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Fishbowl

Fishies

Object of Play

Often during meetings we bring together stakeholders who aren’t familiar with each other’s perspectives or aren’t accustomed to listening to each other without offering an immediate response. In some cases, stakeholders may even be meeting for the first time.  In scenarios like these, it’s not surprising that it can be difficult for people to engage in a rich and meaningful conversation. The Fishbowl game is an effective way to activate attention—to prime our natural listening and observing skills so that a more substantive conversation can take place.

Number of Players

Medium to large groups

Duration of Play

40–45 minutes

How to Play

1. Before the meeting, think of a topic that could be served by a group discussion and write down questions associated with it.

2. Find a room with a good amount of open space and clear out anything other than chairs.

3. Create a handout similar to the following:

4. Arrange the chairs in two concentric circles in the room, as shown in the following figure. The inner circle seats the players engaged in conversation; the outer circle seats the players acting as observers.

5. Introduce the game and assign “observer” or “player” status to each person. Give everyone a pen and a handout (but mention that the handout is used only in the observer role). Ask the participants to sit in the circle relative to their assigned role.

6. Announce the topic of the game and ask the players to take 15 minutes to have a discussion around it. Use the questions you generated before the meeting to start the conversation and keep it moving. Make sure the players know that their responsibility is simply to converse in the circle. Make sure the observers know that their role is to pay close attention and to write on the handouts all discussion points and evidence that come out of the conversation.

7. When 15 minutes are up, ask the group to switch seats and switch roles. Then start another 15-minute discussion on the same topic or a different one.

8. After both conversations have completed, ask for volunteers to share the information they gathered and ask them to describe their experiences on the inner versus outer circle.

Strategy

People are well versed in having conversations; what most of us aren’t used to is listening, observing, and being accountable for our observations. The Fishbowl game, therefore, is about engaging skills that in many of us have become rusty. So, despite the fact that it may look as though the action happens in the players’ conversation, the action in this game happens in the outer circle, with the observers. As the group leader, be clear with the group that this is a listening and observing exercise. If there were a point system (and there is decidedly not), points would be awarded to those who most accurately logged the conversation that took place—not to those who made the most comments in the discussion. Talk to the group about their experience of being silent and paying attention. What was difficult about it? What was easy? How did it affect their perception of the topic and the other players? Use the Fishbowl exercise as a segue to a heightened give-and-take between stakeholders.

The Fishbowl game is based on ideas from the Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making, by Sam Kaner et al.

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Spectrum Mapping

Visual thinking school

Object of Play

Spectrum mapping is designed to reveal the diversity of perspectives and options around any given topic and to organize them into a meaningful spectrum. This game gives players an opportunity to express their views without having to assert them vocally or even take ownership of them in front of the group. It’s valuable because it unearths information that plays a role in attitudes and behaviors that otherwise may not be visible.

Number of Players

5–15

Duration of Play

30 minutes to 1 hour

How to Play

1. Before the game begins, brainstorm topics around which you want insight from the group. Write each topic on a sticky note.

2. Introduce Spectrum Mapping by stating that the purpose of the game is to illuminate the team’s range of perspectives and to organize those perspectives into a continuum so that everyone gets a view of it.

3. Post the topic sticky notes in a column in the approximate middle of a space on the wall visible to the players. Ask everyone to silently generate a point-of-view preference option around that topic and write it on a sticky note. They are welcome to offer more than one.

4. Ask the players to come to the wall and post their sticky notes in a horizontal line on either side of the topic. Reassure them that the relationships between the sticky notes aren’t yet of interest. The visual may look like the following figure.

5. Once the sticky notes are posted, work with the group to sort them into a horizontal range of ideas. Sticky notes that express similar perspectives or options should go next to each other. Sticky notes that seem to be outliers should stand alone; they may sometimes end up defining the limits of the range.

6. Continue sorting until the group agrees that the sticky notes are in their appropriate places on the horizontal line.

7. Repeat this process if you have more topics to evaluate.

Once the spectrum for each topic has been laid along the horizon, ask for observations and insights on the lay of the land. Discuss the findings with the group and ask if any perspective or option has been excluded. If so, add it and re-sort as necessary.

