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Pecha Kucha/Ignite

Jacob presents Shirley

Object of Play

These fast, structured talks enable people to share ideas quickly and with a minimum of distraction. In addition, it puts the pressure on the person conveying the information to do so in a concise and compelling fashion.

Number of Players

Any size, from a small working group to an auditorium full of people.

Duration of Play

Can go anywhere from one to four hours. Total time varies widely based on the number of presenters.

How to Play

Pecha Kucha is based on a simple idea: that by limiting the number of slides in a presentation, and limiting the amount of time a presenter can spend on each slide, presentations will convey information concisely and at a rapid pace. The rule of Pecha Kucha is 20 x 20: Presenters are allowed 20 slides, and they can spend 20 seconds per slide.  Images are forwarded automatically—they are not under the control of the speaker.  Another variation, Ignite, has a similarly structured pace.

By tradition, Pecha Kucha and Ignite nights are fun, informal evening events, but the concept will work just as well within any work group or team.


The goal of these talks is to constrain presenters while keeping things fun. Often drinks and snacks are involved, and the right emcee can make a big difference in the quality of the experience. If you have a lot of people, spend some time on details, like picking a venue with good acoustic qualities and arranging for good sound and video equipment.

Make sure not to give presenters control of their laptops!

Pecha Kucha (pronounced peh-CHA kuh-CHA—Japanese for “chit chat”) began as an event in Tokyo where designers could share their ideas. The Pecha Kucha presentation format was devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture. The first Pecha Kucha Night was held in Tokyo in their gallery, lounge, bar, club, and creative kitchen SuperDeluxe in February 2003. Since then, Pecha Kucha has inspired similar events with some minor variations, including Talk20 (short presentations of 20 slides each) and Ignite (short presentations of 20 slides each, 15 seconds per slide).

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Pie Chart Agenda

Object of Play

Many meetings happen in an ad hoc or moment-to-moment fashion. They happen without a formal plan, agenda, or prep work—but despite this they can be some of the most productive meetings we have. One characteristic that sets these meetings apart is a focused awareness of time constraints—for example, “We have 30 minutes; how should we spend the time?”

Sketching a pie chart agenda answers this question with speed and clarity. In some cases it takes less than a minute, and in the process, it brings into focus both the order and the significance of topics, where a simple list would fall short. What a pie chart agenda lacks in formality it makes up for in speed and flexibility.

Number of Players

Small group

Duration of Play

60–90 seconds

How to Play

1. Draw a circle representing your “pie” of time. This may be on a whiteboard, a flip chart, or even a pad of paper. This circle represents the total amount of time the group has to spend on the objective.

2. Write the objective in the middle of the circle. For instance, it could be “Brainstorm approaches for dealing with Problem X.”

3. The group then thinks about how they want to spend the time and adds these items to the clock in a sequence that makes sense for the task at hand, just as they would for a circle-formatted agenda. These are added around the outside.

4. To finish the chart, the group decides how much time they want to reserve for each item. This is captured on the pie chart, as though it were rough sections of a clock face. For instance: “We’re going to spend a third of our time on this item, but we need to save the bulk of it for this, and the last five minutes talking about this.”

5. Once the group has roughed in the plan and is in agreement, the clock starts ticking and the meeting begins.

How is this different from a list agenda? The focal point of a clock does two things. As a metaphor, it emphasizes the notion of time and expediency, which is vital in making ad hoc meetings productive. It also represents the agenda items as parts of the whole, weighted by importance and time to be spent on them. Items on a list have a bad habit of falling off the list or being skipped entirely. When produced quickly and managed through the course of a meeting, a clock agenda helps ensure that the time is spent wisely.

The Pie Chart Agenda is credited to Sunni Brown.

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Object of Play

Often in projects, the learning is all at the wrong end. Usually after things have already gone horribly wrong or off-track, members of the team gather in a “postmortem” to sagely reflect on what bad assumptions and courses of action added up to disaster. What makes this doubly unfortunate is that those same team members, somewhere in their collective experience, may have seen it coming.

A pre-mortem is a way to open a space in a project at its inception to directly address its risks. Unlike a more formal risk analysis, the pre-mortem asks team members to directly tap into their experience and intuition, at a time when it is needed most, and is potentially the most useful.

Number of Players

Any, but typically small teams will have the most open dialogue

Duration of Play

Depends on the scope of an effort; allow up to five minutes for each participant

How to Play

A pre-mortem is best conducted at the project’s kickoff, with all key team members present and after the goals and plan have been laid out and understood. The exercise starts with a simple question: “What will go wrong?” though it may be elevated in phrasing to “How will this end in disaster?”

