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Communicate This & Stick it here


Communicate This & Stick it here

Complex simulation illustrating communication by people listening and sharing information in a manner that other people can understand the message being received as well as sent.

Creates environment to transfer, strengthen and re-work systems of communication with intra as well as inter departmental systems.

Can also be used to highlight different idioms and references that are used internally, this can be confusing to other departments and cultures (for global organizations and teams).


  • Laminated Puzzle (supplied below)
  • Blank Puzzle Board (supplied below)
  • 18 envelopes – 1 for each puzzle piece
  • Countdown Timer
  • Stop Watch

Group Size:

  • For this variation 18 people is ideal
  • For smaller groups you can supply people with more than one puzzle piece or create a puzzle and puzzle grid with less pieces
  • For larger groups you can ask people to break into 18 teams i.e. partner, triad. Or create a puzzle and puzzle grid with more pieces


The objective is for the group to assemble themselves according to the directives and place the Communicate This puzzle pieces into their proper order.

Secondary objective is for the group to explore a complex process that requires mapping, planning, strategy, and situational leadership of each team member.

Concluding in the group exploring and developing improved use of communication systems, process mapping and listening plus speaking for understanding.


Prior to beginning this activity with 18 people (see group size above for different group sizes) laminate and cut out each of the square Communicate This puzzle pieces. Place each piece into its own separate envelope, you will need and use 18 envelopes.

The Communicate This grid should be on a table somewhere on the opposite side of the room of where you will have the group gather.

Split about ¼ of the room and place on a table the Communicate This blank grid. In the other ¾ of the room will be the working area for the team. It helps to lay a rope or use masking tape to mark the “Grid Area” and “Planning Area”


Have the guidelines written on flip chart paper

Instructions and Facilitator Script:

Hand out the puzzle pieces in a random order to the people; ask them NOT to open the envelopes until the activity begins.

Below is how I generally explain the initiative

“Each of you contain within your envelope specific pieces of information that is needed for your personal advancement and the teams overall success. Please keep the envelopes sealed until the countdown timer begins.

The objective of this simulation is to place each of the puzzle pieces in the correct order in less than 60 minutes, and then place the puzzle pieces into the Communicate This grid in under 30 seconds. Here are the guidelines;

  • One person per puzzle piece.
  • Only you can see, touch, and move your puzzle piece once the envelope in opened.
  • NO ONE besides the person assigned the puzzle piece can see, touch and move that puzzle piece at any time in the “Planning Area” and the “Grid Area”.
  • Pieces may NOT be exchanged –You must keep your piece at all times.
  • Pieces will be assembled properly (letters, symbols, numbers are the right way up)
  • Symbols match so that any two adjacent piece edges match the same symbol
  • The color symbols mark the edges of the puzzle (sometimes I leave this guideline out)
  • All planning and systemizing will be completed in the Planning Area
  • The group will have 60 minutes to plan, prepare, and develop a process for placing the Communicate This puzzle into the grid
  • Once 1 person steps into the “Grid Area” the 30 seconds for placing all the pieces properly in the grid starts.
  • For any violation of the guidelines the ethics board requires a penalty of 2 minutes removed from the planning time. You can choose to be a strict or forgiving of the rules as you choose. Observe how the teams and people choose to interpret the rules and use these observations for the processing and reflection.

Any questions? Your time starts NOW.”

Connections and Concepts:

Communicate this is a challenging activity. Expect yelling, confusion, and some chaos in the beginning.

For the team to complete the task a shared use of language for the symbols will be either formally or informally created. Some of the names of the symbols are not commonly known, for example ampersand. Additionally global team members may not know and have the same symbol and description; this creates a great discussion for the processing. This may / will create confusion and frustration for people who are working to solve the puzzle.

Pay attention to the group dynamics; are they all working together? Are they splitting into smaller teams? Are the smaller teams sharing information with the larger group? Who is keeping track of the time?

Once the team is all in place and they are ready to transfer the pieces to the grid, did they remember that once the 1st person crosses the line the 30 seconds for completion starts. Teams need to also plan for how they are going to move everybody in a sequence from the Planning Zone to the Grid Zone and place each piece correctly in the Puzzle Grid.

