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Context Map

CAD Environmental Scan

Object of Play
We don’t truly have a good grasp of a situation until we see it in a fuller context. The Context Map is designed to show us the external factors, trends, and forces at work surrounding an organization. Because once we have a systemic view of the external environment we’re in, we are better equipped to respond proactively to that landscape.

Number of Players: 5–25

Duration of Play: 45 minutes to 1.5 hours



Context Map, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

How to Play
1. Hang six sheets of flip-chart paper on a wall in a two-row, three-column format.

2. On the top-middle sheet of flip-chart paper, draw a representation of the organization under discussion. It can be as simple as an image of your office building or an image of a globe to represent a global marketplace. Label the picture or scene.

3. On the same sheet of paper, above and to the left of the image, write the words “POLITICAL FACTORS”. Above and to the right, write the words “ECONOMIC CLIMATE”.

4. On the top-left sheet of flip-chart paper, draw several large arrows pointing to the right. Label this sheet “TRENDS”. Include a blank before the word TRENDS so that you can add a qualifier later.

5. On the top-right sheet of flip-chart paper, draw several large arrows pointing to the left. Label this sheet “TRENDS”. Again, include a blank before the word TRENDS so that you can add a qualifier later.

6. On the bottom-left sheet, draw large arrows pointing up and to the right. Label this sheet “TECHNOLOGY FACTORS”.

7. On the bottom-middle sheet, draw an image representing your client(s) and label the sheet “CUSTOMER NEEDS”.

8. On the bottom-right sheet, draw a thundercloud or a person with a question mark overhead and label this sheet “UNCERTAINTIES”.

9. Introduce the context map to the group. Explain that the goal of populating the map is to get a sense of the big picture in which your organization operates. Ask the players which category on the map they’d like to discuss first, other than TRENDS. Open up the category they select for comments and discussion. Write the comments they verbalize in the space created for that category.

10. Based on an indication from the group or your own sense of direction, move to another category and ask the group to offer ideas for that category. Continue populating the map with content until every category but TRENDS is filled in.

11. The two TRENDS categories can be qualified by the group, so take a quick poll to determine what kinds of trends the players would like to discuss. These could be online trends, demographic trends, growth trends, and so forth. As you help the players find agreement on qualifiers for the trends (conduct a dot vote or have them raise their hands if you need to), write those qualifiers in the blanks next to TRENDS. Then continue the process of requesting content and writing it in the appropriate space.

12. Summarize the overall findings with the group and ask for observations, insights, “aha’s,” and concerns about the context map.

Strategy
It’s up to the players to paint a picture of the environment in which they sit, but as the meeting leader, you can help them generate content by asking intelligent and thoughtprovoking questions. Conduct research or employee interviews before the meeting if you need to. The idea is to portray a context that is as rich and accurate as possible so that the players gain insight into their environment and can subsequently move proactively rather than reactively. The players can populate the categories other than TRENDS on the context map in any order, so note their starting point and pay attention to where they focus or generate the most content—both can indicate where their energy lies. But keep in mind that this activity is designed to generate a display of the external environment, not the internal one. So, if you notice that the discussion steers toward analyzing the internal context, guide them back to the outside world. There are other games for internal dynamics. The Context Map game should result in a holistic view of the external business landscape and show the group where they can focus their efforts to get strategic results.

This game is based on The Grove Consultants International’s Leader’s Guide to Accompany the Context Map Graphic Guide® ©1996–2010 The Grove.

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Brainwriting

Geneva workshop

Object of Play
Some of the best ideas are compilations from multiple contributors. Brainwriting is a simple way to generate ideas, share them, and subsequently build on them within a group. Access to multiple hands, eyes, and minds can yield the most interesting results.

Number of Players: 5–15

Duration of Play: 30–45 minutes

How to Play
1. In a space visible to the players, write the topic around which you need to generate ideas and draw a picture of it. An example of a topic might be “Employee Recognition Program.”

2. Distribute index cards to each player and ask them to silently generate ideas related to the topic and write them on the cards.

3. As they complete each idea, ask the players to pass that idea to the person on their right.

4. Tell the players to read the card they received and think of it as an “idea stimulation” card. Ask them to add an idea inspired by what they just read or to enhance the idea and then pass again to their right.

