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3-12-3 Brainstorm

Enrique writing

Object of Play
This format for brainstorming compresses the essentials of an ideation session into one short format. The numbers 3-12-3 refer to the amount of time in minutes given to each of three activities: 3 minutes for generating a pool of observations, 12 for combining those observations into rough concepts, and 3 again for presenting the concepts back to a group.

Essential to this format is strict time keeping. The “ticking clock” forces spontaneous, quick-fire decisions and doesn’t allow for overthinking. With this in mind, a group that is typically heavily measured in its thought process will benefit the most from this exercise but will also be the hardest to engage. Given its short duration (30 minutes total for 10 participants), 3-12-3 Brainstorming can be used as an energizer before diving into a longer exercise or as a standalone, zero-prep activity. It works equally well in generating new ideas as improvements to existing ones.

Number of Players
This is a fast exercise that gets slower as more participants are added. With up to 10 participants working as partners, the speed of the exercise makes it an energy builder. Working beyond 10 may require creating groups of three instead of pairs to keep from getting slowed down.

Duration of Play: 21–30 minutes, depending on number of participants

How to Play
You will need a topic on which to brainstorm ideas, boiled down to two words. This could be an existing problem, such as “energy efficiency,” or it could be focused on creating something new, such as “tomorrow’s television.” Although the two words could be presented as a full challenge question, such as “How
will tomorrow’s television work?” it is best to avoid doing this right away. By focusing on two words that signify the topic, you will aim to evoke thinking about its defining aspects first, before moving into new concepts or proposing solutions.

To set up the game, distribute a stack of index cards and markers to all the participants. Everyone should have a fair number of cards available. The game should begin immediately after the rules have been explained.

  • 3 Minutes: Generate a Pool of Aspects. For the first three minutes of the exercise, participants are asked to think about the characteristics of the topic at hand and to write down as many of them as they can on separate index cards. It may accelerate the group’s process to think in terms of “nouns and verbs” that come to mind when thinking about the subject, or to free-associate. As in all brainstorming, no filtering should be put on this phase, in which the goal is a large pool of aspects in a small window of three minutes.
  • 12 Minutes: Develop Concepts. At this point the group is divided into pairs. Each team draws three cards randomly from the pool. With these as thought starters, the teams now have 12 minutes to develop a concept to present back to the larger group. If the two topic words are sufficient to explain the challenge, the clock starts and the teams begin. If there is any doubt, reveal a more fleshed-out version of the topic’s focus, such as “How will we become more energy-efficient next quarter?” In developing concepts to present, teams may create rough sketches, prototypes, or other media—the key is in preparing for a short (three-minute maximum) presentation of their concept back to the group.
  • 3 Minutes: Make Presentations. When presenting to the larger group, teams may reveal the cards that they drew and how the cards influenced their thinking. Again, tight time keeping is critical here—every team should have a maximum of three minutes to present their concept. After every team has presented, the entire group may reflect on what was uncovered.
  • Strategy
    Speed is key. Many traditional brainstorming techniques can be slowed down or fouled entirely when time is not of the essence, despite the best intentions of participants. Additionally, speed helps prove the value of what can be accomplished in short bursts—often the important aspects of good ideas can be captured very quickly and do not require laborious discussion before first coming to light.

    After presenting concepts back to the group, teams may do a number of things. They may dig deeper on an individual concept or try to integrate the ideas into each other. They may vote or rank the concepts to decide on which to spend more time developing. Often, concepts coming out of this exercise are more memorable to the participants, who are bonded in the time-driven stress of creating together.

    The 3-12-3 Brainstorm game is credited to James Macanufo.

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    WhoDo

    WHODO exercise

    Object of Play
    The objective of this game is to identify stakeholders and clarify goals.

    Number of Players: 1–10

    Duration of Play: 20–45 minutes

    How to Play
    Who do you want to do what? Almost any endeavor of substantial impact requires seeking help from others. Developing a WHO + DO list is a simple way to scope out the undertaking.

    1. Start with the vision. Write out or visualize the big goal.

    2. Draw a two-column matrix and write “WHO” on the left and “DO” on the right.

    3. Ask: Who is involved in making this happen? Who is the decision maker? Who has needed resources? Who may be an obstacle? Whose support is needed These individuals or groups are your list of WHOs.