Strategy

Not only does spectrum mapping reveal individual ideas around important topics, but it also tells you how many members of your group have certain types of views and where their endpoints lie. After spectrum mapping, the players are likely to discern a more holistic view of where they stand. In other words, spectrum mapping indicates whether the group tends to lean a certain way—perhaps it’s fiscally conservative, oriented toward growth, or reticent about change. Either way, as a team leader, it’s good to be aware of the group’s natural inclination and openly acknowledge it to enhance future team building, problem solving, and planning.

Assure the players that they’re free to write up honest perspectives and preferences around a topic even if those preferences may be considered outlandish by the other players. Tell them that outlier ideas still make it onto the continuum. This play is about mapping and displaying the spectrum, not evaluating ideas for validity, innovation, or popularity. This game has the effect of letting groups see if their behavior skews too far to one side or whether they’re taking a reasonable approach when a radical one may be better.

The source for the Spectrum Mapping game is unknown.

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Welcome To My World

Overlap Toronto

Object of Play

Many of us make the mistaken assumption that others see what we see and know what we know. No one in the world shares your internal system map of reality. The best way to compare notes, so to speak, is to actually draw an external representation of what you think is happening. Welcome to My World gives players an opportunity to better understand other players’ roles and responsibilities. It helps chip away at silos and introduces the novel idea that we may be seeing only one reality: ours. It helps immensely to show what we see to others so that we can start to share a reality and work on it together.

Number of Players

8–20

Duration of Play

30 minutes to 1 hour

How to Play

1. Give all players access to flip-chart paper, markers, and sticky notes. Ask them to take 30 seconds to write one of their job responsibilities (e.g., create the company newsletter or devise a marketing strategy for Product X) on a sticky note and stick it to their shirt.

2. Have the players wander around the room and pair up with someone whose job responsibility they’re the least familiar with or that they’re curious about. If you have an odd number of players, join them to even it out.

3. In pairs, ask the players to take turns drawing their best representation of how they envision the other person’s workflow around that job duty. They can use simple circles, boxes, and arrows to make flowcharts or they can get creative, but they cannot interview the other player or ask any clarifying questions while they’re drawing.  Give them 5–15 minutes to draw quietly.

4. When the time is up, give each player five minutes to share her drawing with the other person and describe what it means.

5. Then give the pairs 5–10 minutes each to clarify or agree on the realities of each other’s drawing. They should also take time to discuss where the areas of ease, friction, and interactions with others fall in the process. They can elaborate and draw on the other person’s visual at this point, or the original creator of the visual can add content as his partner shares.

6. Ask for volunteers to show their visuals to the larger group and to describe some of their insights and observations.

Strategy

To be maximally effective, this game has one requirement: the players should represent a range of positions or job responsibilities within an organization. The game rapidly loses its value if all the participants have the same, predictable workflow, like processing an undisputed insurance claim. The idea is to educate each other on the realities of their work duties and to help break down silos across organizational areas. Once the insights start coming out, this game can significantly increase the understanding and appreciation of others’ work. And it can be even more effective when you have players who have to work together but historically have had little insight into—or even patience with—their colleagues’ processes.

Most people feel comfortable drawing basic shapes and workflow-related diagrams since these are common in company life. If, however, players balk at having to draw, tell them they’re welcome to rely only on words, but they’ll miss an opportunity to make a simple picture of someone else’s “world” at work.

The source for the Welcome to My World game is unknown.

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Open Space

Meshforum 2006

Object of Play
Open Space technology is a method for hosting large events, such as retreats and conferences, without a prepared agenda. Instead, participants are brought together under a guiding purpose and create the agenda for themselves in a bulletin-board fashion. These items become potential breakout sessions, and participants have the freedom to “vote with their feet” by moving between breakouts.

Open Space was founded by Harrison Owen in the 1980s out of a desire to “open the space” for people to self-organize around a purpose. Many meetings and examples have been recorded at Openspaceworld.org. Hosting a small Open Space meeting is fairly straightforward, but requires an amount of “letting go” on the part of the organizer, who must recognize that the participants will develop a richer approach and solution to the challenge at hand.