5. Continue this process of “brainwriting” and passing cards to the right until there are various ideas on each card.

Optional activity: Ask the players to write an idea on a piece of paper and then fold it into an airplane and fly it to another participant. Continue writing and flying the planes until each piece of paper has several ideas. Conclude with steps 6 and 7.

6. Once finished, collect the cards and ask for help taping them to the wall around the topic and its picture.

7. Have the group come to the wall to review the ideas and draw stars next to the ones they find most compelling. Discuss.

Optional activity: Create an idea gallery in the room using flip-chart pads and stands. Ask players to write as many ideas on the sheet as they can and then wander around the room and add ideas to the other sheets. Continue this process until each sheet has a good number of ideas.

Strategy
In a typical group setting, extroverts tend to dominate the verbal contributions. And while their contributions are certainly important, it can be difficult to hear from quieter players who also have something valuable to offer. Let the players know that this play is intentionally silent. It affords the quiet people the opportunity to generate ideas without having to verbalize to the whole group, and it gives you certainty that you’ll hear from every player in the room.

Brainwriting also allows ideas to emerge before being critiqued and creates a space for them to be co-created, with multiple owners, and therefore a greater chance of follow-through.

The Brainwriting game is based on the same-named activity in Michael Michalko’s Thinkertoys. Horst Geschke and associates at the Batelle Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, developed a variety of these creative-thinking techniques referred to as “brainwriting.”

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The Anti-Problem

IMG_2574

Object of Play
The Anti-Problem game helps people get unstuck when they are at their wit’s end. It is most useful when a team is already working on a problem, but they’re running out of ideas for solutions. By asking players to identify ways to solve the problem opposite to their current problem, it becomes easier to see where a current solution might be going astray or where an obvious solution isn’t being applied.

Number of Players: 5–20

Duration of Play: 30–45 minutes

How to Play
1. Before the meeting, find a situation that needs to be resolved or a problem that needs a solution.

2. Give players access to sticky notes, markers, index cards, pipe cleaners, modeling clay—any supplies you have around the office that they could use to design and describe solutions.

3. Break large groups into smaller groups of three to four people and describe what they’ll tackle together: the anti-problem, or the current problem’s opposite. (For example, if the problem is sales conversion, the players would brainstorm ways to get customers to avoid buying the product.) The more extreme the problem’s opposite, the better.

Optional activity: Bring a list of smaller problems and decrease the amount of time allotted to solve them. Make it a race to come up with as many solutions as the group can churn out—even if they’re outlandish.

4. Give the players 15–20 minutes to generate and display various ways to solve the anti-problem. Encourage fast responses and a volume of ideas. There are no wrong solutions.

5. When the time is up, ask each group to share their solutions to the anti-problem. They should stand and display any visual creations they have at this time or ask the others to gather around their table to see their solutions.

6. Discuss any insights and discoveries the players have.

Strategy
This game’s purpose is to help teams evaluate a problem differently and break out of existing patterns, so make the anti-problem more extreme than it really is, just to get people thinking. And don’t worry if the players don’t generate many (or any) viable or actionable solutions. Obviously, those would be a boon to the game, but the intention is not to eliminate a complex problem in 30 minutes. The intention is to give people a new approach that can lead to a solution when they have time to think after the meeting is over. Or, since this game tends to naturally segue into a conversation about the real problem, you could use any extra time to start that conversation while the players’ ideas are ignited. Note: there may be some unexpected “aha moments” as people could discover that they’re applying a solution that’s actually contributing to the current problem. Whoops!

The Anti-Problem game is based on an activity called Reverse It, from Donna Spencer’s design games website, http://www.designgames.com.au.

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3-12-3 Brainstorm

Enrique writing

Object of Play
This format for brainstorming compresses the essentials of an ideation session into one short format. The numbers 3-12-3 refer to the amount of time in minutes given to each of three activities: 3 minutes for generating a pool of observations, 12 for combining those observations into rough concepts, and 3 again for presenting the concepts back to a group.

Essential to this format is strict time keeping. The “ticking clock” forces spontaneous, quick-fire decisions and doesn’t allow for overthinking. With this in mind, a group that is typically heavily measured in its thought process will benefit the most from this exercise but will also be the hardest to engage. Given its short duration (30 minutes total for 10 participants), 3-12-3 Brainstorming can be used as an energizer before diving into a longer exercise or as a standalone, zero-prep activity. It works equally well in generating new ideas as improvements to existing ones.

