with the list of actors along both the horizontal and vertical axes.

Each cell in the matrix captures only one direction of the flow. For example, a supplier may give a certain value to a manufacturer, but a manufacturer will give a different value to the supplier. For consistency, the vertical axis can be considered the “from” and the horizontal axis the “to.”

  • Primary motivations: For each actor in the matrix, fill in “what they want” out of the system. This information goes along the diagonal, where the individual actors intersect with themselves. These should be brief phrases that describe a goal or reason the actor participates in the system.
  • Intersecting interests: The next step is to look at the intersections, and capture what value flows between the actors. Start with a single actor and work through each cell, asking “What can I offer you?”

For some intersection points, this will be easier to describe. In other cases, the matrix will expose previously unconnected actors and possibly those at odds with each other. The goal in completing the matrix is to find the most complete picture of how each actor can benefit all the others.

Strategy

Completing this matrix may involve research both before and after the initial mapping process. By using surveys or interviews, players may be able to explore and validate both the initial inputs and the intersecting interests.

Along with stakeholder analysis and boundary mapping, the Give-and-Take Matrix helps players explore and define the actors and interactions within a system.

The Give-and-Take Matrix is inspired by a number of techniques used in engineering, chemistry,and design.

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Make A World

Make a World by @benry

Object of Play

The Make a World game appeals to visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners because of its layers of interaction. It’s useful (and downright fun) because it lets players imagine the future and take action to create a first version of it. All successful ventures start with a vision and some small, initial effort toward crystallization. Alexander Graham Bell’s vision for the telephone started as highly rudimentary sketches. The purpose of Make a World is to create a three-dimensional model of a desired future state.

Number of Players

8–20

Duration of Play

45 minutes to 1.5 hours

How to Play

  1. Before the meeting, determine a meeting topic. It can be any topic that would benefit from the group advancing it to a desired future state (e.g., “Our new branch location in Austin” or “Our future marketing strategy”).
  2. Tell the players the meeting topic and give them access to flip-chart paper, markers,sticky notes, pipe cleaners, modeling clay, magazines, index cards, tape—any art supplies available to help them “make a world.”
  3. Break the players into groups of three or four and give them 10–15 minutes to agree on a shared vision to make into a three-dimensional world. Explain that the world can include people, scenes, buildings, products and features, and anything they deem necessary to show an idealized version of the topic.
  4. Give the players 20–30 minutes to brainstorm the attributes of the world and physically create it using art supplies.
  5. When the time is up, give the players five minutes to create a slogan or tag line to summarize their world.
  6. Have each group showcase their “Eden” and give the others insight into what it offers. Make note of any recurring themes or parallel features in these “fantasy lands.”

Strategy

Any desired state can be visualized. The game isn’t confined to creating 3D models of widgets or parks or products or real estate. The “world” that players create could be anew landscape for a video game, a happier and more aligned team, a globally distributed supply chain, and so forth. The challenge for each group will be in the process of ideating and creating without shutting out possibilities. Encourage them to be expansive in their thinking. In this game, players are limited only by their imaginations and their art supplies.

The title of this game was inspired by Ed Emberley’s book, Make a World.