Number of Players: 5–2,000

Duration of Play: A day or longer

How to Play

Setup: An Open Invitation
Perhaps the most important work of the organizer is developing a compelling invitation. The ideal invitation will frame a challenge that is urgent, important, and complex enough to require a diverse set of perspectives to solve. It might sound as simple as “How can we revitalize our city’s schools?” or “What’s our strategic direction?”

Create the Marketplace
At the start of the process, participants sit in a circle, or in concentric circles, to get oriented and start to create their agenda. Given the challenge of the meeting, participants are invited to come to the center and write out an issue they’re passionate about, and then post it on a “marketplace” wall with a time and place at which they are willing to host the discussion. All are invited to create an item for the marketplace, but no one is required to. Creating the agenda in this fashion should take between 60 and 90 minutes.

The “Law of Two Feet”
The breakouts then begin, typically lasting 90 minutes per session. Participants may organize their breakouts however they see fit; the host records the discussion so that others may join the conversation at any time. Participants are asked to observe the one law of Open Space, the Law of Two Feet, which asks that if you find yourself neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet to go somewhere else. In this sense, participants are given full responsibility over their learning and contributions.

Pulling It All Together
Breakouts may last for a day or more, depending on the scope of the event. Closing the event may take many forms, the least desirable of which is a formal report from the groups. Instead, return to the circle arrangement that started the event, and open the space again for participants who want to reflect on what they’ve discovered and their next steps.

Strategy
Keep in mind the four principles of Open Space that will help set the tone of the event:

1. Whoever comes are the right people. Passion is more important than position on an org chart.

2. Whenever it starts is the right time. Spirit and creativity do not run on the clock.

3. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. Dwelling or complaining about past events and missed opportunities is a waste of time; move on.

4. When it’s over, it’s over. When a conversation is finished, move on. Do the work, not the time.

You can read more about Open Space at openspaceworld.org.

Open Space game rules been popularized and incorporated into many self-organizing events which are known under different names, most prominently BarCamps and Unconferences. The concept of Open Space was put forth in Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide, by Harrison Owen.

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Argument map

…complex situations and infoglut.

You need a good oversight to think about your future, or to really understand your clients. You are committed to empathically include everybody’s reasoning and arguments. You want to make wise and just decisions.

✣  ✣  ✣

Making the right choices and decisions is crucial. Often too, we need to decide fast. Do we need to vaccine the world population against swine flu? Should we enter this new market? Can we still trust science after Climategate? Are we going to bail out Greece and Ireland? Can computers think? Do we need a new monetary system?

The [[argument map]] is a systematic approach to mapping a debate in a pleasant and high-quality way as a [[big visible chart]]. It’s process invites every stakeholder to carefully listen to each other’s arguments. It moves away from debate and towards mutual understanding, encouraging empathy. When people are forced to examine other peoples’ points of view there’s a chance for a real conversation.

Therefore:

Generate, collect, prune, and cluster all arguments for and against in a tree-shaped structure on a single A3 sheet of paper.

✣  ✣  ✣

Use the [[force field analysis|force field map]]  to chart weighted forces that direct change.

The [[argument map]] is originally conceived by the Argumentenfabriek.

Number of Players: 5–30

Duration of Play: 1–3 hours

Object of Play

Public debate often diverts into endless low quality discussions and exhausts both the debaters and audience. At the end, you still can’t make a well-informed choice. Many conversations suffer from lack of a central theorem or stand, scarce arguments in favor, or ignored counterarguments.

The goal is to get out all of the issues and arguments before talking about any one issue. Real-life dialogue makes this a challenging goal, yet it is the goal nonetheless.

If you immediately explore the first one or two issues instead of getting a complete argument list, you risk the following:

  1. You will never get the complete list and may miss significant opportunities.
  2. You will end up talking about an issue, which is not the most important issue.
  3. Even if you eventually discover the most important issue, you may have depleted the scarce resources of time and energy.

People have trouble to remember a lot of connections between statements and arguments, and suffer from infoglut—masses of continuously increasing information, so poorly catalogued or organized (or not organized at all) that it is almost impossible to navigate through them to search or draw any conclusion or meaning.

