Recently, my team got stuck trying to choose from four different architecture options for our website. We need to find a balance between near-term tactical goals and long-term strategic goals. When we focused on our strategic goals, the solutions that we came up with didn’t meet our short-term requirements, and vice versa. We moved the pieces around the board for a month, and then finally we gave up and called for a Big Meeting.
In the meeting we had tech leads, solution architects and developers from my company and from our vendor. We also had other stakeholders like administrators, product owners, a couple of consultants from a design company and our UX (User Experience) guy. There were 20 of us, which made lunches expensive, but which made the situation ripe for some Gamestorming.
On the first day, we did the Impact & Effort Matrix exercise (p. 241) for our long term product strategy. We were looking to see whether there were strategic goals we could meet while developing on technology and development practices that were already in place. The result was something like this diagram:
Caption: Each point is a strategic goal. For each axis, 0-5 is low and 6-10 is high.
This exercise put to rest our dream of being able to meet our tactical and strategic goals using the same platform. Meeting our strategic goals would require developemnt of a new platform, and the time-to-market required by a new platform could not meet our tactical market needs. We now had two projects on our hands. I considered this a success because the visualization definitely made it very clear that we couldn’t kill two birds with one stone – in this case we definitely needed two stones.
We already had a good option for the strategic platform coming from our in-house development team, so what was left was to determine how we were to meet our tactical goals. Our short-term capacity is strained by the projects already underway, so we gamed out a hybrid approach with our vendor using the SWOT Analysis exercise (p. 212).
We had a plan, and the exercise confirmed that our plan had many strengths. This was not unexpected. But the exercise also unearthed anxiety that some team members had about the long term viability of the vendor and the partnership, which we discovered while documenting threats. I found these issues to be particularly valuable, and we can use them to shape our partnership contract with our vendor.
With the help of exercises from Gamestorming, we got our project unstuck after a month’s worth of chasing our tails, we sorted our near and long-term goals, and now we are on our way to setting up a partnership to address our tactical goals and building a new platform for our strategic goals.
Object of Play
In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Some ideas are costly, but may have a bigger long-term payoff than short-term actions. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.
Number of Players: Based on small groups, but can scale to any size
Duration of Play: 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the group
How to Play
Given a goal, a group may have a number of ideas for how to achieve it. To open the exercise, frame the goal in terms of a “What to do” or “What we need” question. This may sound as simple as “What do we need to reach our goal?” Ask the group to generate ideas individually on sticky notes. Then, using Post-Up, ask them to present their ideas back to the group by placing them within a 2×2 matrix that
is organized by impact and effort: Impact: The potential payoff of the action, vs. Effort: The cost of taking the action
As participants place their ideas into the matrix, the group may openly discuss the position of elements. It is not uncommon for an idea to be bolstered by the group and to move up in potential impact or down in effort. In this respect, the category of high impact, low effort will often hold the set of ideas that the group is most agreed upon and committed to.
The source of the Impact & Effort Matrix game is unknown.
Impact & Effort
Clicking on this image will bring you to an “instant game” at innovationgames.com, where you can playImpact & Effort Matrix online. The same image will be used as the matrix, which has a different impact-effort combination in each quadrant.
• High Impact, Low Effort: The best ideas go here!
• High Impact, High Effort: Further study is likely required.
• Low Impact, High Effort: Probably best to avoid these.
• Low Impact, Low Effort: Further study is likely required.
The light bulbs you will see at the upper left corner of the chart represent ideas. Simply add an idea to the chart by dragging a light bulb to its corresponding quadrant and describing what it is.
All moves can be seen in real time by each participant, so everyone can collaborate to edit the descriptions and positions of the posted strategies. Communicate using the integrated chat facility to work together and form useful ideas.
On May 4th we asked for your help: to share wisdom with students preparing to facilitate their first workshop. Your response flooded our inbox; it was reflective, generous, vulnerable and helpful. Thank you scrum masters, designers, authors, consultants, coaches, teachers, students and Gamestormers all over the globe.
Prepare to improvise Write your word-for-word script, rehearse even the jokes but prepare to throw it all out as you walk into the room.
Clarify your role As the facilitator you are not responsible for the answers, only to shape the journey on the way to their discovery.
Establish your emotional state The room will follow your cues – what do you need them to be?
Set the tone Be thoughtful with your first activity, it is the foundation for the rest of the workshop.
Connectwith the workshoppers Collective and individual connection will energize the room and put you in tune with the path you’ll need to follow.
But read for yourself.
We’ve credited sources where possible.
