Scenario Slider

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After coming up with great ideas, the next challenge is figuring out the best way to make them happen. This exercise is one of many types of “scenario” games which can be used to test ideas and try out different approaches to bring them to life.

When having discussions about how to do something, we often get overwhelmed by all of the variables and reasons why it might not work, and can end up working in circles questioning our assumptions before we’ve even tested the idea. Setting stakes in the ground can clear the space we need to get down to it and discuss how to try something new under more specific circumstances…and doing it across groups helps to think through very different ways of doing the same thing.

OBJECT of the GAME: To get groups to model a business approach based on several extreme scenarios, using two to three variables.

WHEN to USE: After a brainstorming or prioritization exercise where a new idea, model, business or product has been selected.

HOW to PLAY:

  1. In advance, select two or three variables which would impact how your idea would be implemented. If it’s a project, it could be “money, people and time”.
  2. It’s helpful to set some context for your variables. Money could range from $10k to unlimited funds, for example, while time might be “done in 3 months” to “as much time as you need”.
  3. Set two or three different scenarios, adjusting the “sliders” in your three variables to a couple of possible extremes. Don’t be worried if this is actually the case in reality; playing with the extremes helps to find unexpected answers. One scenario might be “unlimited funds, all the people you need, must be done in three months.”
  4. Working with a number of groups in parallel, assign one scenario to each group. Ask the groups to come up with an approach based on that scenario. Instruct the groups to take the scenario as a given – don’t say it’s impossible in three months; tell us how you’d do it.
  5. Allow the groups to all share their work with the others, outlining their approach as well as explaining the tradeoffs and shortcomings based on the constraints of their scenario.
  6. Debrief as a large group to identify ideas that people agree should go forward, and which variables and constraints the group believes to be non-negotiable.

FACILITATOR NOTES: Getting the groups to produce something for the report out helps them crystallize their thinking and gives the broader group a something tangible to work with when debriefing. Getting them to draw models or doodles to illustrate their ideas can help get them focused on delivering a product.

3 comments for “Scenario Slider

  1. Dave Gray
    November 12, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    This is very interesting Aaron. This seems like a very flexible game dynamic that could be used in other ways too. For example you could give a team a limited amount of resources to apportion across a set of sliders to help them determine where they wanted to focus their energy on a project. This would force the team to look at the inherent tradeoffs between multiple scenarios.

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