NAME OF PLAY: Random Inputs
Object of Play: To generate random thinking and new ideas around any topic you choose.
# of Players: 5 – 10
Duration of Play: 30 minutes – 1 hour
How to Play:
- Before the meeting, generate a list of 50-75 random nouns. You can do this however you see fit, but try to ensure that the nouns are NOT contextually based on the players’ work.
- Write each word on an individual slip of paper and put all of them in a container you can draw from blindly.
- In a white space visible to all the players, write the topic of the play (ex. a new ad campaign) and give all players access to sticky notes – enough that they can generate potentially a dozen ideas per word.
- Tell the players that the goal of the game is to come up with ideas that are outside of the default thinking around the product or service. Tell them that the connections they make with the words can and should be expansive, even silly at first glance. Offer examples to clarify the kind of output you’re looking for.
- Draw the first word from your container and read it outloud to the players. Then draw a picture of it in the white space (even if you don’t really know how to.)
- Give everyone five minutes to quietly write on sticky notes any ideas they have related to the topic and inspired by the word.
- Ask the players to post all of their ideas in the white space.
- Repeat this process for the each word you pull from your container and keep going until you and the players feel like you’ve generated enough ideas to get traction on your topic.
Strategy: This play is powerful because the inputs are random, so it’s important that the list of words you generate before the meeting adheres to the principle of randomness as best it can. If you start compiling words that people associate with the topic, you’ll get ideas that the players have had many times before, which is the antithesis of the desired outcome. So make sure your data is decently scrubbed. And if you want to include others in building the list as a way to get them excited before the game, ask each player to submit her own words. But request that the words be unrelated to the usual workplace vernacular. One way to avoid getting the same words (and the same ideas) is to invite players from other areas in the organization, who wouldn’t normally be involved in the brainstorm around the topic you chose. Some of the best ideas come from unexpected places, right?
As the person leading the game, when you announce each random word you may find that you have no idea how to draw representations of them. Draw them anyway. This helps to create a space in which players recognize that their contributions won’t be judged harshly. It matters not only as a basic facilitative technique but also because this game works best when people take risks and post up what can appear to be odd contributions. To encourage bravery, take some risks of your own and be aware that there are certain tendencies the players may have that can stifle the creative process.
For example, after they hear a word, players may attempt to go through a series of steps to relate the word to the product or service: “An airplane reminds me of wind which reminds me of blue which reminds me of the trademark blue of our product.” But there’s no creativity in that – the player’s just retreading an established path. Other tendencies players may have are to rearrange the letters of the word to create another word they associate with the topic or to create an acronym that describes the topic. This is a creative copout. You want people to forge creative, not methodical, paths from the random word to the topic. Sometimes it can be a direct leap; other times it can meander. But encourage them to create anew. Assure them that there are no “left-field” comments and that this play is most effective when people take creative leaps of faith.
If you end up with the opposite challenge – you have a group that jumps right in and starts having crazy fun – let them be energetic but also help them maintain focus on the topic. Give the players enough time to generate lots of ideas but not so much time that they’re no longer connecting the word back to the product/service. With a game this juicy, it can happen.