This is an opportunity for the team to reflect on their collective experience and directlyname risks or elephants lurking in the room. It’s a chance to voice concerns that mightotherwise go unaddressed until it’s too late. A simple discussion may be enough to surfacethese items among a small team; in a larger group, Post-Up or list generation maybe needed.

To close the exercise, the list of concerns and risks may be ranked or voted on to determine priority. The group then decides what actions need to be taken to address these risks; they may bring these up as a part of ongoing meetings as the project progresses.


Conducting a pre-mortem is deceptively simple. At the beginning of a project, the forward momentum and enthusiasm are often at their highest; these conditions do not naturally lend themselves to sharing notions of failure. By conducting a pre-mortem, a group deliberately creates a space to share their past learning, at a time when they can best act on it.

The source of  the Pre-Mortem game is unknown. It’s similar, and related to, the Innovation Game: “Remember the Future” designed by Luke Hohmann.

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Stakeholder Analysis


Object of Play

The concept of a “stakeholder” has deep roots in business and managerial science, appearing as early as the 18th century in reference to any holder of a bet or wager in an endeavor. The term now has come to mean anyone who can significantly impact a decision, or who may be impacted by it. At the beginning of projects big and small, it may benefit a team to conduct a stakeholder analysis to map out who their stakeholders are—so that they can develop a strategy for engaging them.

Number of Players

Any;  key members of a team who have a collective awareness of all aspects of a project

Duration of Play

30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the depth of the analysis

How to Play

There are a number of variations in mapping out stakeholders, and a team may changeor add variables to the equation, depending on the circumstances.

The most common way to map is by power and interest.

Power: describes a stakeholder’s level of influence in the system—how much he can direct or coerce a project and other stakeholders.

Interest: describes the degree to which a stakeholder will be affected by the project.

By setting up a matrix with these two axes, you are ready to begin.

Step 1: Create a List of Stakeholder Groups

If you do not already have a list of the stakeholders, now is the time to generate it. By using Post-Up or a similar method, create your set of stakeholders by answering these questions:

• Who will be impacted by the project?

• Who will be responsible or accountable for the project?

• Who will have decision authority on the project?

• Who can support the project?

• Who can obstruct the project?

• Who has been involved in this type of project in the past?

A typical list of stakeholders may include these groups:

• The customer, user, or beneficiary of a project

• The team or organizations doing the work

• The project’s managers

• The project’s sponsors, who finance the project

• Influential parties or organizations

Step 2: Map the List on the Grid

After generating the list of stakeholders, the group maps them into the matrix based on their relative power and interest. If the stakeholders have been captured on sticky notes, the group should be able to place them into the matrix directly.

Step 3: Develop a Strategy and Share It Broadly

After each stakeholder has been placed into the matrix, the group will want to discuss specific strategies for engaging their stakeholders. They may ask:

• Who needs to be informed of what, and when?

• Who needs to be consulted about what, and when?

• Who is responsible for engaging each stakeholder, and when and how will they do it?

Creating this draft is a good first step. If the project scope or number of stakeholders is large, it is advisable to share the analysis broadly and transparently with everyone involved. This validates the analysis by filling any gaps, and in the process, it clarifies where people fit in.


Along with a RACI matrix and other “people + project” activities, stakeholder analysis is a basic framing tool for any project. For leaders and managers, it clearly scopes out who has what level of input and interest in a project, and can help to align decisions appropriately.

Stakeholder Analysis” traces its roots to the “Prince Chart” exercise developed by Coplin and O’Leary to better predict project outcomes.

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Trading Cards

Overlapper trading card

Object of Play

People sometimes grumble about the dreaded “icebreaker,” but humans are like cars: we perform better when we’re warmed up. This meeting starter is great because (1) it lets people self-define, (2) it gives people a “personality” outside the typical work environment, (3) it gives participants quick snapshots of multiple players (since they see many cards as they’re being passed around), and (4) it creates memorable visuals that give people conversation pieces as the meeting progresses.

Number of Players


Duration of Play

10–15 minutes

How to Play

1. Give the meeting participants access to large-scale index cards and markers.

2. Ask them to take 5–10 minutes to create a personal “trading card”—one that includes a self-portrait, a nickname for their “player,” and one thing about themselves that people in the meeting aren’t likely to know.