Be thoroughly prepared and be fully prepared and willing to let go of all your plans and preparations to go with whatever happens and is needed at the time. Materials and preparations are a back up plan, follow your intuïtion and look for what the group needs at that specific moment; what are they not doing by themselves, what is the next step they are not taking. Focus your efforts there.
Remember to create personal connection and learn to listen more intently to voice, not only words. Moderate activities to Energy levels constantly
Prepare before you get into the room, understand the purpose and who will be there; how do you support everyone working towards that purpose? Remember you are primarily there to support the achievement of the purpose and not delivering content. Therefore, focus on how to make the most of everyone’s contributions and how to keep them engaged with it – vary the activities to support different ways of working (eg. solitary vs collaborative). Also, if you need to produce a report/findings make sure the participants are producing things you can draw on directly afterwards eg. prioritisation matrix or roadmap.
Set up the session with a clear centre line. Know your stuff (practice, practice, practice) and gain agreement up front to keep bringing people back to centre when they stray – if you have a clear centre line to draw people back to they will appreciate the level of productivity you achieve.
1. Be familiar with the virtual platform that you are using, be it Zoom, Google Meet, WEbecs etc. 2. Be mindful of your virtual presence. Tone (speak clearly, varying your tone and at a moderate speed), body language (dressing , do not move around too much as it is distracting), engaged by looking at the camera hole. 3. Enlist a “co-host” to help you to navigate and take care of other engagement activities with audience. For e.g. polling, look at Chat messages. This will help the main facilitator to better focus on delivering their messages. 4. Add interactive activities such as poll, breakout room for discussions, type their views in chat box. 5. Practice, practice and practice, to build confidence.
Relax, anything you add to the meeting/workshop/event is better than it would have been without a facilitator. Everything is oops of learning, and we all get better through that experience. But in the end, everything we do makes things a little better and a little more likely to have good results.
Facilitation is about designing, creating, and holding a container for the participants to fill up with great ideas and outcomes. Design a session that has just enough structure for them to stay on purpose but loose enough that they can have fun getting there.
The first time I was put in charge of facilitating a project, I remember feeling the need to grasp the opportunity, having to show all that I know. It was only later that I realized that it is important to really grasp the situation, talk to the others involved, and make use of what THEY know before passing any of my own judgment.
1) Co-create and agree on-line etiquette with the group. This includes talking order. One of many ideas that sticks with me is”participants talk once until everyone has had an opportunity to contribute” 2) all participants use headphones to cut out amplified background noise 3) create a hand-drawn frame and place it around your laptop camera…. this is to encourage you to focus on the frame when talking to give the impression of looking at fellow participants to “connect“
Start with an authentic check-in to create the social foundation to be productive and innovative together. all goes well when the team is united more deeply (than how’s the weather and what’s your name). even if things go wrong they all pull together to find a solution. And check-out at the end, even if it is a thumbs up or down, or a one word checkout. so people feel complete, util you meet again! tips for checkin in here http://www.thecircleway.net/circle-way-guidelines
keep the final objectives in mind – not your beautifully crafted session plans. Sometimes everything runs as you expect, but more often people head off in new directions. Be ready to follow them down those rabbit holes by focusing on the objectives, not the methods you think you need to get to your objectives. You might find yourself in Wonderland!
Have a plan. Be sure what you want to achieve and especially take your time for ice-breaking in the beginning. Have an activity planned for the welcome and ice-breaking according to the audience age. A good start will help you through later struggles. And to decrease nervousness: breath. Before you go into the room, breath calmly.
Set the tone early. The opening exercise needs to make it clear that it is a safe space to be visionary and to be wrong. I sometimes ask the room “What’s one thing you believe that no one else agrees with?” Or “If you could wave a magic wand and overcome one character flaw, what would it be?”
Imagine that you need to make the most of the time that people are spending with you. Prepare for each session within the time block, knowing you can change the plan on the spot. Think of props, food, timing, drinks, breaks and work very carefully on planning the time blocks. Once you have it all mapped out you can change as you go along depending on the expected outcomes and what is happening in the moment.
Know your stuff, love your stuff and be yourself. (If you know what you’re talking about and care about the subject matter, care about others learning it, then all that’s left is to be yourself – that’s what will get the material across better. Oh, and, tell stories. Stories make your message accessible 🙂
The facilitator isn’t a trainer, not a teller, nor a seller of information. Get to know your participants (not audience) and empathize as far as possible. In facilitation content isn’t king as it is in training. Empathy is king. So, in preparing for a facilitative session I would strongly recommend as careful a study of the participants as possible — their ages, backgrounds, preferences, learning styles, whatever you can lay your hands on.
