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Ethos, Logos, Pathos

Object of Play

The goal of this game is to channel Aristotle’s assessment of your argument.

Number of Players

1–10

Duration of Play

10 minutes to 1 hour

How to Play

Aristotle laid the groundwork for persuasive communication in the 4th century. Although the times have changed, effective communication hasn’t. Evaluate a communication, such as a value proposition, by using the three elements of rhetoric.  Role playing as your audience, score your message from 1 to 10 on these categories:

  • Ethos/Credibility:  Who are you, and what authority do you have on the topic?
  • Logos/Logic:  How clear and consistent is your reasoning? How do your facts measure up against my facts?
  • Pathos/Emotion: How vivid, memorable, and motivating is your message?

Look for areas of improvement or imbalance.

The Ethos, Logos, Pathos game is credited to James Macanufo.

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Start, Stop, Continue

Object of Play

The object of Start, Stop, Continue is to examine aspects of a situation or develop next steps.

Number of Players

1–10

Duration of Play

10 minutes to 1 hour

How to Play

Ask the group to consider the current situation or goal and individually brainstorm actions in these three categories:

  • Start: What are things that we need to START doing?
  • Stop: What are we currently doing that we can or should STOP?
  • Continue: What are we doing now that works and should CONTINUE?

Have individuals share their results.

Strategy

This exercise is broad enough to work well as an opening or closing exercise. It’s useful in framing discussion at “problem-solving” meetings, or as a way to brainstorm aspirational steps toward a vision.

The source for the Start, Stop, Continue game is unknown.

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Help Me Understand

Object of Play

Help Me Understand is based on the underlying (and accurate) assumption is that employees come to meetings with widely different questions around a topic or a change.It assumes leadership can anticipate some questions and concerns but can’t possibly anticipate them all. No one knows the questions employees have better than the employees themselves, so this game gives them a chance to externalize what’s on their minds and have leadership be responsive in a setting outside the once-a-year leadership retreat. It also allows the players to discover overlaps with other players’ questions and to notice the frequency with which those questions occur—something they may not have known prior to the meeting. It lets some sunshine in around a project, initiative, or change so that employees—who have to implement that change—have fewer lingering questions.

Number of Players

5–25

Duration of Play

30 minutes to 1.5 hours

How to Play

  1. In a large white space visible to all the players, write the topic of the meeting and the following words as headers across the top: “WHO?”, “WHAT?”, “WHEN?”,“WHERE?”, and “HOW?”. Give all players access to sticky notes and markers.
  2. Tell the players that the goal of the game is to help leadership understand and be responsive to any and all questions around the topic.
  3. Start with the question “WHO?” and give the players five minutes to silently write down as many questions as they can that begin with the word WHO.
  4. Ask the players to post all of their questions in the white space under WHO? and then ask for a couple of volunteers to cluster the questions according to topical similarity.
  5. Bring the largest clusters to the group’s attention—circle them if you prefer—and ask leadership to offer a response to the most common questions in the clusters and to any outlier questions that look interesting.
  6. Repeat this process for the remaining four header questions, each time asking leadership to respond to the questions that seem the most salient to the group.
  7. When the meeting closes, gather all of the questions so that leadership has the opportunity to review them later and respond to important questions that weren’t covered during the meeting.

Strategy

As the group leader, you can conduct this game in different ways. One way is to ask the five questions back to back, with the players creating sticky notes for all five questions—WHO?, WHAT?, WHEN?, WHERE?, and HOW?—and then posting and clustering them during the first half of the meeting. After they’ve completed that part of the game, the players ask leadership to address the major clusters during the second half of the meeting. Another approach is to let leadership intersperse responses while the players tackle the header questions one at a time. There are benefits to both approaches.

The first approach allows the players to write questions uninterrupted by content from and reactions to leadership. It also allows leadership to save some time since they only technically need to attend the second half of the session. The second approach breaks up the flow a bit but will inevitably affect the types of questions the players ask since they’re getting information from leadership as they go. Choose what’s appropriate based on your knowledge of the group.