As you can see this is a multi process, situational leadership simulation.

Processing & Reflection:

Here are some ideas;

Show or list Great Team Dynamics Include;

Ask the people to break into groups of 4 to discuss and find areas in the initiative that match the Great Team Dynamics.

Following about 10-15 minutes of small group discussion ask the groups to share what they discussed.

Ask the group to split into 2 groups of 6 and to come up with an example from their work lives that is similar to Communicate This.

Allow each group to share the example, and then ask each group to create a solution based idea that can change and improve the example either team explained.

Possible questions for the group;

  • What was your initial reaction to the challenge?
  • On a scale of 0-5 0 being horrible and 5 being excellent where would you place the teams planning?
  • For the planning to be 1 to 2 numbers higher what would be different? How would you know? What would you notice in other people? What would they notice in you?
  • Did any leaders emerge?
  • How where disagreement dealt with?
  • In what ways is this like work, home, community, etc..?
  • How?
  • What can we learn from this?
  • How can these ideas be brought to the office, home, community, classroom?


First saw a version when working at a Corporate Conference Center in Buffalo, NY. While co-facilitating a Global Corporate Team with Dave Davenport of DxM

Communicate This Puzzle;



Communicate This Puzzle Grid;


Michael Cardus is the founder of Create-Learning an experiential based consulting, facilitation, training and coaching organization. Leading to successful results in retention of staff talent, increased satisfaction with work, increased collaboration and information sharing within and between departments, increased accountability of success and failures, increased knowledge transfer, increased trust as well as speed of project completion and decision making of Leaders, Teams and Organizations.

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Mapping Business Models

Business Model Workshop Netherlands

Globalization and the emergence of digital business have changed the playing field for everyone. New business models can now rapidly disrupt an entire industry by changing the way value is delivered to customers (Look how Apple’s iTunes strategy disrupted the music industry, for example). The Business Model Canvas, developed by Alex Osterwalder, is a tool that you can use to examine and rethink your company’s business model. We are very pleased to announce a knowledge game for examining your business model and exploring alternatives, developed by Alex himself, and shared here for the first time. Thanks Alex!

Objective of Play: Visualize a business model idea or an organization’s current and/or future business model in order to create a shared understanding and highlight key drivers.

Number of Players: 1-6 (depending on the objective). Works well individually to quickly sketch out and think through a business model idea or an interesting business portrayed in the press. To map an organization’s existing and/or future business model you should work in groups. The more diverse the group of players (marketing, operations, finance, IT, etc.), the more accurate the picture of the business model will be.

Duration of Play: Anywhere between 15 minutes for individual play (napkin sketch of a business model idea), half a day (to map an organization’s existing business model), and two days (to develop a future business model or start-up business model, including business case).

Material required: Mapping business models works best when players work on a poster on the wall. To run a good session you will need:

How to Play: There are several games and variations you can play with the Business Model Canvas Poster. Here we describe the most basic game, which is the mapping of an organization’s existing business model (steps 1-3), it’s assessment (step 4), and the formulation of improved or potential new business models (step 5). The game can easily be adapted to the objectives of the players.

  1. A good way to start mapping your business model is by letting players begin to describe the different customer segments your organization serves. Players should put up different color sticky notes on the Canvas Poster for each type of segment. A group of customers represents a distinct segment if they have distinct needs and you offer them distinct value propositions (e.g. a newspapers serves readers and advertisers), or if they require different channels, customer relationships, or revenue streams.
  2. Subsequently, players should map out the value propositions your organization offers each customer segment. Players should use same color sticky notes for value propositions and customer segments that go together. If a value proposition targets two very different customer segments, the sticky note colors of both segments should be used.
  3. Then players should map out all the remaining building blocks of your organization’s business model with sticky notes. They should always try to use the colors of the related customer segment.
  4. When the players mapped out the whole business model they can start assessing its strength and weaknesses by putting up green (strength) and red (weakness) sticky notes alongside the strong and weak elements of the mapped business model. Alternatively, sticky notes marked with a “+” and “-” can be used rather than colors.
  5. Based on the visualization of your organization’s business model, which players mapped out in steps 1-4, they can now either try to improve the existing business model or generate totally new alternative business models. Ideally players use one or several additional Business Model Canvas Posters to map out improved business models or new alternatives.