Number of Players
This is a fast exercise that gets slower as more participants are added. With up to 10 participants working as partners, the speed of the exercise makes it an energy builder. Working beyond 10 may require creating groups of three instead of pairs to keep from getting slowed down.

Duration of Play: 21–30 minutes, depending on number of participants

How to Play
You will need a topic on which to brainstorm ideas, boiled down to two words. This could be an existing problem, such as “energy efficiency,” or it could be focused on creating something new, such as “tomorrow’s television.” Although the two words could be presented as a full challenge question, such as “How
will tomorrow’s television work?” it is best to avoid doing this right away. By focusing on two words that signify the topic, you will aim to evoke thinking about its defining aspects first, before moving into new concepts or proposing solutions.

To set up the game, distribute a stack of index cards and markers to all the participants. Everyone should have a fair number of cards available. The game should begin immediately after the rules have been explained.

  • 3 Minutes: Generate a Pool of Aspects. For the first three minutes of the exercise, participants are asked to think about the characteristics of the topic at hand and to write down as many of them as they can on separate index cards. It may accelerate the group’s process to think in terms of “nouns and verbs” that come to mind when thinking about the subject, or to free-associate. As in all brainstorming, no filtering should be put on this phase, in which the goal is a large pool of aspects in a small window of three minutes.
  • 12 Minutes: Develop Concepts. At this point the group is divided into pairs. Each team draws three cards randomly from the pool. With these as thought starters, the teams now have 12 minutes to develop a concept to present back to the larger group. If the two topic words are sufficient to explain the challenge, the clock starts and the teams begin. If there is any doubt, reveal a more fleshed-out version of the topic’s focus, such as “How will we become more energy-efficient next quarter?” In developing concepts to present, teams may create rough sketches, prototypes, or other media—the key is in preparing for a short (three-minute maximum) presentation of their concept back to the group.
  • 3 Minutes: Make Presentations. When presenting to the larger group, teams may reveal the cards that they drew and how the cards influenced their thinking. Again, tight time keeping is critical here—every team should have a maximum of three minutes to present their concept. After every team has presented, the entire group may reflect on what was uncovered.
  • Strategy
    Speed is key. Many traditional brainstorming techniques can be slowed down or fouled entirely when time is not of the essence, despite the best intentions of participants. Additionally, speed helps prove the value of what can be accomplished in short bursts—often the important aspects of good ideas can be captured very quickly and do not require laborious discussion before first coming to light.

    After presenting concepts back to the group, teams may do a number of things. They may dig deeper on an individual concept or try to integrate the ideas into each other. They may vote or rank the concepts to decide on which to spend more time developing. Often, concepts coming out of this exercise are more memorable to the participants, who are bonded in the time-driven stress of creating together.

    The 3-12-3 Brainstorm game is credited to James Macanufo.

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    Storyboard



    VTS, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

    Object of Play
    This game asks players to envision and describe an ideal future in sequence using words and pictures. Storyboarding as a technique is so versatile that it can be used to show any topic, not just an ideal future. But it is particularly powerful as a visioning exercise since it allows players to imagine and create possibilities. The players tell a story with a happy ending, planting tiny seeds for a different future. You can also use storyboarding to let employees describe their experience on a project, to show approaches to solving a problem, or to orient new employees on policies and procedures—its uses are limited only by the imagination.

    Number of Players: 8–20

    Duration of Play: 45 minutes to 1.5 hours

    How to Play
    Before the meeting, determine the topic around which the players will craft their “ideal” story. Once the meeting starts, divide the group into pairs or groups of three or four, depending on the size of the group. Provide markers, pads of flip-chart paper, and stands.

    1. Tell the players that the purpose of this game is to tell the other players a feel-good story. The topic of the story is “The Ideal Future for [blank]”—for a team, a product, the company, whatever you decided beforehand. The players’ assignment is to visually describe the topic and narrate it to the group.

    2. After the groups are established, give them 20–25 minutes to (1) agree on an ideal state, (2) determine what steps they would take to get there, and (3) draw each step as a sequence of large images or scenes, one per sheet of flip-chart paper.

    3. Give the players a two-minute time warning, and once the time is up, bring them back together. Ask for volunteers to tell the story first.

    4. After all the groups have presented, ask them what’s inspiring in what they heard. Summarize any recurring themes and ask for observations, insights, and “aha’s” about the stories.

    Visualization
    Alternative: Have individuals draw their storyboard images on large stickies.