During the clustering part of the game, you may want to write emergent themes near each cluster to give leadership summaries of where their employees’ attention is. This is also helpful for the players to reinforce that they have shared concerns. The themes should be one- to three-word phrases summarizing the general content of the clusters. And as the meeting leader, encourage employees to make the most of this game since it presents an unusual opportunity for them to pose real, substantive questions directly to their company leaders.

This game is an adaptation of WHO WHAT WHEN WHERE and HOW from The Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making by Sam Kaner. In his book, Kamen notes that his use of this tool was inspired by an exercise called “Five W’s and H” in Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, Second Edition, by A. B. Van Gundy, Jr., p. 46.

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Give-And-Take Matrix

Object of Play

The goal of this game is to map out the motivations and interactions among actors in a system. The actors in this case may be as small-scale as individuals who need to work together to accomplish a task, or as large-scale as organizations brought together for a long-term purpose. A give-and-take matrix is a useful diagnostic tool, and helps players explore how value flows through the group.

Number of Players

Small group

Duration of Play

1 hour or more

How to Play

To begin, you will need a list of all the actors in the system. This may be prepared in advance or generated at the start of the exercise.

Using the list, create a matrix with the list of actors along both the horizontal and vertical axes.

Each cell in the matrix captures only one direction of the flow. For example, a supplier may give a certain value to a manufacturer, but a manufacturer will give a different value to the supplier. For consistency, the vertical axis can be considered the “from” and the horizontal axis the “to.”

  • Primary motivations: For each actor in the matrix, fill in “what they want” out of the system. This information goes along the diagonal, where the individual actors intersect with themselves. These should be brief phrases that describe a goal or reason the actor participates in the system.
  • Intersecting interests: The next step is to look at the intersections, and capture what value flows between the actors. Start with a single actor and work through each cell, asking “What can I offer you?”

For some intersection points, this will be easier to describe. In other cases, the matrix will expose previously unconnected actors and possibly those at odds with each other. The goal in completing the matrix is to find the most complete picture of how each actor can benefit all the others.

Strategy

Completing this matrix may involve research both before and after the initial mapping process. By using surveys or interviews, players may be able to explore and validate both the initial inputs and the intersecting interests.

Along with stakeholder analysis and boundary mapping, the Give-and-Take Matrix helps players explore and define the actors and interactions within a system.

The Give-and-Take Matrix is inspired by a number of techniques used in engineering, chemistry,and design.

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Make A World

Make a World by @benry

Object of Play

The Make a World game appeals to visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners because of its layers of interaction. It’s useful (and downright fun) because it lets players imagine the future and take action to create a first version of it. All successful ventures start with a vision and some small, initial effort toward crystallization. Alexander Graham Bell’s vision for the telephone started as highly rudimentary sketches. The purpose of Make a World is to create a three-dimensional model of a desired future state.

Number of Players

8–20

Duration of Play

45 minutes to 1.5 hours

How to Play

  1. Before the meeting, determine a meeting topic. It can be any topic that would benefit from the group advancing it to a desired future state (e.g., “Our new branch location in Austin” or “Our future marketing strategy”).
  2. Tell the players the meeting topic and give them access to flip-chart paper, markers,sticky notes, pipe cleaners, modeling clay, magazines, index cards, tape—any art supplies available to help them “make a world.”
  3. Break the players into groups of three or four and give them 10–15 minutes to agree on a shared vision to make into a three-dimensional world. Explain that the world can include people, scenes, buildings, products and features, and anything they deem necessary to show an idealized version of the topic.
  4. Give the players 20–30 minutes to brainstorm the attributes of the world and physically create it using art supplies.
  5. When the time is up, give the players five minutes to create a slogan or tag line to summarize their world.
  6. Have each group showcase their “Eden” and give the others insight into what it offers. Make note of any recurring themes or parallel features in these “fantasy lands.”

