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2 Brains: Tell it & Sell It

Object of Play

Forming an attention-grabbing slogan or pitch can be difficult. Just like brain lateralization — the right hemisphere controls imagination and feelings while the left side manages facts and details – it requires the perfect balance of emotion and logic. To accurately identify this specific combination and maximize your pitch’s impact, Thomas J. Buckholtz has created 2-Brains: Tell It & Sell It. In this activity, you will include a left-brain fact (tell it) and a right-brain emotional idea (sell it) to connect the two aspects of persuasion and create a 2-brain message.

Number of Players

5 – 8

Duration of Play

30 min – 1 hour

(The game works most effectively if it is repeated multiple times over the course of a few days.)

How to Play

1. Before your meeting, draw a 4×4 graph on a large white space (poster, white board, etc.). Label the vertical axis “Emotional (right brain).” Higher on the chart is for “sizzles” (great emotional ideas) and lower on the graph is for “fizzles” (negative emotional appeal). Mark the horizontal axis “Practical (left brain).” Further to the left is for negative practical uses while further to the right is for very positive practical uses. The third row on the graph represents emotionally neutral. The second column represents neutral practical appeal.

2. Provide your players with post-its and markers. We recommend using four different colors for the four thought topics:

  • Right-brain post-its are for purely emotional.
  • Left-brain post-its are for purely practical.
  • 2-brain post-its are for emotional and practical.
  • Other post-its are for other types of ideas.

3. Have your players write right- and left-brain ideas on the sticky notes. These can be themes (phrases) or messages (sentences). When all ideas have been written, ask the participants to stick them on the chart. Right-brain (emotional) ideas likely should be placed close to practical-neutral while left-brain ideas (logical) likely should go near emotional-neutral.

4. Collaborate to form as many 2-brain messages as you can by combining the right- and left-brain messages. Write these new messages on sticky notes and place them in appropriate (likely upper-right) squares.

Strategy

Maintain a fun, positive environment so players will feel comfortable sharing their ideas. Encourage random creativity and give players breaks to keep them from burning out. Motivate people to build from each other’s ideas to create a perfect slogan or pitch.

As you play the game, continue to modify the sticky notes to reflect improved ideas. You can also add post-its to show new concepts or major breakthroughs. Organize the notes to portray the relative ranking of the ideas. Remember to document or take a picture of your chart at the end so you can refer back to the notes.

It is important to play this game multiple times over the course of a few days so players can improve on ideas. Keep the chart up so participants can consider how to combine the right- and left- brain ideas to make the most effective pitch.

Play Online

You can play 2-Brains: Tell It & Sell It instantly online! Clicking on the image to the right will bring you to an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com. The image will be used as the “game board,” which organizes the level of emotion and practicality of players’ thoughts. You will find a yellow sticky note icon at the upper left corner of the chart. Participants drag the sticky notes onto the board and describe what they represent. The layers and regions in the game will keep track of where the notes are placed.

Players can edit the placement and description of each sticky note, which everyone can view in real time. Use the integrated chat facility and communicate with your players throughout the game to get a better understanding of each move.

Key Points

The purpose of a slogan or pitch is to catch the attention of your audience, which is easier said than done. The visual organization in 2-Brains: Tell It & Sell It perfectly reflects the balance of the right- and left- brain ideas needed to capture your listener’s interest, and the extensive collaboration involved introduces multiple perspectives and ideas. By combining emotional and factual ideas, you can form a “sizzling” pitch that radiates compelling practicality.

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Circles and Soup

Object of Play
The goal of game, introduced by Diana Larsen, is to efficiently form high-quality plans through retrospective analysis by recognizing factors that are within the team’s control.  During retrospective activities, it is easy to hit a wall of unproductive blame. The moment the group reaches this barrier, “someone shoulds” and “if only you coulds” bounce around the room, knocking out any practical ideas for future advancement. Before determining what you can improve, you must first be clear on the dimensions you are able to regulate and what you need to adapt to. By identifying factors your team can control, influence, or cannot change, you can collectively discover how to respond to and overcome various situations.

Number of Players
5 – 8

Duration of play
1 hour

How to play
1. Before your meeting, collect sticky notes or 3×5 notecards. In a white space (a poster, whiteboard, etc.), draw three concentric circles, leaving enough room between each one to place the notes. Each circle represents a different element:

  • Inner circle: “Team Controls” – what your team can directly manage
  • Middle circle: “Team Influences” –persuasive actions that your team can take to move ahead
  • Outer circle: “The Soup” – elements that cannot be changed. This term — explained further by James Shore – refers to the environment we work in and have adapted to. Ideas from the other 2 circles can identify ways to respond to the barriers floating in our “soup.”