    Strategy
    As the leader of this game, be sensitive to the fact that many of the meeting participants will freak when you tell them that large-scale drawing is involved. Reassure them that the story is the point of the exercise and that the images play a supporting role. They can use words as captions to clarify the images and they can also select the “artist” within their group so that not everyone has to put marker to paper. (But it’s more fun for those who do.) Finally, remind them that they aren’t allotted sufficient time to create a da Vinci anyway, so stick figures work perfectly well.

    For the presentation format, there are various options. Breakout groups can post each sheet of flip-chart paper in a row around the room and walk along the row as they tell the story. They can also leave the flip-chart pad intact and flip the pages over the stand as they narrate. They could choose to hang the sheets in rows and cover them, using one group member to act as a “Vanna White” and create a series of voilà moments. Tell them to have fun with it—they won’t be graded on their stories (although you could make it a contest if it’s that kind of crowd). The process of creating and sharing the stories is what matters.

    Walt Disney is credited for this activity. His need to animate Steamboat Willie in 1928 led to the process of storyboarding—a story told in sequence on a wall covered with a special kind of board. He found it to be an effective way to track progress and improve a story.

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    Post-Up

    Post-up, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

    Object of Play
    The goal of this game is to generate ideas with silent sticky note writing.

    Number of Players: 1–50

    Duration of Play: 10 minutes to 1 hour

    How to Play
    There are many ways to work with ideas using sticky notes. Generating ideas is the most basic play, and it starts with a question that your group will be brainstorming answers to. For example: “What are possible uses for Product X?” Write the question or topic on a whiteboard. Ask the group to brainstorm answers individually, silently writing their ideas on separate sticky notes. The silence lets people think without interruption, and putting items on separate notes ensures that they can later be shuffled and sorted as distinct thoughts. After a set amount of time, ask the members of the group to stick their notes to the whiteboard and quickly present them. If anyone’s items inspire others to write more, they can stick those up on the wall too, after everyone has presented.

    Harry Brignall at the 90% of Everything blog makes a great suggestion:

    When doing a post-up activity with sticky notes in a workshop, you may want to use the FOG method: mark each note with F (fact), O (opinion) or G (guess). It’s such a simple thing to do, but it adds a great deal of clarity to the decision-making process.

    Strategy
    Generating ideas is an opening activity, and a first step. From here you can create an Affinity Map or further organize and prioritize the thoughts, for example using Forced Ranking.

    The Post-Up game is based on the exercises in Rapid Problem-Solving with Post-it® Notes
    by David Straker.

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    Bodystorming

    Bodystorming the future of news

    Object of Play
    Bodystorming is simply brainstorming, but done with the body. It may look different depending on the preparations and location, but in the end all bodystorming is fundamentally about one thing: getting people to figure things out by trying things out. A group may explore one of the techniques described below to get their feet wet with bodystorming. They may move through them in order, from observing and learning to ideation and prototyping, although this is not a strict sequence. Each level of bodystorming will help break the pattern of analyzing ideas around a conference table and get people closer to developing things that will work in the real world.

    How to Play
    Bodystorming takes place in three phases.

    Level 1: Go Observe
    Go to the location to do your work. If you are developing an idea for a coffee shop, or a shopping mall, or a hospital, go there and do your work as you would normally. The environment will present idea cues and authentic information that would never emerge from conference room brainstorming. For example, say a group is charged with improving the student experience on a college campus. Although they may conduct interviews or other research, they may start by
    going to a few campus locations and “blending in” with the surroundings while going about their usual work. It’s important that the group not zero in on any specific analysis so that they will be open to the cues that the environment presents.

    Level 2: Try It Out
    Use role play and props to develop an idea. In this exercise, a group physically “acts out” an experience by using whatever they have on hand or can acquire. The group focuses on how they interact with each other, their surroundings, and makeshift artifacts, testing existing ideas and uncovering new ones. For example, say a small group is asked to “reimagine the evening news.” Using each other as the actors, the audience, the news anchors, and the television itself, they improvise a script that plays out the experience as they conceive it could be.

    1. Identify and assign critical roles. For any experience, identifying the “customer” or “user” role is a good way to get started. This participant (or group of participants) becomes the focal point and main character of the bodystorm. Other critical roles will present themselves. “Who wants to be the Internet?” is not an uncommon question to hear.