    4. The DOs are often harder. For each WHO, ask: What do they need to do, or do differently? What actions will build toward the big goal? Sharpen each WHO in the list until you have a desired and measurable action for each. Given all of the possible WHOs and DOs, which are the most important? Who comes first?

    Strategy
    Bias yourself toward action. When brainstorming DOs, there is a tendency to slip into the easier mode of “we just want them to understand.” Most often when you want people to understand something, it’s because you want them to change something or learn something that they can then “DO.” Ask yourself, or the group, “What will happen once they understand?” Don’t shortchange what you are really looking for: action. A natural follow-on to this activity is to make an Empathy Map of the WHOs.

    The WhoDo game is credited to Dave Gray.

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    Storyboard



    VTS, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

    Object of Play
    This game asks players to envision and describe an ideal future in sequence using words and pictures. Storyboarding as a technique is so versatile that it can be used to show any topic, not just an ideal future. But it is particularly powerful as a visioning exercise since it allows players to imagine and create possibilities. The players tell a story with a happy ending, planting tiny seeds for a different future. You can also use storyboarding to let employees describe their experience on a project, to show approaches to solving a problem, or to orient new employees on policies and procedures—its uses are limited only by the imagination.

    Number of Players: 8–20

    Duration of Play: 45 minutes to 1.5 hours

    How to Play
    Before the meeting, determine the topic around which the players will craft their “ideal” story. Once the meeting starts, divide the group into pairs or groups of three or four, depending on the size of the group. Provide markers, pads of flip-chart paper, and stands.

    1. Tell the players that the purpose of this game is to tell the other players a feel-good story. The topic of the story is “The Ideal Future for [blank]”—for a team, a product, the company, whatever you decided beforehand. The players’ assignment is to visually describe the topic and narrate it to the group.

    2. After the groups are established, give them 20–25 minutes to (1) agree on an ideal state, (2) determine what steps they would take to get there, and (3) draw each step as a sequence of large images or scenes, one per sheet of flip-chart paper.

    3. Give the players a two-minute time warning, and once the time is up, bring them back together. Ask for volunteers to tell the story first.

    4. After all the groups have presented, ask them what’s inspiring in what they heard. Summarize any recurring themes and ask for observations, insights, and “aha’s” about the stories.

    Visualization
    Alternative: Have individuals draw their storyboard images on large stickies.

    Strategy
    As the leader of this game, be sensitive to the fact that many of the meeting participants will freak when you tell them that large-scale drawing is involved. Reassure them that the story is the point of the exercise and that the images play a supporting role. They can use words as captions to clarify the images and they can also select the “artist” within their group so that not everyone has to put marker to paper. (But it’s more fun for those who do.) Finally, remind them that they aren’t allotted sufficient time to create a da Vinci anyway, so stick figures work perfectly well.

    For the presentation format, there are various options. Breakout groups can post each sheet of flip-chart paper in a row around the room and walk along the row as they tell the story. They can also leave the flip-chart pad intact and flip the pages over the stand as they narrate. They could choose to hang the sheets in rows and cover them, using one group member to act as a “Vanna White” and create a series of voilà moments. Tell them to have fun with it—they won’t be graded on their stories (although you could make it a contest if it’s that kind of crowd). The process of creating and sharing the stories is what matters.

    Walt Disney is credited for this activity. His need to animate Steamboat Willie in 1928 led to the process of storyboarding—a story told in sequence on a wall covered with a special kind of board. He found it to be an effective way to track progress and improve a story.

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    Post-Up

    Post-up, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

    Object of Play
    The goal of this game is to generate ideas with silent sticky note writing.

    Number of Players: 1–50

    Duration of Play: 10 minutes to 1 hour

    How to Play
    There are many ways to work with ideas using sticky notes. Generating ideas is the most basic play, and it starts with a question that your group will be brainstorming answers to. For example: “What are possible uses for Product X?” Write the question or topic on a whiteboard. Ask the group to brainstorm answers individually, silently writing their ideas on separate sticky notes. The silence lets people think without interruption, and putting items on separate notes ensures that they can later be shuffled and sorted as distinct thoughts. After a set amount of time, ask the members of the group to stick their notes to the whiteboard and quickly present them. If anyone’s items inspire others to write more, they can stick those up on the wall too, after everyone has presented.