A [[big visible chart]] like the [[argument map]], [[force field analysis|force field map]], or [[hoshin kanri]] gives oversight. Visualizing reasoning helps in practicing critical thinking: clean reasoning, focusing on errors of reasoning, unspoken assumptions, and psychological digressions. [[big visible charts]] will increasingly take over long-winded texts. There is simply no time to read and understand the ever growing thickets of documents.

How to Play

Either use a whiteboard or flip chart or a computer projection and some handy outline software. Step through the process below, and everything important will surface. You will be complete and not miss any important issues or arguments. And you will be able to make a just decision.

  1. Just the Facts—Create a [[facts map]] and briefly share facts and figures related to the topic. No opinions, just (verifiable) facts, please.
  2. Quiet Brain Dump—Take ten minutes or so to find causes and consequences, pros and cons. Jot down any argument you can find in favor or against the case.
  3. Take Turns and Share—Take turns and share a single argument with the group at each turn. Got nothing more? Just pass. Write down the argument on the whiteboard or type in on the computer.
  4. Prune Your Arguments—Delete any argument on your list that someone else also brings up as soon as you hear it.
  5. Be Terse—Relentlessly end any discussions, long-winded stories, or salvo of arguments.
  6. Exhaust Yourself—She or he who passes last, ‘wins’. Still not exhausted? Loop back to 3.
  7. For or Against—Take two flip charts. Label one as “For” and one “Against”. Collect the arguments on their appropriate flip chart. If you are using an outliner software program, simply drag each argument in its appropriate “For” or “Against” class.
  8. Shape, Organize and Thicken—Shape, organize and thicken the arguments. Cluster and categorize the arguments into ‘themes’, facets or aspects. Pick one to three key words for theme name. Within each theme, further subcluster arguments and  label each cluster as a theorem, proposition, opinion, or stand, listing the arguments below. Often you will find similar themes and labels in both “For” and “Against”, but this is not a requirement; they can differ.

Instead of listing arguments and copying them to flip charts, you can also write them down on sticky notes, one argument per sticky note, and put those on the flip chart. Crumple any duplicate stickies.

Repeat this process with other groups of stakeholders.

If you have the time and money, process the harvest into a colorful tree-structured schema like the examples below. Make sure it fits on a single and handy A3-sized sheet of paper, while keeping it legible, of course.

Reasoning errors

Exempli gratiā

This article is a copy of Pareltaal » Argument Map and formatted like a pattern from a pattern language.

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Impact & Effort Matrix

 

Impact & Effort Matrix, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

Object of Play
In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Some ideas are costly, but may have a bigger long-term payoff than short-term actions. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.

Number of Players: Based on small groups, but can scale to any size

Duration of Play: 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the group

How to Play
Given a goal, a group may have a number of ideas for how to achieve it. To open the exercise, frame the goal in terms of a “What to do” or “What we need” question. This may sound as simple as “What do we need to reach our goal?” Ask the group to generate ideas individually on sticky notes. Then, using Post-Up, ask them to present their ideas back to the group by placing them within a 2×2 matrix that
is organized by impact and effort: Impact: The potential payoff of the action, vs. Effort: The cost of taking the action

Strategy
As participants place their ideas into the matrix, the group may openly discuss the position of elements. It is not uncommon for an idea to be bolstered by the group and to move up in potential impact or down in effort. In this respect, the category of high impact, low effort will often hold the set of ideas that the group is most agreed upon and committed to.

The source of the Impact & Effort Matrix game is unknown.

Impact & Effort

Clicking on this image will bring you to an “instant game” at innovationgames.com, where you can play Impact & Effort Matrix online. The same image will be used as the matrix, which has a different impact-effort combination in each quadrant.

• High Impact, Low Effort: The best ideas go here!
• High Impact, High Effort: Further study is likely required.
• Low Impact, High Effort: Probably best to avoid these.
• Low Impact, Low Effort: Further study is likely required.

The light bulbs you will see at the upper left corner of the chart represent ideas. Simply add an idea to the chart by dragging a light bulb to its corresponding quadrant and describing what it is.

All moves can be seen in real time by each participant, so everyone can collaborate to edit the descriptions and positions of the posted strategies. Communicate using the integrated chat facility to work together and form useful ideas.