You are working for the group, you are there to facilitate people, to help them and it’s not about you. Try to make a connection between you and the group since they can help you too. Let they to help you and they will appreciate you for it.
Remember the the 80/20 rule. 80 percent prep, 20 percent running the actual event. Make yourself a script, prepare your handouts/materials well advance, have your slides done, and then practice! Do a trial run through with colleagues. If you’re facilitating with someone else, you must practice together. If you do all this, by the time you go to do it live, you’ll feel much more comfortable. All the prep, means you’ll be able to handle a curveball (and there always is one) and you’ll feel and sound natural because it’s not the first time you’re running it.
I always prepare a detailed time-boxed slide, with everything written out – knowing that everything has been planned and accounted for gives me the freedom to really focus on my participants and making sure the workshop output is all that it can be. I also recommend blocking time in your calendar in the days following the workshop, to ensure everything is captured and circulated back. Last tip – facilitating a longer activity can be surprisingly exhausting. Plan ahead for some downtime so that you can recharge.
From professor Langlois of the Université du Québec, in his LEADEX workshops: Your job (as leader, or facilitator) is to create a positive, memorable experience for those involved. I learned this in 2004 and it has been a validation of my approach; since it has become my mantra.
Facilitation is not about me the facilitator, but about the participants.
-assume you are with friends
-ask open ended questions
-mirror what you understood and ask if it’s accurate and if there’s more
-be genuine and open, otherwise you come across as pushing an agenda
-be complicit, like this is an elite clique (smile with a twinkle in your eye)
-use humor Facilitation is not about me the facilitator, but about the participants.
-assume you are with friends
-ask open ended questions
-mirror what you understood and ask if it’s accurate and if there’s more
-be genuine and open, otherwise you come across as pushing an agenda
-be complicit, like this is an elite clique (smile with a twinkle in your eye)
Another foundational quote, from Stephen Haines of San Diego’s Haines Centre for Strategic Management: «People will support what they help build».
Facilitation is a powerful way to get people involved in building a future state.
Level the playing field. Whenever I facilitate, I make sure that I get this message across at the start, that I am one among them playing the role of facilitator not instructor. By doing this, you set the expectations at the right level both for you and for the audience.
Besides a great design that you have co -created with key sponsor and maybe participants too, set intentions of how you want to be experienced. I often say to myself that I will be an ocean of love. This often works for me and I usually add one or two intentions based on what I assess the group will respond to and benefit from to bring their best most hopeful, creative selves. And, importantly, no matter how busy I am with prep I greet people as they enter, and “R before T” put relationship before task. A few welcoming words and a question to bring about exchange are more valuable than can be expressed.
Pause for 5 seconds after you ask a question to allow people to “hear what you said, process what you said, come up with a response, articulate their response”. I literally count to five in my head to give people time to process. Second, is a mindset. You are not responsible for the outcome… your job is to focus on the process. Similar to an umpire of a baseball game. Keep the participants focused on the rules/process. The game is there’s to own the outcomes.
People are going to share so many interesting ideas on content, templates, games… logistics are a lot less sexy… and getting logistics right will make or break a workshop. If you get it right, they won’t notice how well planned it is, but if you get it wrong your reputation will suffer no matter how good the content is. So here are thoughts on the practicalities.
+ Try to figure out the space (real or virtual) first. Where will you pin things, where will you do breakouts, how will you bring people back.
+ Make sure you build in time contingencies, things usually take longer than you think they will. Even getting people into and out of break-out groups takes time. You may feel pressure to squeeze more in, but the quality will suffer if you don’t give people enough time to work through ideas, have disagreements, work through disagreements etc
+ Pre-plan how you will do break-outs either using a pre-planned list or a game eg line people up in order of their birthdays & divide the line into 2, 4 etc.. Don’t tell people to organise themselves or it gets cliquey or awkward.
+ Keep lots of pace changes, some fast exercises, some slow. some digital presentation & some analogue, some sit down exercises, some standing. It keeps people alert
+ Snacks. At the start of a workshop lots of great snacks set the scene & get people excited for the day (especially important if you have people who would prefer to be somewhere else). Keep the snacks going throughout to keep energy up. If virtual, get people to pre-organise their snacks and you could even use this as a fun warm-up.
+ Don’t skimp on warm-ups and try to gradually use them to encourage people to open up and be a little bit vulnerable. Silly stuff is good. Warm-ups may seem a waste or precious time, but they build the rapport necessary to create a safe space for non-judgemental creativity.