    Harry Brignall at the 90% of Everything blog makes a great suggestion:

    When doing a post-up activity with sticky notes in a workshop, you may want to use the FOG method: mark each note with F (fact), O (opinion) or G (guess). It’s such a simple thing to do, but it adds a great deal of clarity to the decision-making process.

    Strategy
    Generating ideas is an opening activity, and a first step. From here you can create an Affinity Map or further organize and prioritize the thoughts, for example using Forced Ranking.

    The Post-Up game is based on the exercises in Rapid Problem-Solving with Post-it® Notes
    by David Straker.

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    Bodystorming

    Bodystorming the future of news

    Object of Play
    Bodystorming is simply brainstorming, but done with the body. It may look different depending on the preparations and location, but in the end all bodystorming is fundamentally about one thing: getting people to figure things out by trying things out. A group may explore one of the techniques described below to get their feet wet with bodystorming. They may move through them in order, from observing and learning to ideation and prototyping, although this is not a strict sequence. Each level of bodystorming will help break the pattern of analyzing ideas around a conference table and get people closer to developing things that will work in the real world.

    How to Play
    Bodystorming takes place in three phases.

    Level 1: Go Observe
    Go to the location to do your work. If you are developing an idea for a coffee shop, or a shopping mall, or a hospital, go there and do your work as you would normally. The environment will present idea cues and authentic information that would never emerge from conference room brainstorming. For example, say a group is charged with improving the student experience on a college campus. Although they may conduct interviews or other research, they may start by
    going to a few campus locations and “blending in” with the surroundings while going about their usual work. It’s important that the group not zero in on any specific analysis so that they will be open to the cues that the environment presents.

    Level 2: Try It Out
    Use role play and props to develop an idea. In this exercise, a group physically “acts out” an experience by using whatever they have on hand or can acquire. The group focuses on how they interact with each other, their surroundings, and makeshift artifacts, testing existing ideas and uncovering new ones. For example, say a small group is asked to “reimagine the evening news.” Using each other as the actors, the audience, the news anchors, and the television itself, they improvise a script that plays out the experience as they conceive it could be.

    1. Identify and assign critical roles. For any experience, identifying the “customer” or “user” role is a good way to get started. This participant (or group of participants) becomes the focal point and main character of the bodystorm. Other critical roles will present themselves. “Who wants to be the Internet?” is not an uncommon question to hear.

    2. Improvise the experience. Bodystorming is physical and progressive: as the group starts to put their thoughts into action, they will naturally ask simple and important questions by acting them out, often leading to the unexpected. For example, in the evening news scenario:

    “OK, so how do you watch the evening news?”
    “I don’t have a television. Also, I’m usually out jogging.”
    “Oh. Do you have your phone on you?”
    “Always. I’m listening to music.”
    “OK, what if this happened… who wants to play the phone?”

    In a completely improvised scenario, the group should keep in mind the principal rule of the game: building on each other’s inputs. “Yes, and…” will generate
    more progress than “Yeah, but…” thinking. In some uses of bodystorming, a group will act out a script prepared in advance. In these cases, an equal amount of planning in props to build an environment is key. For example, if it’s a coffee shop, set up the counter and chairs. If it’s a park or outdoor area, strongly consider going there.

    The BetaCup Bodystorming Session – Overlap 09 from the betacup on Vimeo.

    Level 3: Reflect on What Happens, and Why
    By enacting the experience, the participants will naturally explore new possibilities, and uncover flaws or assumptions about how an idea could work. This is valuable both in the process itself and afterward: by documenting the exercise on video, the participants may later “watch the reel” to discuss key points.

    Strategy
    Choose the right level of bodystorming at the right time for the group. Because bodystorming asks participants to take a big step away from the typical conference table mode of thinking, they may need to get comfortable with more structured sessions first, armed with scripts and specific roles, before stepping into complete improv. In all cases, the exercise itself will be more memorable than the customary problem-solving session, and will help generate empathy that comes from “embodying” the experience.

    The term “bodystorming” was coined by Colin Burns at CHI ’94 In Boston, Massachusetts.