 

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Back of the Napkin

NapkinBack

Object of Play:
The goal for each team is to come up with an answer  to a provocative question and write/draw it up on the back of a napkin.

Number of Players: Teams of 3. (See strategy section for discussion of different team sizes.)  No limit to the number of teams other than what the organizer wants.

Duration of Play: TBD by organizer.  Minimum amount of time recommended:  10 minutes per team per question.

Examples: Here are examples of questions and  napkins from the recent TEDxTC event in St. Paul, MN.  [1] [2] [3]

How to Play

  • Game is played in teams.
  • There is at least 1 problem statement/open-ended question per game session.
  • Each team writes and/or draws their answer on a napkin.
  • Each answer appears on one side of the (folded) napkin.
  • Players write their names on the other side of the napkin.
  • Optional:  Players may enter as many solutions as they want, however, each submission has to be from a different team.
  • Optional:  Each team must be comprised of at least 2 people who have just met or are just meeting.
  • Optional:  A group of judges will look at the entries.   Play for bragging rights or for a prize.  To keep it clear that there are all sorts of possibilities, offer different categories, such as:
    • Most Practical
    • Most Out-of-the-Box
    • Most Whimsical
    • Most Visual

Strategy
As a facilitator/organizer, why might you play this game?  Here are some reasons:

  • To introduce people to each other and/or to facilitate networking amongst them.
  • To provide a fun, competitive way to brainstorm.
  • To turn the reception for an event into an experience that people value as part of the overall experience.

The back of a napkin is already associated with Aha moments and inspiration.  Its informality helps combat people’s instincts towards worrying about whether they can draw, have the “perfect” solution to the question, and other worries that can crop up if we were to use something more formal. It’s a good idea to reinforce this in the introduction to the game by encouraging teams to be as practical, whimsical and/or out of the box as they want, and, if winners will be named, by having categories that include playful ones.

Question strategy: define a question that’s open-ended and requires more than a couple of words to answer.  Keep it relatively short and clear.  Don’t worry that the question is too “big” in terms of its scope.  This game is meant to inspire conversation and ideation.

Another important thing about the question is to make sure it relates to something that all the potential players have in common.  Some examples of common things are:

  • a speech that everyone’s heard,
  • a book or article that everyone’s read,
  • a company or organization they’ve all done business with or been a part of in some other way,
  • an experience they’ve had in common, such as being a parent or living in the same community.

Team size:  you can choose to set the team size to be exactly n players, no fewer than n players, no more than n players, or n to y players.  I recommend that the numbers be somewhere between 2 and 6.  If you’re running the game at an event where people decide to play or not, going with the “n to y players” would work best.  This is because people are playing and networking at the same time, and if 4 people want to play in one place and 2 in another, for example, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to.  In an environment where it’s important to you that everyone plays, setting team sizes more precisely might work better.

With regard to team formation, you can go with an unconference approach and have multiple questions and have people gravitate to the question they want to answer and find others to team with, or go with something more defined.

Logistics:

  • A napkin that’s around 5″ x 5″ in its folded form works well. It’s better to get ones with a smooth surface so it’s easier to write on.  Gel pens work well, fyi, if you’re providing pens.
  • If you are playing the game with multiple questions or in a large space, consider having a host/facilitator at each question’s station to explain the game and answer questions.
  • I recommend having a flip chart or other large-format paper hanging on the wall and having players tape their napkins to that.
  • Tell players the timeframe in which the game will be played.

[This game is credited to Sheila Kim.]

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Draw the Problem

Bill Keaggy sketching

Object of Play
On any given day, we prioritize the problems that get our attention. Problems that are vague or misunderstood have a harder time passing our internal tests of what matters and, as a result, go unaddressed and unsolved. Often, meetings that address problem-solving skip this critical step: defining the problem in a way that is not only clear but also compelling enough to make people care about solving it. Running this short drawing exercise at the beginning of a meeting will help get the laptops closed and the participants engaged with their purpose.

Number of Players: Works best with small groups of 6–10 participants

Duration of Play: 20–30 minutes


How to Play
1. Each participant should have a large index card or letter-sized piece of paper. After introducing the topic of the meeting, ask the participants to think about the problem they are here to solve. As they do so, ask them to write a list of items helping to explain the problem. For example, they may think about a “day in the life” of the problem or an item that represents the problem as a whole.