+ Music can help to keep up the energy during break-outs and signal when time is up
+ Lay out a master plan of how the workshop will run (details are not necessary) at the start. If people have a sense of what will be expected they will stay focussed.
+ Make sure you have all the kit you need (boards, sticky notes, tech back-up plans etc. Also important is thinking about what printouts you need eg templates, reference material etc. And have spares.
+ Have a welcome plan, especially if attendees don’t know each other. They won’t all arrive at the same time, so think about what is happening in the space between the first person arriving and starting the workshop
+ Be flexible… things never quite go to plan, so you may need to change things up as you go, that’s pretty normal, don’t be hard on yourself.
Prepare + Review the list for facilitating (assume your professor has given these, if not find a list) + Develop a list of probing and follow-up questions + Research info on audience + Prepare an opening that is a story or questions to pique curiosity
Onsite + Start on time even if the audience is not ready + Focus on the audience and supporting their ability to connect with each other and share ideas; walk around and introduce yourself before the session starts + Watch your energy level – and smile + Walk the room; if there are slides go to back when they are being used – your role is a guide on the side not a sage on the stage + When there is a question, re-frame it and throw it back to the audience – and if possible, to those who are not speaking + Watch the time and make sure you leave time for the ending + Have a strong summary statement that reflects what happened during the session + Provide a call to action at the end + Thank the audience for engaging
PS If there is work time for the group during the session remember you are still facilitating and paying attention to their tasks and the time; move from group to group; capture good ideas to share; listen to their discussion and help if they are off track; continue to monitor time; and, DO NOT fiddle with your phone or stand in the corner and talk to other facilitators. Once the group has reconvened, share what your saw and heard.
It’s about them; not about you. Listen intently and learn the different types of questions to ask to keep a group moving. Where they go is up to them; not up to you. Emergence is a very exciting property of good facilitation.
I’d say they could observe the experience as they lead it and take cues from the group – to see where they can improve next time and where the group is suggesting what works and what doesn’t.
Know yourself thoroughly , ask yourself why you are in facilitation. Knowing this, enjoy yourself, equipping yourself with the necessary knowledge , trends, state of the art practices and co explore with fellow practitioners. Do off line facilitation work shops with your friends , community and known circles, to get the feel. Be thorough with tools, technology and logistics . Reflect on the sessions ,feedback and make improvements .
Don’t worry how people react or if they don’t want to follow your instructions. It is mainly a sign of their emotional state of themselves, not something because of you.
Team with a co-facilitator. Facilitation can be an endurance sport. There may be a question you are trying to answer, but no matter how many ways you phrase it, you can’t get a particular individual to understand. Another facilitator, with different experiences can calmly come in and offer a different perspective that might click for that individual. It is also very helpful to have someone who can help with logistics, if something needs to be addressed when your attention needs to be elsewhere.
Have a game plan and even have a back up in case things go belly up. And then when you execute it, own it. Even if you have to pull some “fake” confidence out to feel like you pulled it off. How do you get fake confidence? Practice your introduction in a mirror before hand. Be an actor/actress. There is truth to fake it until you make it that I have even put into play as a librarian.
Remember you will build with each facilitation experience you give so your “fake” confidence will grow into true confidence with experience behind it.
Come with a plan. Rehearse that plan. You can even create a spreadsheet created with your facilitation plan detailed down to the minute.
Then throw that plan out the window.
Respond to the room and let the facilitation evolve as both the people in the room and you gain more clarity on the ideal outcome of the session.
Be transparent when trying something new to you. The group doesn’t have to know everything is new to you… just say, “I’d really like to try xyz with this group…”
Be quiet sometimes. As a new facilitator, I told stories and got chatty to cover my nerves. With feedback from video and colleagues, I have learned to breathe instead.
When something goes wrong, move on. Things happen – technology, typos, skipped steps in an activity – just acknowledge and move forward. People will remember what you spend time on and what is uncomfortable, so apologizing at length could overshadow the good stuff.
It’s important they understand to not try to be the smartest person in the room, but instead, ask the smartest questions :wink:. Have a bunch of questions mentally (or physically) ready. And if ever they ‘seize up’ and don’t know what to do, use those questions. Like: What’s the most important thing we want to get out of this meeting? What would it take to finish this meeting early? (that’s a cheeky one, I like that one). Is this the right thing to be discussing now? If I was the boss/main stakeholder/team/anyone else you need to talk to after this, what’s the main outcome of this that you tell me? How would you summarize this discussion as a tweet?