    2. Improvise the experience. Bodystorming is physical and progressive: as the group starts to put their thoughts into action, they will naturally ask simple and important questions by acting them out, often leading to the unexpected. For example, in the evening news scenario:

    “OK, so how do you watch the evening news?”
    “I don’t have a television. Also, I’m usually out jogging.”
    “Oh. Do you have your phone on you?”
    “Always. I’m listening to music.”
    “OK, what if this happened… who wants to play the phone?”

    In a completely improvised scenario, the group should keep in mind the principal rule of the game: building on each other’s inputs. “Yes, and…” will generate
    more progress than “Yeah, but…” thinking. In some uses of bodystorming, a group will act out a script prepared in advance. In these cases, an equal amount of planning in props to build an environment is key. For example, if it’s a coffee shop, set up the counter and chairs. If it’s a park or outdoor area, strongly consider going there.

    The BetaCup Bodystorming Session – Overlap 09 from the betacup on Vimeo.

    Level 3: Reflect on What Happens, and Why
    By enacting the experience, the participants will naturally explore new possibilities, and uncover flaws or assumptions about how an idea could work. This is valuable both in the process itself and afterward: by documenting the exercise on video, the participants may later “watch the reel” to discuss key points.

    Strategy
    Choose the right level of bodystorming at the right time for the group. Because bodystorming asks participants to take a big step away from the typical conference table mode of thinking, they may need to get comfortable with more structured sessions first, armed with scripts and specific roles, before stepping into complete improv. In all cases, the exercise itself will be more memorable than the customary problem-solving session, and will help generate empathy that comes from “embodying” the experience.

    The term “bodystorming” was coined by Colin Burns at CHI ’94 In Boston, Massachusetts.

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    Party Invitations

    This game is credited to Cyd Harrell and has been used by Bolt Peters in several client brainstorming meetings.

    Objective of play: Improve the onboarding process of a product or service.

    Number of players: 5-30
    Duration of play: 30-60 minutes

    How to play:

    1. Everyone is handed a piece of paper and a marker.
    2. Participants are asked to imagine that the product/service being designed is a party or event and to create an invitation.
    3. Invitations should be as detailed and realistic as possible — they might include an inviting statement (“Join us for…”), what to bring, what the host (company) will provide, time, dress code, directions, RSVP info, and any other information guests might need to enjoy the party. It could also be done in the form of a Who, What, Where, When, Why invitation.
    4. Participants are encouraged to refine their invitations in multiple iterations. Allow at least 10-15 minutes for invitation writing.
    5. Once everyone has completed their invitations, the facilitator calls for ideas on each element of an invitation in turn:
      • What did you call the party?
      • Did anybody have a dress code?
      • What did you say about refreshments?
      • What do guests need to bring?
      • What is the party actually for?
      • How will guests get there?
    6. Next, participants read through their invitations in turn. The facilitator takes notes and posts the themes on a white board.
    7. After everyone has presented, participants jointly narrow and refine the ideas, keeping in mind things like:
      • What metaphors have emerged? How might they contribute to ideas for the onboarding experience?
      • Which elements are crucial to the invitation?
      • Which ideas represent the right feel for the brand and offering?
    8. Finally, the facilitator engages the group in sketching or another idea generation process to implement the refined invitation as a draft of the onboarding process.
    An example party invitation.

    Strategy:
    This is essentially a metaphor-generation game that allows participants to imagine how they want to engage their audience. Detail is good, and players who go whole-hog with imagining their party as anything from a white-tie gala to a potluck are likely to be successful as long as they carry it through. Interesting discussions will ensue when participants go for different versions — are we a come as you are party or do we have a festive dress code? Must you RSVP or can you just show up?

    Why invitations?
    At
    Bolt Peters, we often think of successful technology products as being more than just friendly. They are literally inviting — asking their audience to use them, rewarding them when they do, and asking again for higher levels of use and engagement. When deploying a conversion funnel, especially for gradual engagement, an enticing and escalating invitation is a critical piece of the puzzle.

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    Air Time Mastermind

    Air Time Mastermind with Maverick Business Adventures members


    Object of play:

    Brainstorm multiple solution and answers to participants pressing problems…while feeling like a 7-year old again.