3. Have the players pass the trading cards around the room in no particular manner or order. Tell them to read each trading card that falls into their hands and hold onto one they might ask a question about. They can keep passing until they find one.

4. Ask for volunteers to read their player’s name and nickname and then to ask that person a question related to the little-known fact on his card.

5. Let the player who was chosen elaborate on the question he was asked. The player can then opt to ask the person whose card he’s holding a question, or he can pass and you can request another volunteer.

6. Keeping going around until the players appear to be sufficiently warmed up. But try to keep the play at or less than 15 minutes long.


So, during the Trading Cards game, there really is no harm and, ahem, no foul. Help meeting participants integrate before the meeting starts.

The source of the Trading Cards game is unknown.

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Object Brainstorm


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


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.


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.

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Mission Impossible

Geneva workshop

Object of Play

To truly create something new, we must challenge constraints. In this exercise, participants take an existing design, process, or idea and change one foundational aspect that makes it “impossible” in function or feasibility. For example:

• “How do we build a house…in a day?”

• “How do we create a mobile device…with no battery?”

• “What would a browser be…without an Internet connection?”

Number of Players

Small groups

Duration of Play

45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the group

How to Play

When a problem is interesting and important, we naturally rise to the occasion. To set up the exercise, develop a question in advance that engages both the emotional and the rational parts of the brain. A mobile device without batteries would be an engineering feat (rational) and a make-the-world-better proposition (emotional). Write this question for the group and explain the challenge.

For the next 30 minutes, working in pairs or small teams, the groups develop approaches to accomplishing the “impossible.” They may consider these broad questions or develop a set that is more specific to the challenge:

• What new benefits or features might emerge from this constraint?

• Why is this a typical constraint or requirement? Is it just a customary assumption?

• What are the core elements in conflict?

• Can the conflicting elements be eliminated, replaced, or altered in some way?

• Is there anything that can happen before or after to change the parts in conflict?

• Can time, space, materials, motion, or the environment have an effect?

At the end of the 30 minutes, groups present their concepts to each other. Following this, a reflective discussion about both common and uncommon approaches should yield a list of possible solutions to be explored further. Closing and next steps should include this follow-up work.


This challenge works well for thinking through assumptions and obstacles in a product or a process. When a product is languishing and needs to be re imagined, this technique will help challenge basic assumptions about its design. In cases where processes are slow or overloaded, the “fire drill” question of “How would we do this in a day?” can be a powerful framing device.

The Mission Impossible game is credited to James Macanufo.

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Low-Tech Social Network

Meshforum 2006

Object of Play

The object of this game is to introduce event participants to each other by co-creating a mural-sized, visual network of their connections.

Number of Players

Large groups in an event setting

Duration of Play

25 minutes to create the first version of the network; the network remains up for the duration of the event, and may be added to, changed, or studied throughout.

How to Play

To set up the game, all participants will need a 5×8 index card and access to markers or something similar to draw their avatar. They will also need a substantial wall covered in butcher paper to create the actual network.

1. An emcee or leader for the event gives the participants clear instructions: “As a group, we are going to build the social network that is in the room right now. We’re going to use this wall to do it. But first, we need to create the most fundamental elements of the network: who you are. Start by taking your card and drawing your avatar (profile picture) that you’ll be uploading to the network. Save room on the bottom of the card for your name.”

2. Create the avatars. After a short period of time (and probably some laughter and apologies for drawing ability), the participants should have their avatars and names created. At this point, the emcee may add a variation, which is to ask the group to also write two words on the card that “tag” who they are or what they’re interested in at the event.

3. Make the connections. Next, the emcee directs participants to stand up and bring their cards and a marker to the butcher paper wall, then “upload” themselves by sticking their card to the wall.

4. The next task is simple: find the people you know and draw lines to make the connections.  Label the lines if you can: “friends with” or “went to school with” or “went mountain climbing with.” This continues for a time and is likely to result in previously undiscovered links and new friends.


The initial network creation will be somewhat chaotic and messy, resulting in a mural that has a lot of spaghetti lines. Over the course of the event, participants may browse the network. Encourage this, and see what new connections are made.

The source of Low-Tech Social Network is unknown.

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History Map


Object of Play

Organizations naturally look ahead to anticipate progress. But the past can be as informative as the future. When an organization undergoes systemic or cultural change, documenting its history becomes an important process. By collecting and visualizing the components of history, we necessarily discover, recognize, and appreciate what got us where we are today. We can see the past as a guiding light or a course correction for our future. The History Map game shows you how to map moments and metrics that shaped your organization. It’s also a great way to familiarize new people with an organization’s history and culture during periods of rapid growth.