Over prepare. Conduct full-dress rehearsals with all the accoutrements so you create in yourself a ‘muscle memory’ that automatically flows through facilitation. A foundation of preparation minimizes surprises, allows you to gracefully respond when they arise and return to the facilitation plan.
I think they need to be prepared: agenda, activities and materials in advance, they need to dominate instructions and repeat instructions in a clear and simple manner. They need to take time to define key messages they want to leave to the audience and personal stories or examples to reinforce them.
Practice breathing. No meeting and no facilitator is perfect. One thing that holds true in every engagement I facilitate is that something unexpected always shows up. So learning to take a deep breath and pause so you can re-orient to the present has been the most helpful tip that was passed down to me, so I pass it onto others.
Plan Practice Remember that noone knows the finer detail of the plan except you (so it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t quite go to plan). Be yourself
Don’t expect it to go as planned. When it doesn’t, be kind to yourself and others.
1. Make the content your own and deliver from your truth. Don’t be a regurgitator. 2. Experience for yourself the processes you want to deliver 3. It’s better if everyone starts with acknowledging they don’t know the answer – including you – so true emergence can be experienced 4. Learn how to host yourself before you host others 5.It’s not about you: people are there to have an experience hosted by you, not about you, so… 6. Relax and enjoy the experience together. If you don’t have fun with the problem you’ll never solve it.
I remember my nerves radically shifted when I realised being up front of a room of people facing complexity was not about me, but about them. And all I was there to do was help them tap into their wisdom, creativity and remember what they already knew.
“Raise your hand if you can hear me” > I love this as a way to quiet down a boisterous room.
I’d also say to remind them that you must be overly prepared, and then things will shift regardless, but it’s that preparedness that allows you to be able to shift and adjust. If you hadn’t prepared at all, you’d be lost.
Remember your job is to keep away from the content and maintain a neutral stance. Focus your energy on moving the group forward – it’s not about you!
Smile – even if you have to force it a little because you are nervous and you want to do well. A smile will put others at ease and releases dopamine, endorphins and serotonin into your bloodstream – all good things that help you to be present in the moment. Its free, you carry it with you everywhere and it has immediate impact. Also, embrace being a beginner at this and be gentle with yourself. We are all learning, all the time.
I find it important to start the day with rules/expectations and an ice breaker to get everyone in the group comfortable talking. The most important rule (in my opinion) is to make sure everyone stays open to ideas of others. So exciting – workshops are fun!
Connect personally with your audience before launching into the session – a brief moment in which you share something small/simple and at whatever level of depth fosters comfort and safety for you and the group. This can be a small insight about yourself, your journey to this session, a personal interest in or reflection on the session’s subject matter or this particular group etc. You’re prompted to pause before starting and pushing off into the session from a place of human engagement rather than the adherence to runsheet/script.
Your goal as a facilitators is to help a group reach a meaningful outcome, but also remember how people FEEL when they leave your workshop is as, or more, important than what you are teaching them.
Your workshop needs to be prototyped and practiced. Make sure that you get a chance to run through it as much as possible to iron out any quirks. Having a good flow will allow you to focus on the participants. Also work out your timings and stick to them
Be extremely comfortable with design and make sure you be as clear as possible with it. Especially the learning objectives.
prepare like crazy … including jokes and stories and pauses etc. …. BEFORE the session….however emerge with flow DURING the session….hold the design lightly not tightly … Be a scientist while preparing but an artist while delivering
Do a good audience analysis if possible… if you know them and their context well, there will be less surprises
Set it up well … try and manage expectations of everyone before delivering
get the audience to speak as early in the session as possible… choose a game or an activity …
Enjoy it … cut yourself some slack…gracefully accept any screw ups but make sure you LEARN from them”
Be perfectly prepared, as if your life depends on it. And once you start with the workshop: let go and trust in the process.
Be clear on the aims of the meeting/retreat/etc. beforehand (engaging stakeholders in that process) and discuss these at the start of the gathering to ensure there’s buy-in (and, if not, discuss any possible changes). For the kinds of processes I facilitate, the goals typically include some more process-y stuff (e.g., teambuilding) and some more product-y stuff (e.g., strategy development).
Work with your own strengths – as a government worker years ago I was asked to facilitate a lot of business planning, with only a small amount of training, because I was friendly, gentle and diplomatic. I was nervous but once you realise you’re only facilitating, not decision making, you can make the most of your skills.