2. After a few minutes of this thinking and reflection, ask the participants to flip over their paper and draw a picture of the problem, as they would explain it to a peer. They may draw a simple diagram or something more metaphorical; there are no prizes or punishments for good or bad artistry. The drawing should simply assist in explaining the problem.

3. When everyone is finished, have the participants post their drawings on the wall and explain them to each other. While the group shares, note any common elements. After the exercise, the group should reflect on the similarities and differences, and work toward a shared understanding of what the problem looks like to each other.

Strategy
This warm-up does not result in a problem definition that will satisfy an engineer; rather, it engages participants in defining the challenge in a simplified form. It is a first step in bringing a group together under a common purpose, elevating the problem above the noise to become something they care to solve.

The Draw the Problem game is credited to James Macanufo.

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Cover Story

IMG_1785

Object of Play
Cover Story is a game about pure imagination. The purpose is to think expansively around an ideal future state for the organization; it’s an exercise in visioning. The object of the game is to suspend all disbelief and envision a future state that is so stellar that it landed your organization on the cover of a well-known magazine. The players must pretend as though this future has already taken place and has been reported by the mainstream media. This game is worth playing because it not only encourages people to “think big,” but also actually plants the seeds for a future that perhaps wasn’t possible before the game was played.

Number of Players: Any

Duration of Play: Depends on the number of players, but a maximum of 90 minutes

How to Play
1. Before the meeting, draw out large-scale templates that include the categories shown on the following image. Your template doesn’t need to look exactly like this one; you can be creative with the central image and the layout. Just be sure to keep the categories intact. The number of templates you create depends on the size of the group. At the most, allow four to six people to work on one template together.

2. Explain the object of the game to the players and define each category on the template:
• “Cover” tells the BIG story of their success.
• “Headlines” convey the substance of the cover story.
• “Sidebars” reveal interesting facets of the cover story.
• “Quotes” can be from anyone as long as they’re related to the story.
• “Brainstorm” is for documenting initial ideas for the cover story.
• “Images” are for supporting the content with illustrations.

3. Break the players into groups of four to six and make sure there are markers and one template for each group. Tell the players that to populate the template they can either select a scribe or write and draw on it together.

4. Ask the players to imagine the best-case scenario for their company and to take that scenario one step further. Request that they spend five quiet minutes imagining their own stories before they work together to agree on one. Give the groups 30–45 minutes to generate this “story of the year” and represent it on their template.

5. Reconvene the breakout groups and ask for volunteers to present their visions first. Give each group 5–10 minutes to share what they imagined was written in the story and the supporting elements.

6. Note any common vision themes and areas of agreement. Ask for observations, insights, and concerns about the future state.

Optional activity: Ask two players to role-play an interview based on the content from their “On the Cover” template, as though the magazine sent a reporter to interview an important character in the story.

Strategy
This game is about the wildest dream for the organization—that has already happened! So, when you set up this game as the meeting leader, speak about their “successes” with enthusiasm and in the past tense. Encourage the players to use the past tense in their brainstorming and story creation. And don’t let the group go into analysis mode. This game is not about logic, pragmatism, or parameters. Cover Story is an open-ended, creative-thinking exercise, so tell the players to be wary of any “reality checks” from other players. And as the small groups present their visions to the large group, note and discuss any common themes that arise. These themes—however fantastical—are telling, because commonalities reveal shared hopes and also plant seeds for real possibilities. If this play is part of a longer group process, post these visions around the room so that they serve as reference points for continued ideas and inspiration.

This game is based on The Grove Consultants International’s Leaders Guide to Accompany the Cover Story Vision Graphic Guide® ©1996–2010 The Grove.

Online Cover Story

Cover StoryHere is another image of the Cover Story Game. But this one is special – clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at www.innovationgames.com. In this game, there will be a set of light bulb icons that you can drag on your online Cover Story to capture your big ideas. We’ve organized this game so that the regions will capture where you’ve placed each of your awesome ideas.

Keep in mind that that this is a collaborative game. This means that you can invite other players to play. And when they drag something around – you’ll see it in real time!

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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.