2. Hand out the sticky notes to your internal team members and describe the significance of each circle.

3. Allow time for each person to write their ideas on sticky notes. Once finished, ask them to post their notes into the respective circles.

4. As a group, collaborate to identify how each idea can be used to improve your project. Ask team members to expand on their ideas in order to further develop potential plans.

Strategy
In earlier stages of your retrospection, it is best to concentrate on “Team Controls.” This allows you to identify immediate actions that can be taken. As you see what works, you can alter potential plans and respond to any restraints.

A neutral facilitator is recommended to keep the activity from becoming too emotional. Evaluating negative aspects of your project is a sensitive but necessary exercise, and can leave people feeling upset or hopeless. Avoid any discussions about blaming people or wishing something would happen. This frame of mind places the control out of the team’s hands, both halting all forward motion and creating a negative environment. Keep the atmosphere fun and enjoyable so people will feel comfortable sharing their ideas.

Online Circles and Soup

You can instantly play the Circles and Soup online with as many members as you would like! Clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com.

As facilitator, email the game link to your staff to invite them to play. In the game, this picture is used as the “game board,” and you will find an icon of blue squares at the upper left corner. Each square represents an idea, which players describe and drag onto the respective circle.  As with the in-person version of the game, the game board is organized into three concentric circles, representing “Team Controls,” “Team Influences,” and “The Soup.”

Players can edit the placement and description of each square, which everyone can view in real time. Use the integrated chat facility and communicate with your players throughout the game to get a better understanding of each move.

Key Points
Negative self-evaluating activities often end up emotional and unproductive. Take advantage of this game’s visual organization and extensive collaboration to avoid the blame and hopelessness that cover up ideas for future improvement. By identifying factors your team can control, influence, or cannot change, you can collectively discover how to respond to and overcome various situations. Play Circles and Soup to determine what you can do to avoid barriers and gain insight on what actions will most effectively enhance your project.

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Actions for Retrospectives

Object of Play
Analyzing past events can get repetitive, leading to a lack of creative ideas and dulled critical thinking. Without an engaging strategy, you could get stuck in a pit of unproductive ideas, causing you to lose all sense of direction and become blind to areas needing improvement. To resist this useless slump, Actions for Retrospectives, based on Nick Oostvogel’s Actions Centered, allows teams to examine multiple aspects of an event or project in order to form original ideas on how it can be enhanced in the future. Break free from the barriers of boring retrospective analysis strategies to discover how you can make your next project, meeting, conference, etc., a success.

Number of Players
5 – 8

Duration of Play
1 hour

How to Play
1. Start by drawing a large 2×2 matrix with a square labeled “Actions” in the middle; this is designated for the changes that the team commits to making as a result of the retrospective. The four quadrants surrounding it represent different aspects of your event:

  • Puzzles: Questions for which you have no answer
  • Risks: Future pitfalls that can endanger the event
  • Appreciations: What you liked during the previous iteration
  • Wishes: Not improvements, but ideas of your ideal event

2. Provide the players with pens and sticky notes, preferably different colored notes for each quadrant. Have the participants write their ideas for “Appreciations,” “Puzzles,” “Risks,” and “Wishes” one category at a time, allowing 5 – 10 minutes for each section.  
3. Once players have written all their thoughts, ask them to post their notes on the chart. As a team, go through the ideas and cluster related ones together.
4. Discuss the novelty, feasibility, and impact of the ideas, and collaborate to analyze how they can be applied to the next event. Use this process to create practical, efficient “Actions” in the middle.

Strategy
There are many techniques you can use to amplify the benefits of this game. For instance, making players feel comfortable sharing their ideas is crucial to attaining high-quality results. One way to do so is to describe “Risks” as possible improvements, rather than negative aspects that could ruin the event. This will encourage participants to share their ideas about what should be done to ensure the success of the event without them feeling as though they are criticizing others. Also, to increase players’ concentration, you can wait to write and describe the titles of each section until just before it is time to think of ideas related to them. This will force players to focus on one category at a time. Don’t forget to create a playful environment so participants will let their thoughts flow and form higher quality ideas.