Measures of success vary across an organization. Executives concern themselves with company-wide Objectives involving Revenue, Cost, Profit, Margin and Customer Satisfaction. Further down the org chart, management and individual contributors rate performance against more detailed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) tracking customer behavior: a product manager may measure app downloads, or number of shopping cart items per visit. These customer behaviors clearly affect the larger corporate Objectives, but how? and which have the most impact?
Objective of Play
Understand how customer behavior impacts higher level objectives; direct organizational efforts on the most influential of those behaviors.
Number of Players
5 – 15
Invite participants across the KPI spectrum: individual contributors, management and executive leadership. A successful game will demonstrate how all levels of KPI’s relate and affect one another.
Duration of Play
30 minutes – 3 hours.
Manage What You Measure works best when played on a whiteboard. To run a good session you will need:
Sticky notes (i.e. post-it® notes) of different colors
Camera to capture results
How to Play
1. With the group gathered, introduce Manage What You Measure by stating that the purpose of the game is to focus resources and strategies on the most critical customer behaviors. To get there, the group will map the relationship between high-level corporate objectives and customer behavior.
2. Write at the top of the whiteboard a corporate-wide Strategic Goal.
3. Below that, write on sticky notes the measures of success (KPIs) for that Strategic Goal. Use different color sticky notes when possible.
4. Ask the players to take five minutes for an individual brainstorm: list all the customer behaviors impacting the KPIs identified in Step 3; one per sticky note. If possible, match sticky note colors of customer behaviors and KPIs — this will help organize what may become a crowded whiteboard.
5. After the brainstorm, ask the players to come to the whiteboard and post their sticky notes under the appropriate grouping.
6. Take 5-10 minutes to review the sticky notes. Lead a clarification discussion. Ask participants to explain any potentially confusing sticky notes. Note any customer behaviors mapped multiple times.
7. Repeat steps 4 – 6 once. Use the first set of brainstormed-customer behaviors as the baseline: what are the behaviors that drive those behaviors?
8. Once everyone is comfortable with the customer behaviors, conduct a Dot Vote. Give each player five dots to place on what they consider the most important customer behaviors in light of the Strategic Goal in step 2.
9. Tally the votes.
10. Once again, take time for discussion. Note unpopular choices; ensure their dismissals have merit. Have any results surprised the group? Why? Recommendation: If the Dot Vote results and ensuing discussion dictate further prioritization, consider playing Impact & Effort or the NUF Test.
11. Once the group agrees on the prioritized areas of focus, assign each a baseline value (what is the measure of this behavior now?) and goal (where would we like it to be). Recommendation: Consider playing Who-What-When
Employees understand organizational goals at different levels. By defining relationships between high-level objectives, mid-tier KPIs and the customer behaviors that drive them you have created a map easily navigated.
This clarity creates a shared understanding across all levels of the organization. Now, each time a team reports progress on their specific KPIs, executives will have a clear sense of why the team is working on that and how it affects the Objectives they care most about.
The Empathy Map will help you to more deeply understand your customers and their behaviors; play this game before Manage What you Measure
How to Play
1. Start by drawing a graph on a large white board or poster. Label the axes as follows:
X-axis: “How to Win.” This is designated for the novelty of the product that you are offering to customers. Are you using existing, adding incremental, or developing new products?
Y-axis: “Where to Play.” This measures the novelty of your customers. Will the innovation serve an existing, enter an adjacent, or create a new market?
2. Next, draw three curves within the axes as seen in the picture below to divide the chart into the three levels of innovation ambition.
Core (closest to origin): optimize your current products for current customers (ex. make faster technology)
Adjacent: add a new feature to your existing business (ex. create an app version of your website)
Transformational: create breakthroughs for markets that do not currently exist
3. Pass out sticky notes and pens to your team members. Ask them to write current initiatives that they are working on and to post them in the respective area on the chart. Playing with multiple people will help identify what initiatives are being made and reveal different perspectives on how to succeed.
4. When all the initiatives and ideas are posted, discuss how to unify them so everyone is working toward the same mission. Doing so will eliminate competing developments and help everyone understand the overall goal for the innovation.
The game works best when the players are team members who have different responsibilities within the project. This will will enable the group to understand the various initiatives being made and eliminate counteractive efforts. After getting rid of competing notes, organize who on the team will be responsible for specific tasks.
While Innovation Ambition Matrix is useful to outline current efforts of the team and to clarify the ambition of a project, it can also be used for your company’s long-term goals. Identify where you want your company or team to end up and what balance of innovation levels is needed to help you get there. For instance, if you would like to maintain your company’s position in your industry, focus on core or adjacent innovations. If you need to make an impacting change to get ahead in the market, think of transformational innovations. Planning where efforts are needed will help achieve the company’s innovation ambition efficiently.