Strategy

Any desired state can be visualized. The game isn’t confined to creating 3D models of widgets or parks or products or real estate. The “world” that players create could be anew landscape for a video game, a happier and more aligned team, a globally distributed supply chain, and so forth. The challenge for each group will be in the process of ideating and creating without shutting out possibilities. Encourage them to be expansive in their thinking. In this game, players are limited only by their imaginations and their art supplies.

The title of this game was inspired by Ed Emberley’s book, Make a World.

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Mood Board

Mood Board

Object of Play

The object of this game is to create a poster or collage that captures the overall “feel” of an idea. The mood board may be used throughout development as a frame of reference or inspiration. It may be composed of visual or written artifacts—photos clipped from magazines, physical objects, color swatches, or anything that communicates the overall flow and feel of an idea.

Number of Players

1–10

Duration of Play

30 minutes to 2 hours

How to Play

Although mood boards are common in design disciplines, creating a mood board does not require professional expertise. Any group that is at the beginning of a project may benefit from creating a mood board; all they need is the raw material and the idea to interpret.

Gather visual material from stacks of magazines, the Web, or even corporate presentations.Everything else—scissors, tape, blank paper, and flip charts—can be found in most office supply closets. Bring the group together around the materials and the theme that they will be interpreting. Here are some to consider:

  • “Our Culture”
  • “Next Year”
  • “The New Product”

Small teams may co-create a single mood board from individual contributions; larger groups may interpret the theme separately and then share them with each other. It’s Important that every participant gets a chance to contribute elements to the board and to explain their imagery.

Strategy

When participants are selecting and contributing elements to a board they are best advised to do so “from the gut” and not to overly rationalize their choices. A mood board is an artifact that captures the “feel” of an idea, not a comprehensive description or a requirements document!

The game is complete when the board is complete, but the board should live on after the process. It is invaluable to keep the board visible and persistent throughout development.

Mood boards are a traditional design practice and are often a feature in the architectural practice called charette—an intense period of collaborative group design activity around a shared goal.

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The Blind Side

Object of Play

Every human being has blind spots and every company does, too. Knowledge openness can enhance businesses and relationships while knowledge blindness can make things unnecessarily more difficult. In other words, what we don’t know can hurt us. The military refers to this as “the fog of war.” The premise of this game, therefore, is to disclose and discover unknown information that can impact organizational and group success in any area of the company—management, planning, team performance, and so forth.

Number of Players

5–15

Duration of Play

30–45 minutes

How to Play

  1. Before the meeting, decide on a topic for discussion. Draw a large-scale profile of a person and draw four arrows coming out of the top of the head. Label those arrows “Know/Know”, “Know/Don’t Know”, “Don’t Know/Know”, and “Don’t Know/Don’t Know”.
  2. Give the players access to sticky notes and markers and tell them that the purpose of this game is to try to make explicit the knowledge they have, and the knowledge they don’t have but could use.
  3. Start with the Know/Know category. Elicit from the group all information about the topic that they know they know. This category should go quickly and should gener- ate a lot of content. Ask the players to write one bit of knowledge per sticky note and cluster them near the arrow pertaining to that category. (They’ll do this for each category.)
  4. Next, tackle Know/Don’t Know. This category will go less quickly than the first but should still generate plenty of content. Again, ask them to cluster the sticky notes near the related arrow.
  5. Move to Don’t Know/Know. This information could be skills people have that are currently not used to solve problems or untapped resources that have been forgotten.
  6. Last, move to Don’t Know/Don’t Know. The group will be stopped here, possibly indefinitely. This category is where discovery and shared exploration take place. Ask the players provocative questions: What does this team know that your team doesn’t know it doesn’t know? How can you find out what you don’t know you don’t know?
  7. Ask the group what they can do to proactively address the distinct challenges of each category. Discuss insights and “aha’s”. Even if the players’ only revelation is that they have blind spots, this in itself can be a fruitful discovery.