Strategy: This is a very powerful game to start discussing an organization’s or a department’s business model. Because the players visualize the business model together they develop a very strong shared understanding of what their business model really is about. One would think the business model is clear to most people in an organization. Yet, it is not uncommon that mapping out an organization’s business model leads to very intense and deep discussions among the players to arrive at a consensus on what an organization’s business model really is.

The mapping of an organization’s existing business model, including its strengths and weaknesses, is an essential starting point to improve the current business model and/or develop new future business models. At the very least the game leads to a refined and shared understanding of an organization’s business model. At its best it helps players develop strategic directions for the future by outlining new and/or improved business models for the organization.

Variations: The Business Model Canvas Tool can be the basis of several other games, such as games to:

  • generate a business model for a start-up organization
  • develop a business model for a new product and/or service
  • map out the business models of competitors, particularly insurgents with new business models
  • map out and understand innovative business models in other industries as a source of inspiration
  • communicate business models across an organization or to investors (e.g. for start-ups)
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Boundary matrix

Creating a boundary matrix, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

Boundary object is a term from sociology used to describe something that helps two disciplines exchange ideas and information, even when their languages and methods may be very different. Today I was in a call with a couple of colleagues, Lou Rosenfeld and Marko Hurst, who were describing a problem that’s very familiar to many of us — the problem of communicating and sharing work between disciplines that are very different. In the case that we were discussing today, one discipline was data analytics, which is very quantitative in nature, very data-driven, in contrast to the other, user experience design, which is primarily quantitative, design-driven. The problem is that the two disciplines think of their work very differently and use different language and tools to approach their work. In a paper titled Languages of Innovation, researchers Alan Blackwell and David Good identify the language problem involved in transferring knowledge from the academic world to industry:

“One might imagine the university as a reservoir of knowledge, perhaps contained within books and the heads of individual academics, from which portions of knowledge can be poured out into the heads of recipients outside the university walls. But which of the available languages might this knowledge be expressed in, and how might it be translated into the languages current in business, industry, government and public service each of which have their own lingua franca? Scholarship does not exist in any form independent of language, so the transfer of scholarly knowledge either takes place in the disciplinary language in which it was formulated, or must be translated.”

This is the challenge many organizations have in conveying information between disciplines, and Blackwell and Good have some very constructive insights in their paper, which I encourage you to read. The ideas in that paper, and the subsequent conversation with two colleagues about some very real problems they were having translating information between “data people” and “design people” resulted in the idea of the boundary matrix. Here’s how it works:

1. First, identify what information needs to be exchanged between the disciplines:

(a) determine what kinds of questions discipline X must ask to get relevant and meaningful information from discipline Y, and

(b) determine what kind of form the answer to the question from discipline X might take, if answered by someone from discipline Y. This could be a document or artifact that is ready and available, or it might involve terms that are specific to discipline Y. For example, a designer who wanted to understand user behavior might need to ask for search terms and click-through rates.

(c) repeat the above from the perspective of discipline Y.

2. From examining these exchanges you should be able to create two lists, one for discipline X and one for discipline Y. Each list element contains a brief description of the discipline-specific term and why it should be important to the other discipline. For example user behavior > search terms, click-through rates.

In the sketch above, these descriptions are labeled A, B, C, D for discipline X and 1, 2, 3, 4 for discipline Y.

3. Now look at your matrix and see if you can find how each cell relates to an area of strategic interest for your company or team. These interior cells represent the points where the disciplines intersect with larger areas of shared interest. If you can’t find the strategic connection that might indicate that the activity might have outlived its usefulness or could be of dubious value to the organization.

The completed chart is your boundary matrix — a “cheat sheet” for managers as well as people from disciplines X and Y, that will allow them to communicate more effectively and quickly navigate to areas of strategic priority or shared interest. This is a new idea and has yet to be tested but I think it holds real promise.

I suspect that the initial value to cross-disciplinary teams will be the conversations it forces about what each discipline does and why it is important to the other discipline, or the organization as a whole. The conversations themselves are an education and culture-building process that will lead to better collaboration, and the better those conversations, the better the boundary matrix that will result.