In the game, the image to the right will be used as the “game board.” As with the in-person version, the chart graphs the novelty of the company’s offerings vs. the novelty of the customers. Players will see light bulb icons in the top left corner, which represent the initiatives team members are taking and the ideas they have about future accomplishments. Simply drag the light bulbs to the matrix and describe what they represent.
Players can edit the placement and description of each light bulb, which everyone can view in real time. Use the integrated chat facility and communicate with your players throughout the game to gain a better understanding of each move. The results will be organized in a spreadsheet to maximize the benefits of the game.
A company’s survival depends on its ability to innovate and advance. However, ideas to do so often become diluted by poor management strategies. This leaves your team with a chaotic scattering of competing attempts rather than a unified innovation effort. By identifying how to allocate innovation activity, teams can strike and maintain their unique balance required for sustainable growth. Innovation Ambition Matrix helps identify this core:adjacent:transformational ratio, which enhances a team’s understanding of where to put efforts and how to unify endeavors. Also, the game helps managers survey the initiatives of their team and provides a chance to discuss the overall ambition of a project.
To learn more about Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff, and the importance of a balanced innovation profile, click here.
Gamestorming is an amazing way to improve the performance of teams. Unfortunately, Gamestorming doesn’t work too well when your team is distributed. In this guest post, written by Luke Hohmann (who also wrote the foreword to Gamestorming and his own nifty book, Innovation Games), Luke will describe some of the tools his company has created to enable distributed teams to gain the benefits of serious, collaborative play.
Framing the Games: Computer Supported Cooperative Work
Researchers in the field of Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) typically organize work as a grid in two dimensions. The first is time: either your doing work at the same time or at different times. The second is the physical structure of the participants: you’re either co-located, standing or sitting next to each other; or distributed, in different offices, buildings, or continents.
Here’s a sample picture. Happy gamestormers in the top left playing Prune the Future. The games described in our respective books occupy this quadrant as they are same-time, same place games. A Scrum team’s taskboard is shown in the lower left. In the lower right, we have a standard mailbox. And in the top right? Well now, that’s a problem for the our intrepid Gamestormer: you can’t easily put a sticky note or index card on your monitor and play games with other people.
But My Team Is Distributed!
Yup. The realities of the modern workforce means that you’re likely to be working in a distributed team. And while it is trivial to say that we’re working in an increasingly global set of team, it is not trivial to say that we’re working with a pretty crude set of tools to help us accomplish our goals. Unfortunately, that leaves people who want to Gamestorm in distributed teams with a lot of questions and not enough answers.
Consider, for example, this post that Dave and Luke wrote together. We agreed to write this together through a combination of email and tweets. Luke then wrote the first draft directly in WordPress. Dave edited this. And this cycle continued until we published it. According to the CSCW grid, we used a different time/different place technology. And it worked well enough.
But what if we had wanted to work together on the same document at the same time? CSCW researchers have been working on this for quite some time. For example, in 1968 Doug Engelbart gave an amazing demonstration of shared, collaborative editing over a wide area network (see a great presentation on this, including cool videos, here). In the early 90’s researchers at the University of Michigan created ShrEdit, a shared (collaborative) document editing platform. A more recent example is EtherPad. These systems, and many others like them, provide excellent platforms for one kind of collaborative work – collaborative text editing.
Unfortunately, shared document editing is not the right kind of solution for distributed Gamestorming teams because each of the games has a unique set of goals, rules, and contexts. However, by understanding the kinds of collaborative goals that motivate Gamestorming, we can design a solution that meets their needs.
Visual Collaboration Games
Let’s focus on one class of Gamestorming games: Visual Collaboration Games. These are any game that:
leverage visual metaphors to serve as the “game board”, a guide to participants on the goals / objectives of the game, and a way to provide real-time feedback on the game;
use simple rules for structuring the placement “game tokens” (such as post-it notes), including how many tokens can be placed, the meaning of the tokens, and where and/or how the tokens can be placed.
This is an abstract definition, so let’s use two games to illustrate these concepts.
In this game, the visual metaphor is a stylized head that helps player develop a deeper, more empathetic, and more personal understanding of stakeholder’s experiences in a business ecosystem. The head is divided into sections based on aspects of that person’s sensory experiences, such as what they are thinking, feeling, saying, doing, and hearing.