Strategy

This game works best with a familiar team when the participants cross disciplines and responsibilities. Having a diverse group enhances the feedback loop for the Don’t Know categories, which are where the players are going to get stuck. They’ll be confident about what they know—and even about what they know they don’t know—but without an outside perspective, it’s next to impossible to declare what we don’t know we don’t know. The nature of this question warrants discussion and the solicitation of others’ observations.

Because this game has an obvious trust-building component, start by sharing easy information and move toward more substantive information depending on the players’ comfort level. Keep the group on business- or project-related topics and away from personal evaluations. Although The Blind Side can be used as a psychological assessment, the self-help applications of this game should be conducted outside the business setting, unless you’re dealing with the rare group that’s into that.

The Blind Side is inspired by and adapted from the Johari Window, a communication model developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham.

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4Cs

Object of Play

Simple information-splicing games come in handy because, in an intentional way, they disrupt the standard ways we break down topics. The 4Cs game is a quick way to gather and organize information about any subject using four common key concepts.

Number of Players

5–20

Duration of Play

30 minutes to 1 hour

How to Play

1. Before the meeting, decide on a topic you want the players to explore and draw a 2×2 matrix in a large white space in the meeting room.

2. Write the following categories in each box of the matrix: “Components”, “Characteristics”, “Characters”, and “Challenges”. Then, draw something that represents each category.

3. Tell the players that this game is about exploring and sharing what they know about the topic based on the 4Cs. Define the terms of each “C”:

• Components are parts of the topic. For example, a component of a social commerce strategy might be responsive tweets. Components of a distribution channel might be 18-wheelers.

• Characteristics are features of the topic. For example, speed of response is a characteristic of a social commerce strategy. A characteristic of an 18 wheeler might be an inefficient use of fuel.

• Challenges are obstacles associated with the topic.

• Characters are people associated with the topic.

You don’t have to use four “Cs” to conduct this game. You can be creative with other letters that are company or team-specific. Use four “Ds” to create your matrix and name them “Discover”, “Design”, “Damage”, and “Deliver”. Just make sure the categories you create will give you a meaningful way to look at a topic of interest.

4. Divide the group into four teams of roughly equal size. (A group of 5–7 people can work as one team.) Give them access to sticky notes and markers.

5. Assign a different “C” to each team and tell them their goal is to collect information about that “C”, specific to the topic. Tell them they’ll have three minutes to plan an information-gathering strategy, five minutes to collect the information, and three minutes to analyze and organize it. Also explain that they should collect information from as many people in the room as possible.

6. Announce the start of the planning period, and let the teams converse with one another. At the end of three minutes, call time.

7. Tell the players they can use their sticky notes and markers, then kick off the fiveminute information-gathering stage and stay out of the way. This stage of the game involves a lot of interviewing and moving around the room. Tell the players when the five minutes are up.

8. Start the three-minute information-analysis stage. In this stage, the players should analyze their data, organize it in a meaningful way, and post the contents in the matrix on the wall.

9. Close the game by asking for volunteers to present their group’s findings. After each group presents, ask clarifying questions (Is there anything missing? Do these items mean the same thing?), and encourage the others to reflect on and add more information. You can also ask players if they want to share thoughts on their team’s information-gathering process—to discuss what worked and what could have worked better.

Strategy

The 4Cs is deliberately quick (and slightly chaotic) to avoid a situation in which people simply list information about what they know related to the topic. In this game, the players gathering information may already have a lot of detail about the topic, but they’ll inevitably learn something new through the process of interviewing others. Interviewing allows people who may not interact much the opportunity to do so. Because the time is short, they won’t dive into a substantive conversation; nevertheless, the chances are higher that someone will take away new content or a new perspective based on an interview.