    Number of players: 10-50

    Duration of play: 30 minutes – 1.5 hours

    How to play:

    1.    Everyone is handed a piece of construction paper.
    2.    At the top of one side, participants are asked to write their biggest, most pressing problem the group can assist with and then their name on the reverse side.
    3.    Ask participants to be as specific as possible with the question. (i.e. “What low or no-cost ways can I increase referrals for my service business?”)
    4.    Make sure participants leave enough space below their question for multiple answers.
    5.    Have people start folding their paper airplane with the question ending up the inside of the folds.
    6.    Recommend each person decorate their plane individually to be able to find it later on.
    7.    Once everyone has completed their airplanes it’s time to fly! Have everyone stand up and toss their planes into the wild blue yonder!
    8.    Each participant grabs an airplane that doesn’t belong to them and unfolds it.
    9.    Next, participants read through the question inside the airplane and provide their best answer. Make sure participants place their name or initials (for smaller groups) next to their response.
    10.    Allow 3 minutes for answers and then call time.
    11.    Participants (hopefully) re-fold their paper airplane and re-launch them.
    12.    The cycle repeats for as many rounds as time available or until someone pokes an eye out.
    13.    If a participant gets the same airplane twice they should switch with a neighbor.
    14.    At the end of the flying time – each participant retrieves their winged worksheet.
    15.    Facilitator asks for volunteers or selects individuals to present questions that have universal appeal to the audience and start group discussion.
    16.    (Optional) Silly prizes given for best flying plane, sorriest looking plane, best design, etc.

    Strategy:
    Questions dictate your answers and getting answers from an assortment from different people gives participants another vantage point to their ideal solution. Also, instead of a group setting, some quieter participants with good ideas are now ‘heard’ since they have introspective time to come up with responses. What’s more, since everyone has signed their name or initials to their answer, participants will naturally engage in private conversations later on.

    Refinement:
    You can customize the game based on a particular meeting theme. Recently for a Maverick World Cup adventure & business excursion, we used inflatable soccer balls and had participants tape index cards to the soccer ball before kicking them. We called the game “Kickin’ It!” (Like kicking their biggest business problem.)

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    Video Card Family Game

    Video capture

    Object of Play:  Co-create products or services using design insights gained from collaborative analysis of key frames of peoples’ activities from video clips recorded during ethnographic field work.

     Number of Players: 6 – 12

     Duration of Play: 7 – 8 hours

    Required Resources: The Video Card Family Game requires use of a video camera (perhaps a smartphone), video editing software, graphics software, desktop publishing software, index card printing stock paper, and a printer (preferably color).

     Preparing to Play: The Video Card Family Game is a research technique useful in promoting collaboration among design team members and people engaged in the front-end design process. It uses video recording as a visualization resource for ethnographic fieldwork, especially participant observation among stakeholders (typically a product innovation team) and people who will use the product or service. The preparation time depends on the nature of the project as well as the logistics of the field work.

    Ethnographic field work, in the simplest terms, means going to where the people of interest gather to share in their experience and analyze it. Designers use participant observation to co-create insights for product and service design by experiencing the peoples’ activities involved, such as working in their own context, or staging an environment in which people perform the activities of interest using mock-ups or prototypes.

    1. To prepare for the Video Card Family Game, the facilitator edits the video into segments of no more than two minutes each. The importance of participant observation comes into play during the selection of video segments. Participant observers select video segments using insights about what is significant that they gained during the field work.

    Note: It is important to select video segments in which actions, rather than conversations, are primarily occurring. You want, predominantly, to see what people do rather than hear what they say they do. In other words, focus on video where people are involved in physical action.

    2. Save each video segment with a unique file name.

     3. Select a key frame from each video segment and give it a unique identifier.

     4. Create a video card by copying the key frame for each segment and pasting it into two corresponding index cards in your stock paper template. Give both cards the same title. Number both cards with the same unique identifier. Leave a comment area either below, or beside, the picture depending on how you layout the index cards.

    Note: The image from the key frame may need resizing in a graphics editor before pasting it onto the index card stock paper template. You paste the image on two index cards to produce duplicate video cards.

    5. Print  the duplicate video cards and place each in a separate stack.

     6. Repeat steps 2-5 for each video segment.

    Note: The number of video cards created from the two-minute segments provides a degree of objectivity in the selection process. Ideally, each game player receives a stack of 10 video cards.

    How to Play:

     (Allocate one hour for Steps 1 – 5 of playing the game)

    1. Explain the rules of the game by providing a synopsis of steps 2 – 10 in the game play.

    2. Provide players with instructional guidance on the difference between observing action in video and interpreting action.