Tokens are post-its or other artifacts that are placed on this visual metaphor represent the players best understanding of the person’s real, tangible, sensory experiences. For example, anything placed in the “hearing” section represents what that person might hear and how might hear it. While it is common to use Post-Its for this game, Luke has encouraged in-person players to add physical objects to the “empathy map game board” as a way to capture as much “empathy” as possible.
In this game, the visual metaphor of a tree is used to represent traditional product and/or service roadmaps. The evolutionary growth of the product or service is captured in the tree, with branches representing broad product capabilities or areas of service, and apples and leaves representing discrete roadmap items. Trees can be identified via various growth areas – “sooner” and “later” or “this year” or “next year”. The physical metaphor of pruning a tree to ensure healthy growth enables players to “prune” unnecessary features from a product or offers from a service portfolio.
No End In Sight To Visual Collaboration
Visual Collaboration Games are one of the most powerful classes of games that exist. And the supply of these games is inexhaustible: every visual image that we use in business can serve as the foundation of a visual collaboration game. Some examples:
Disappointed that your favorite game isn’t listed? Don’t be. While we’re trying to collect all of the games that we can into the Gamestorming wiki, the reality is that if you’re a good gamestormer or Innovation Gamer, you’re going to be inventing visual games as needed for special circumstances. And once you play them in-person, chances are pretty good that you’ll want to play them online.
Sounds Great! I Want To Play ONLINE Right Now!
Excellent! We were hoping you’d say that! Here is another image of the Empathy Map. But this one is special – clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at www.innovationgames.com. In this game, there will be three icons that you can drag on your online Empathy Map:
Smiley Faces: Use smiley faces to indicate what would make your persona happy.
Grim Faces: Use grim faces to indicate what would make your persona concerned.
Frowns: Use frown faces to indicate what would make your persona unhappy.
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!
Playing Visual Collaboration Games
The benefits of playing in-person, co-located visual collaboration games are considerable. The visual metaphor guides the group in solving a critical problem. You have a shared artifact that captures key aspects of your collective understanding. The results of the game play can be used and shared with others. And many times you don’t have to tell the participants that they’re playing a game, which can be important when introducing serious games to organizations who might be resistant to change. Players can just smile and compliment themselves on having a good time solving a problem.
And now, the power of online games means that we can use the same visual metaphors to enable distributed teams to solve complex problems. We can add semantics to the images so that we know where items are placed. The system acts as a perfect Observer, silently recording every event, so that we can analyze the results of multiple game plays with many distributed teams. And the flexibility of online, visual collaboration means that we’re only limited by what we want to try.
We’re going to be adding more instant play, online collaborative games to the Gamestorming wiki over the next few weeks.
To learn more about how to convert any Doodle or image into an online, collaborative game, read this post.
Object of Play
When prioritizing, a group may need to agree on a single, ranked list of items. Forced ranking obligates the group to make difficult decisions, and each item is ranked relative to the others. This is an important step in making decisions on items like investments, business priorities, and features or requirements—wherever a clear, prioritized list is needed.
Number of Players: Small group of 3–10 participants
Duration of Play: Medium to long; 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the length of the list, the criteria, and the size of the group
How to Play
To set up the game, participants need to have two things: an unranked list of items and the criteria for ranking them. Because forced ranking makes the group judge items closely, the criteria should be as clear as possible. For example, in ranking features for a product, the criteria might be “Most important features for User X.” In the case of developing business priorities, the criteria might be “Most potential impact over the next year.”
If there are multiple dimensions to a ranking, it is best to rank the items separately for each criterion, and then combine the scores to determine the final ranking. It is difficult for participants to weigh more than one criterion at a time, as in the confusing “Most potential impact over the next year and least amount of effort over the next six months.”
In this case, it would be best to rank items twice: once by impact and once by effort. Although there is no hard limit on the number of items to be ranked, in a small-group setting the ideal length of a list is about 10 items. This allows participants to judge items relative to one another without becoming overwhelming. By making the entire list visible on a flip chart or whiteboard, participants will have an easier time ranking a larger list.
To play, create a matrix of items and the criteria. Each participant ranks the items by assigning it a number, with the most important item being #1, the second most important item as #2, and so forth, to the least important item. Because the ranking is “forced,” no items can receive equal weight.
Once the items have been ranked, tally them and discuss the prioritized list and next steps.
Creating a forced ranking may be difficult for participants, as it requires they make clear-cut assessments about a set of items. In many cases, this is not the normal mode of operation for groups, where it is easier to add items to lists to string together agreement and support. Getting people to make these assessments, guided by clear criteria, is the entire point of forced ranking.
The original source of the Forced Ranking game is unknown.