Actions for Retrospective has many applications in the business world. It can also be used for any product, service, or section of your company to identify how they can be improved. Take advantage of the game’s organized format and extensive collaboration to advance toward your potential.

Play Online
Clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com. Here, this image will be used as the “game board,” and there will be five different icons that players can drag onto the chart and describe to capture their ideas.

  • Puzzles = question marks
  • Risks = bombs
  • Appreciations = smiley faces
  • Wishes = stars

As with the in-person version, the chart is divided into five quadrants for the five categories of thoughts.

All moves can be seen in real time by each participant, so everyone can collaborate to edit the ideas. Also, you can use the integrated chat facility to encourage the players to expand on their ideas and come up with fresh insights.

Key Points
This unique strategy involves teamwork and spatial organization so your group can think differently about retrospectives and brainstorm changes for progress. Also, by writing thoughts down and working together, participants will be more comfortable providing ideas for how to improve the event rather than feeling as if they are criticizing past ideas. Play Actions for Retrospectives to reflect on the past in order to advance toward the future.

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Bang-for-the-Buck

Object of Play
Bang-for-the-Buck involves collaboration among the product manager and development team to prioritize backlog items. Rather than blindly moving down your agenda without any direction, this game allows you to analyze the costs and benefits of each task, and to organize them in a way that shows you where to begin and in what order to go in. Graph each item against cost and value so you can prioritize your to-do list and start checking items off.

Number of Players

5 – 8

Duration of Play

1 hour

How to Play

  1. Before the meeting, draw a graph with the “value” of the items on the y-axis and the “cost” of them on the x-axis, organizing each axis as a Fibonacci number. Write each backlog item on a sticky note and post them by the chart.
  2. Next, give your players sticky notes and pens so they can each write other backlog items. Have them place their tasks along with the ones you posted.
  3. As a group, take time to discuss where each item belongs on the graph. The product manager should focus on what the “value” position of the task is, while the development team concentrates on the “cost” placement on the x-axis. With multiple players, you can get different perspectives on the aspects of each item.
  4. After all the items have been posted, use the chart to get started on your agenda. Follow the graphed items in a clockwise order to optimize value delivery.

Strategy

This game is helpful to prioritize both short-term and long-run tasks. If one item must be accomplished soon but is too costly to start right away, work together to identify how to move it to the left on the graph. By comparing the value and cost of each item, you can collaborate to alter approaches for the tasks depending on which are most important. The discussion and visualization involved in Bang-for-the-Buck helps you think differently about where to begin working. This not only increases efficiency and productivity, but also allows you to see an impact faster.

Bang-for-the-Buck Online

Clicking on this image will start an online version of Bang-for-the-Buck  at innovationgames.com. You’ll see this image as the “game board” and an icon of a light bulb in the top left corner of this window. The light bulb represents the backlog items you want to prioritize. To add a backlog item onto the game board, simply drag it from the top left and describe it.
While any player can move a light bulb at any time, the game works best when the product manager focuses on getting the light bulbs in the right place vertically, while the development team puts the items in the right place horizontally.

Use the integrated chat facility to negotiate about the items. And any player can edit the items to keep track of the agreements of the team. This means that items will move around during the game as the value of an item increases or decreases or the development team considers various ways of implementing an item.

To get the final results of the game, simply download the Excel spreadsheet. All of the items and their Fibonacci values will be available to you for post-processing, including all of the chats.

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Whole Product Game

Object of Play

In a competitive business environment, it is important to attract and keep customers by making your product stand out from the competition. Products are not just tangible items; they are a unique combination of benefits, services, and promises. The Whole Product Game — inspired by Ted Levitt’s “Whole Product Strategy” — categorizes aspects of products based on customer expectations in order to help companies uncover forms of differentiation. The goal of the game is to discover effective ways to set your product apart and to go beyond what your customers anticipate.

Number of Players
5 – 8

Duration of play
1 hour

How to Play
1. Before the meeting, collect sticky notes or 3×5 notecards. In a white space (a poster, whiteboard, etc.), draw four concentric circles, leaving enough room between each one to place the notes. Don’t worry about the layers being completely symmetrical; this activity is subjective, and, just like the future, the circles will not be precisely as you plan.
2. The players can be your internal team taking the perspective of customers, or actual customers themselves. Tell the group what each region of the chart represents

 

  • Circle 1: Generic Product – the fundamental “thing” that you are marketing
  • Circle 2: Expected Product – the minimal conditions customers expect from your product
  • Circle 3: Augmented Product – aspects of your product that go beyond customer expectations
  • Circle 4: Potential Product – what could be done to your product to attract and keep customers
  • Feel free to add more regions to the chart to further organize the group’s ideas.