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    Value Map

    Index cards

    Object of play

    The end goal of value mapping is to build a visual matrix that quickly and clearly defines areas of interest for something – it can be a service, a product, a plan, a website. It consists of asking people to choose a limited number of features from a bigger collection and then plotting their choices against a matrix. The result can be presented back in a template that resembles a light box, with items that were chosen more times being lit up by brighter colors and items chosen fewer times by weaker colors.

    Number of players: 5 – 30

    Duration of play: 15  minutes – 2 hours

    How to play

    This game has three main parts:

    1.  Define features and their groups: draw sketches or write down on cards the features or items you want participants to attribute value to. Group them in a way that makes sense to you and plot them on a table that represents these groups

    2.  Play: show the collection of feature cards to participants, and ask them to choose a smaller number than the total, so that they need to make choices and leave some features out. A good ratio is 1:3, that is, if you have 30 cards ask people to choose only 10. Another way of doing this is to provide them with imaginary money – say £100 – and tell them they can use this budget to ‘shop’ for features. Keep a record of each participant’s choices.

    3. Plotting results: color the cards on the original table according to the number of times they got chosen. Cards that were chosen more times can be colored with stronger or brighter colors, and cards that were chosen less times should be colored with light colors. Cards that were never chosen should remain ‘uncolored’. The matrix should now give you a good – and visual – idea of what areas were received with more interest, and which were not.

    Strategy

    Value mapping allows you to quickly visualize things that are valued by others – consumers, members of a team, your department, your stakeholders. Understanding general areas of interest can help focus the work (where should we concentrate our efforts?) and to settle internal disputes (“consumers really didn’t like any of the social networking features for this application, so we don’t need to invest in them now”). Try presenting the matrix in a series of slides that show different color groups – it really makes an impression!

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    Empathy Map

    Empathy map, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

    The empathy map, one of XPLANE’s methods for understanding audiences, including users, customers, and other players in any business ecosystem, has gotten some press lately because it was featured in Alex Osterwalder‘s excellent book, Business Model Generation as a tool for discovering insights about customers.

    Here’s how it works:

    GOAL: The goal of the game is to gain a deeper level of understanding of a stakeholder in your business ecosystem, which may be a client, prospect, partner, etc., within a given context, such as a buying decision or an experience using a product or service. The exercise can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. You should be able to make a rough empathy map in about 20 minutes, provided you have a decent understanding of the person and context you want to map. Even if you don’t understand the stakeholder very well, the empathy-mapping exercise can help you identify gaps in your understanding and help you gain a deeper understanding of the things you don’t yet know.

    1. Start by drawing a circle to represent the person and give the circle a name and some identifying information such as a job title. It helps if you can think of a real person who roughly fits the profile, so you can keep them in mind as you proceed. In keeping with the idea of a “profile” think of the circle as the profile of a person’s head and fill in some details. You might want to add eyes, mouth, nose, ears, and maybe glasses if appropriate or a hairstyle to differentiate the person from other profiles you might want to create. These simple details are not a frivolous addition — they will help you project yourself into the experience of that person, which is the point of the exercise.

    2. Determine a question you have for that stakeholder. If you had a question you would want to ask them, or a situation in their life you want to understand, what would that be? You might want to understand a certain kind of buying decision, for example, in which case your question might be “Why should I buy X?”

    3. Divide the circle into sections that represent aspects of that person’s sensory experience. What are they thinking, feeling, saying, doing, hearing? Label the appropriate sections on the image.

    4. Now it’s time for you to practice the “empathy” portion of the exercise. As best you can, try to project yourself into that person’s experience and understand the context you want to explore. Then start to fill in the diagram with real, tangible, sensory experiences. If you are filling in the “hearing” section, for example, try to think of what the person might hear, and how they would hear it. In the “saying” section, try to write their thoughts as they would express them. Don’t put your words into their mouth — the point is to truly understand and empathize with their situation so you can design a better product, service or whatever.

    5. Check yourself: Ask others to review your map, make suggestions, and add details or context. The more the person can identify with the actual stakeholder the better. Over time you will hone your ability to understand and empathize with others in your business ecosystem, which will help you improve your relationships and your results.

    Download the Empathy Map Canvas.

    Click here for photos of empathy-mapping in action.