Number of Players


Duration of Play

30 minutes to 1.5 hours

How to Play

1. Using flip-chart paper and markers, draw a continuous timeline along the bottom of several pages. Hang the paper end to end along a wall. Write the years under the timeline and include an appropriate starting point—don’t go back 75 years if you don’t need to. Choose a longer time increment, 5- or 10-year windows, if your organization has a long history, and be sure to leave enough space in between years for writing, drawing, and posting content. Leave extra space for years that you know people have more knowledge of or that were years of significant growth or change in the organization.

2. Ask each player to write his name and draw a self-portrait on a sticky note and post it on the wall above the year he joined the organization. As the participants approach the wall for post-ups, ask questions and encourage storytelling about first impressions of the company or why they joined. Note when you see “old-timers” approaching the wall. The richness of their experience can educate the group, so be sure to request that they share a story. Old-timers: never map a history without them.

Optional activity: Before they post the sticky notes, ask the group tostand up and form a line based on when they joined the organization.  Let them discover who came on board when and let the line self organize based on these discovery conversations. Ask for their thoughts and observations once the line is sorted.

3. Ask questions to the group about the following, and build the history map by plotting their answers using text and images:

• Company successes

• Lessons learned

• Changes in leadership and vision

• Culture shifts

• Trends in the marketplace

• Structural reorganizations

• The ebb and flow of regulations

• Shifts in revenue and number of employees

• Major projects, etc.

4. If you’re not comfortable drawing improvisationally, establish icons before the meeting to categorize events for easy visual recognition. (For example, you can use stars for successes, arrows for increases or decreases in revenue or employees, a toolbox for projects, etc.) As you add content, refer to items you’re adding and ask open ended questions about them to keep the conversation going.

5. Summarize the findings and ask the players what they learned and why they believe the history of an organization is important. Look for emergent patterns in the life of the organization and verbally relate the history to the future. Request the thoughts, feelings, and observations of the players.


Mapping a history should be an enjoyable experience for the meeting leader and the participants. It’s a time for storytelling, reflection, and appreciation of the life and experience of the organization. While you’re helping the group document the history, set a supportive tone and encourage camaraderie, storytelling, and honesty—even about the hard times. And if the meeting runs relatively long, leave the history map posted so that the players can review it during a break and continue to breathe life into it. Let the story build even when you’re not conducting the story session. To make the creation of the map logistically easier for you as the meeting leader, follow these tips:

• Always be aware of the level of institutional memory in the meeting. If you’re running a game that would work better with experienced employees, include them.

If you’re running a game that would work better with new eyes and fresh ideas, include newer employees. Pay attention to the knowledge and experience level of the players as it relates to your desired outcome. Brand the history map with the company’s logo and write a phrase beforehand that sums up the current vision and culture.

• Draw major events on the map beforehand to use as conversation starters.

• Use sticky notes for events where people are unsure of the dates or metrics so that you can log more accurate information later.

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

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Heuristic Ideation Technique

Heuristic Ideation technique
Photo by Dr. Nathan Ryder.

Object of Play

In this simple game, participants use a matrix to generate new ideas or approaches to a solution. The game gets its name from three heuristics—or rules of thumb of idea generation:

• A new idea can be generated from remixing the attributes of an existing idea.

• A new idea is best understood by describing its two essential attributes.

• The more different or surprising the combination of the two attributes, the more compelling the idea.

Number of Players


Duration of Play

15 minutes to 2 hours

How to Play

To set up the game, participants decide on two categories of attributes that will define their matrix. For example, a toy manufacturer might look at its product line by type (vehicles, figures and dolls, puzzles, and instruments) and by type of play (racing, simulation, construction). Participants use these lists to populate a matrix, creating a grid of new possible combinations.

In playing the game, participants look across the cells for unusual or surprising combinations.  These become the seeds of new ideas.


Some combinations that at first seem absurd are worth examining more closely: a toy that combines puzzle pieces with a racing element might seem counterintuitive, but there are classic games built around that principle. After looking across the matrix for such combinations, a group may then develop fast prototypes or sketches that explore the possibilities. Consider that GI-Joe came to life conceptually as a “doll for boys.”

The technique used in this game was documented by Edward Tauber in his 1972 paper, “HIT: Heuristic Ideation Technique, A Systematic Procedure for New Product Search.”