    Note: Observations come from descriptions of who is engaged in the action, what they are doing, where they are doing it, when they do it, and how they do. Interpretations involve assertions about why particular people do what they do when and where they do it. At times though, how they do it applies to interpretation when it relates to why the action occurs.

    3. Group the players into pairs and provide each group with duplicate stacks of video cards.

    4. Play the video segments corresponding to each video card in the duplicate stacks provided to each pair of players.

    Note: Instruct the game players in each group to review the video segments in their group but not to discuss them with their partner.

    5. Ask players in each group to take observational notes regarding what happens in the video segment corresponding to a video card. The idea here is for each player to personalize their video cards through writing notes on them, making them tangible research artifacts to handle and use in design discussions.

    (Allocate 30 minutes for Step 6)

    6. Ask each pair of players to discuss what they saw in the video segments and arrange their video cards into “families” that share a theme, before placing them on a table. Any theme is appropriate as long as it makes sense for the design focus of the game.

    (Allow 1 hour for Steps 7 – 8 )

    7. Ask each player to choose a favorite “family” of video cards from those they identified with the other player in their group. Doing so makes that player responsible for relating the design focus to user input as exhibited in the resulting “family” of video cards.

    8. Attach each favorite “family” of video cards to a poster and write a heading for the theme it represents. Organize the video segments corresponding to each “family” for easy review.

    (Allow 3 – 4 hours for Step 9)

    9. Bring all the players from all the pair groups back together with their posters. Ask each player to describe and show their favorite “family” of video cards and invite other players who think their video cards fit, or resemble, the theme to add them to that family.

    Note: The game property of the play comes to bear at this step, since the idea of the game is to pass as many cards from your stack to others as possible. The player describing their favorite “family” attempts to avoid further additions to their theme by playing the relevant video segment and explaining why the proposal to add another video card does not fit. No single player has seen all the video segments. Therefore, accepting or rejecting a video card for each theme depends on all the players reviewing the video segment from which the video card proposed for addition is drawn.

     (Allow 1 hour for Step 10)

    10.  Document the themes by having members of each group write a structured description using the following format:

    • Describe the theme
    • Describe why it belongs in the family you assigned it to
    •  Provide at least two examples
    • Describe the way the action occurs in context
    • Describe the way people employ the action in the context

    Strategy

    Video of people’s activity is one of the most challenging resources used in design research. Playing and replaying video segments for review is time consuming and, depending on the number of people involved and the type of activity recorded, difficult to distill into agreed upon insights. The Video Card Game’s design provides a collaborative structure for interaction between designers and users to co-create insights for product and service design from video sources.

    When playing the Video Card Family Game, facilitators need to remember that, even though the video cards give the video a tangible mode of expression, the images remain on relatively small cards, whether on the surface of a table or attached to a poster on the wall. One can imagine an interactive wall display like Microsoft’s Surface that minimizes the legibility problem. Short of such a solution however it is important to keep in mind the logistical limitations imposed by rendering video representations of action onto video cards.

    Provenance

    The Video Card Family Game draws from the “Happy Families” children’s card game, a game in which players collect families of four cards as they ask one another in turn for cards of a particular archetype. The goal of “Happy Families” is to collect a family of four cards, forming a stack. Collecting the most stacks makes you the winner.

    Werner Sperschneider, a user-centered designer, at the Danish industrial manufacturer, Danfoss A/S, created the initial version of the Video Card Game as a method for combining ethnographic and visual research methods using video.  Design researchers, Margot Brereton, Jared Donovan, Stephen Viller, at the University of Queensland, as well as Jacob Buur and Astrid Soendergaard, of  the University of Southern Denmark, and the University of Aarhus, respectively, also provide case studies of its use.

    The rendition of the game offered here refers to it as the Video Card Family Game for the explicit purpose of making it clear that Ludwig Wittgenstein’s concept of family resemblance is a key criteria in the gaming process for deciding to which themes a video card belongs.


    Larry Irons is a Principal at Customer Clues, LLC. Larry practices Experience Design — translating strategic business goals, and the complex needs of people, into exceptional experiences for those who provide products and services, and those who consume them, whether the latter are customers, users, learners, or just plain people. He writes the blog, Skilful Minds, which blogs.com listed as one of the top ten Customer Experience blogs in 2009. Skilful Minds is also listed in the top 99 Workplace eLearning blogs by eLearning Technology.