    3. Ask members to write ideas related to each category on the notecards and to stick them on the respective circle. Remove any repetitive cards and put together similar ones with the group’s input.
    4. Once all the ideas are posted, discuss the significance of the resulting chart with your group. How can you use this information to differentiate your product? What must you do to attract more customers?

    Strategy
    The Whole Product Game is widely applicable to any product or service; while the expected product may attract customers, differentiation is necessary to keep them. With the visual organization and critical thinking involved in this activity, your team can productively come up with new ideas on what can be done to make your product distinct.

    This game can also be used for more concentrated aspects of your company. For example, what makes your customer service unique? What can be improved about it to appeal to customers?

    Avoid “going in circles” by guiding your players and focusing on what you can do to go beyond the customers’ expectations. After all of the ideas are posted, work as a team to analyze which direction your product should move in to be one-of-a-kind. Encourage expanding on the ideas and coming up with practical ways to apply them effectively.

    Online Whole Product Game

    You can instantly play the Whole Product Game online with as many members as you would like! Clicking on this image will start an “instant game” at innovationgames.com

    As facilitator, email the game link to customers or your staff to invite them to play. In the game, this picture is used as the “game board,” and there is an icon of light bulbs at the upper left corner of the board. Each light bulb represents an idea, which players describe and drag onto the respective circle.  As with the in-person version of the game, the game board is organized into four concentric circles:

    • Inner circle: Generic Product – the basic item that you are marketing
    • 2nd Circle: Expected Product – what your customers expect from your product
    • 3rd Circle: Augmented Product – aspects of your product that exceed customer expectations
    • Outer Circle: Potential Product – alterations to your product that would attract and keep customers

    Players can edit the placement and description of each light bulb, which you can view in real time. Use the integrated chat facility and communicate with your players throughout the game to get a better understanding of each move.

    Key Points:

    • This productive game involves visual organization and critical thinking to gain insight on what can be done to make your product stand out from the competition. Expand your point of view to understand what your customers truly want from your product.
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    Prune The Future

    Object of Play

    People who work in large organizations know that most change doesn’t happen immediately or in broad sweeps. It happens incrementally by taking small, strategic steps.  Prune the Future uses a tree as a metaphor to show how the future of anything can be shaped,one leaf at a time.

    Number of Players

    5–15

    Duration of Play

    30 minutes

    How to Play

    1. Before the meeting, cut a few dozen sticky notes or index cards into the shapes of leaves. Then, in a white space that will be visible to the players, draw a large tree with enough thick limbs to represent multiple categories of the future.  Write the general topic under or above the tree.

    2. Tell the group that the inner part of the treetop represents current states of the topic and moving outward means moving toward the future.  For example, if the topic is about growing the customer base, the inner leaves would represent the current customer demographics and the outer leaves would represent future or desired customer demographics.

    3. Ask the players to write current aspects of the topic—one idea per leaf—on the leaves and stick them on the inside of the treetop.  Remove any redundant comments and cluster similar comments, with the group’s guidance, near the appropriate branches.

    4. Next, ask the players to write aspects of the future on new leaves. These can be future states or variables already in progress, or simply potentials and possibilities.

    5. Tell the players to “prune” the future by posting their leaves around the treetop, related to the categories of the limbs.  If you’d like, add thin or thick branches within to show relationships and let the tree grow in a natural way. If it grows asymmetrically, let that be.

    6. With the players, discuss the shape of tree that emerges. Which branches have the most activity? Which areas don’t seem to be experiencing growth? Where do the branches appear to be most connected? The most disconnected?

    Strategy

    The picture of the tree is the working metaphor for this game—it represents the roots of the topic, the branches of the topic, and, of course, the topic’s growth potential.  This game is broadly applicable because you can use a tree as a metaphor for virtually any aspect of your organization that you wish to grow or shape.  The topic can be a product whose future features you want to brainstorm.  It can be a team whose future roles and responsibilities you want to plan.  Or you could use this game to discuss the marketplace and show where the players think it is changing or growing.