Avoid shortchanging the closing activity, even though it may be tempting to give the group more time to gather and analyze their content (and some of them will request it). The last stage of the game is important to spend time on because it allows the group to reflect on the content together, as a sort of group mind. If the meeting is based on a familiar topic, there will likely be many players who think they have a corner on information around it, so it’s important to discuss the 4Cs as a whole group. It exposes more ground to more people and invites a discussion that can bring new life to old content.

The 4Cs is based on the same-named activity written by Matthew Richter in the March 2004 publication of the Thiagi GameLetter.

 

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Making The Game Come Alive

The most exciting thing about gamestorming is the creativity it allows me. I’m essentially freed to create an experience perfectly suited for my audience. Because while the games the folks at Xplane have created are effective, they are still just “old standards.” They are like Monopoly® or Scrabble®. Everyone can play and everyone can enjoy. But when a game is created specifically for a situation or an audience, it can be truly magical and memorable

Recently I went to run a gamestorm for a friend. After years at an agency he helped found, he allowed his partner to buy him out and was now questing for the 2.0 of his career. So while many of the suggested games may have worked, the personal nature of his need to uncover his true passion and brand demanded something more.

Now this friend is also a musician. Okay, let’s face it — He’s an old hippie musician. He used to play in bands in the 70s, still shreds a mean guitar and quotes lyrics from America and stuff. So I knew that a game involving music would both intrigue and inspire him.

But music was just a mechanic. The game still needed structure. That’s when the idea of creating a game structured around a comeback album came to me.

Just like when creating songs, we would start out with what inspired us. We’d stay focused on business, but we’d talk about both our personal and professional inspirations. And from that we would derive the basis of song ideas or “riffs”. Then we’d group these elements into “chords” (artifacts), arrange our chords into “progressions” (nodes), create  “songs” (pattern recognition and door closing) and then identify our formula for a hit song (end game or goal).

Here’s a glimpse of the game we worked from:

The Comeback Album of The Decade Game

Object:

Famous rockstar agency principle and creative god, [redacted], has had a long and distinguished career in the classic rock powerhouse group, [redacted]. Now he finds himself out on his own ready to recast himself into the next chapter of his career. He’s in the planning stages of his big comeback album and we need to help.

The game will be broken into five distinct parts.

  • We will determine what riffs we want to hit (one hour)
  • We will establish “chords” for those life notes (half hour)
  • We will arrange the “chords” into hot progressions (half hour)
  • We will play with possible “songs” (half hour)
  • We will identify our formula for “hit” songs (half hour + after game assessment)

Part I:

Finding our Riffs: We put on post-up’s everything that we love in life and in marketing, whether we have done it or not. These will form our riffs for the song. This is beyond expertise. This is about the expanse of what we want stand for in life and work. (60 min)

Part II:

Next we will group the ideas into common themes and see what initial patterns are observed. We will also identify outliers and eliminate them from the discussion. Then once grouped, major idea groups will be assigned major power chords, while supporting idea groups will get minor chords. (30 min)

Part III:

Next we will arrange our chords into logical progressions and test to make sure that the chords work well together. As a mnemonic we will use actual guitars to test the chords and make sure the progressions make sense musically and make adjustments as necessary. (30 min)

Part IV:

We will then take items from each grouping to form our songs, mixing and matching across each progression to understand how each progression works and what it means to the song as a whole. Guitars may be used to play our songs. We will then test how one progression leads to the next and arrange the progressions in order of importance or impact. (30 min)

Part V:

We will finally have our discussions to start closing off the loops and identifying what is working best in an attempt to create our hit formula. Will use star-shaped post its to boil down the intent of each progression into an even simpler idea. The result being the “anthem” or brand essence of this new band will be. (30 min + after-session assessment)

Out of respect for privacy, I won’t share many details about how the game ran. But I can tell you that the day was a phenomenal success.

Using off-the-shelf post-up notes, post-up letters (to represent the chords), markers, star-shaped post-ups (to indicate our “hits”) and guitars, we were able to set aside the concerns of what he should be doing and get focused on what he should be feeling. In fact, the biggest patterns that emerged had nothing to do with the services he wished to offer. Instead, we found themes about ethics and employee relations that defined his personal fulfillment as coming more from being a leader than a doer.

Now I don’t want to fool you here. This game did not run perfectly. It was the first time I ran it and I changed plenty on the fly to keep it fresh and alive. When running a new game you have to expect things not to work. It also felt like there was a dead spot during the song writing because my own energy was flagging. (Note to self: afternoon pot of coffee and maybe skip lunch.)

But ultimately the game’s success is determined by the players enjoyment, not the game master’s sense of accomplishment. And on that front, it was a raving success. My friend could not tear his eyes off the wall. He wanted to keep it up for a few weeks just to contemplate it. And after I wrote my assessment and emailed it to him, I could see why. There was real direction hiding there in terms of what his next steps should be.

I also learned a valuable lesson about gamestorming. Since the concept was developed by artists, the examples of play given in the book lean toward the visual. But there are all kinds of games. And in our case, the game was auditory.

During our game there was a lot of repeating themes out loud and listening to them in musical form. The visual was still present, but the game was designed to stimulate the ears. And the resulting insights were things that needed to be said, rather than seen.

For me, this understanding of game structure helps me understand that there are five senses present with any player. Taking advantage of these senses in game structure and leveraging the most applicable ones, will always make the game more relevant and memorable.

Bob Knorpp is a marketing and advertising strategist. He is host of Ad Age Outlook and The BeanCast Marketing Podcast.

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Object Brainstorm

IMG_0096

Object of Play

Objects play a special role in brainstorming. A tangible object helps externalize the thought process, just as sketching or role play does, but often in a more immediate and concrete way. Because objects suggest stories about how they might be used, they make a great starting point for free association and exploration.

Number of Players

Any

Duration of Play

30 minutes or more

How to Play

Before you can play, you will need to hunt down a collection of objects. Nominate yourself as the curator of your collection. It’s worth considering what kind of investment you want to make. Although a trip to a second-hand store to find interesting (and cheap) items is a good start, if you are expecting to make a habit out of the exercise it may be worth the time and expense to look for items more broadly.

Although you will find your own criteria for your collection, one rule of thumb is to collect “things that do things.” Functional objects can offer more inspiration. Other things may make it into the collection based on their characteristics or personality, or simply because they are “fun.” Here are some types of objects to consider collecting:

• Kitchen gadgets

• Hand tools

• Instruction manuals

• Functional packaging and dispensers

• Containers and compartments

• Sports equipment

• Toys and games

A good collection will evolve over time, and a good curator will get others involved in contributing to the cache of items.

Object brainstorming starts with a question, such as “How will the next generation of [fill-in-the-blank] work?” This question may ask participants to reimagine an existing product or invent something new.

1. Direct the group to explore the objects and to take some time to play with them.  The objects may inspire participants to think about how a new thing could function, or how it could look or feel. The long, hinged mouth of a stapler may suggest a new way to bend and fasten steel. A telescoping curtain rod might inspire thinking about a collapsible bicycle. Likewise, an object’s personality, such as a rugged toolbox, might suggest how a laptop might be designed. Most objects explain themselves, and the results can be very intuitive; participants are likely to stumble on fully formed ideas.

2. After a set amount of time, the participants share their ideas, document them, and decide on next steps. This may be as simple as voting on an idea to pursue in more detail, or it may mean moving into another brainstorming exercise.

Strategy

One choice to make before an object brainstorm is whether to use a set of items or a single item. This changes the depth of focus: a group presented with a set will branch into a wider path of ideas, whereas a group presented with one item is “forced” into a deeper study of the object and associations from it, along the lines of random inputs or forced analogy. Try to use a set of items for larger groups and more divergent brainstorming, and a single item for smaller groups and more focused inquiry.

The source for the Object Brainstorm game is unknown.