    When the players start to shape the outer treetop, encourage them to “go out on a limb” with their ideas for the future. This game is about possibilities—realistic and otherwise.  And if someone requests fruit on the tree to represent ROI, draw apples where they should be. If the players request another tree (or even a grove!), draw quick rudimentary trees and let the players start adding leaves, following the original procedure. This game works well because it allows for a nonlinear, organic representation of what is likely a complex topic.  It results in a visual display of the interconnectedness of future conditions;  showing where some parts of the tree may be suffering while others are thriving.

    The Prune the Future game is based on the Prune the Product Tree activity in Luke Hohmann’s book, Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play.

    Online Prune the Product Tree

    Prune the Product TreeGet started right away by playing Prune the Product Tree online! One of the important aspects of this game is tailoring the image – and meaning – of the tree to match the goals of your game. To illustrate online play, we’re going to use an “Event Benefits Tree”.

    Clicking on this image will start an events benefits “instant play” game at innovationgames.com that is useful in evaluating the benefits of attending a conference. In the game, there will be three icons that you can drag onto your Product Tree:

    • Red Apples: Benefits you expected and got.
    • Rotten Apples: Benefits you expected but didn’t get.
    • Presents: Unexpected benefits that made the conference great.

    The multi-layered regions of this tree are designed to capture a variety of information about these benefits. Where did the players receive these benefits (at the conference or at work)? What was the nature of the benefit (personal or professional)? And what about the conference infrastructure – the roots of the tree (before the conference or after the conference)? By exploring these dimensions with players, you can create better conferences in the future.

    Don’t forget that this a collaborative game that allows you to invite other players to play. And when they drag something around – you will see it in real time! Of course, you will want to create your own trees after you’ve explored this one.

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    Speed Boat

    Object of Play

    Speedboat is a short and sweet way to identify what your employees or clients don’t like about your product/service or what’s standing in the way of a desired goal.  As individuals trying to build forward momentum on products or projects, we sometimes have blind spots regarding what’s stopping us. This game lets you get insight from stakeholders about what they think may be an obstacle to progress.

    Number of Players

    5–10

    Duration of Play

    30 minutes

    How to Play

    1. In a white space visible to the players, draw a boat with anchors attached and name the boat after the product/service or goal under discussion.  This picture is the metaphor for the activity—the boat represents the product/service or goal and the anchors represent the obstacles slowing the movement toward a desired state.
    2. Write the question under discussion next to the boat. For example, “What are the features you don’t like about our product?” or “What’s standing in the way of progress toward this goal?”
    3. Introduce Speedboat as a game designed to show what might be holding a product/service or goal back.  Ask the players to review the question and then take a few minutes to think about the current features of the product/service or the current environment surrounding the goal.
    4. Next, ask them to take 5–10 minutes and write the features of the product/service they don’t like or any variables that are in the way on sticky notes.  If you’d like, you can also ask the players to estimate how much faster the boat would go (in miles or kilometers per hour) without those “anchors” and add that to their sticky notes.
    5. Once they are finished, ask them to post the sticky notes on and around the anchors in the picture.  Discuss the content on each sticky note and look for observations, insights, and “ahas”.  Notice recurring themes, because they can show you where there’s consensus around what’s holding you back.

    Strategy

    This game is not about kicking off a complaint parade.  It’s designed to gather information about improvements or ambitions, so be careful to frame it as such. Tell the players that the intention is to reveal less-than-desirable conditions so that you can be empowered to move the product/service or goal toward an improved state.

    That being said, be aware of the fact that many groups have a tendency to move immediately toward analysis of an improved state. They shift into problem-solving mode. However,doing so disrupts the nature of this game play. After the activity, it’s probable that you won’t have all the information or the right stakeholders to respond to the challenges comprehensively.  So, if you hear the players critiquing or analyzing the content, gently tell them that problem solving is for another game—try to keep their attention focused solely on description, not solution.

    Speedboat is based on the same-named activity in Luke Hohmann’s book, Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play.

    Online Speed Boat Game

    Here is another image of the Speed Boat Game. But this one is special – clicking on the image to the right, will start an “instant play” game at www.innovationgames.com. In this game, there will be icons that you can drag on your online Speed Boat Board:

    • Anchors represent what is preventing your product or service from being as successful as it could be.

    This metaphorical game can be altered to suit your needs. For example, Jonathan Clark’s Speed Plane uses an airplane instead of a boat and replaces anchors with luggage. Customizing the game will make it more relatable to your business and can result in more valuable feedback.

    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!