“a great composition of a number of games and techniques out there to reach collaborative and innovative outcomes; well worthy of a read for all Agile coaches… It wasn’t that every page for me was a gem, in fact there were probably only a handful of things that I felt I didn’t already know that I could take away and apply on a situational basis. But a handful of things – is a handful more than I had and for me that is still saying something.”
If you live in or near Boston, you’ll have a great (and rare) chance to learn about gamestorming from a true master and co-author of the book. James Macanufo will be speaking March 1st at an Agile New England event.
Creating a culture of creativity and innovation can be a daunting challenge. How can you make it happen with your team and your customers? One tool to add to your kit: Gamestorming. Join Agile New England and author James Macanufo in learning Gamestorming concepts and visual thinking techniques that lead to better understanding, ideas, and experiences. See how these ideas are being applied in the real world to build stronger teams and more meaningful results… and have some fun trying them out! It doesn’t matter who you are – business strategist, designer, agile practitioner – everyone is welcome and will benefit.
This is an awesome opportunity, not to be missed.
Considering the actual “instruction” part of Gamestorming is only 52 pages, I took a crazy amount of notes as I read through it. Perhaps this speaks to the uniqueness of this book. Perhaps it’s a reflection of how many ideas it sparked for my own life and business. Regardless, I can comfortably say that it’s been a while since I so enjoyed reading a business book.
Actionable books distills business books down into core lessons for quick action.
Object of Play
Sitting through status meetings is boring, right? Well, then why do many of us go home and watch status reports for an hour or more every night?We watch news shows, ‘fake’ news shows, Entertainment Tonight, TMZ, ESPN’s SportsCenter, and many more. Something about those status reports must be working better than the ones we sleep through at work.StatusCenter is a ‘macro’ game structure that aims to apply the ‘rules’ of the TV status report game to the business status report game. The StatusCenter macro-game is populated with stand-alone games that can be linked throughout the meeting, following Gamestorming’s ‘opening, exploring, closing’ model.
Number of Players
4 to 40
Duration of Play
30 to 60 minutes for a weekly meeting; up to 4 hours for a quarterly or annual review
How to Play
Like TV, StatusCenter will link short game segments, in a manner that is interesting and time-efficient. While the segments are modeled after sports, news, or other television formats, they are equally effective for people who aren’t familiar with those metaphors.
- Question Balloons: Simulating the controlled question-asking mechanisms of status shows like Larry King’s ‘email questions’, this game lets attendees literally float a question. As questions are answered, balloons are popped, and any questions still remaining at the end of the meeting are visible at a glance.
- Top Scores: Simulating the ‘Headlines’ or ‘Scoreboard’, this game delivers business metrics quickly and succinctly, acting as a teaser for the rest of the meeting.
- 60-Second Update: Mimicking a ‘Highlights’ segment, this game delivers short updates by each member, aligning everyone. More questions can be ‘floated’ here.
- Project Jeopardy: Allows one or two in-depth updates on key subjects, while creating audience involvement for those who may already know the answers. Rotating the ‘host’ from meeting to meeting gives everyone a chance to say a little more about their own projects or progress.
- Crossfire: This segment provides drama, while giving a ‘safe’ environment for those that like to argue. Meeting attendees select a topic of interest during the previous week, and two people prepare to discuss it from two different viewpoints. This segment is a great way to explore potentially controversial ideas, learn about new products or technologies, or assess the competition’s latest move.
- In-depth Analysis <link here>: This longer segment provides space for an investigative report, formal presentation, or guest commentary. Consider inviting speakers who are of interest to the group but don’t typically come to the meetings.
- Trade Rumors: What are the hot rumors? Clearly delineated from the facts that are delivered in the status updates, these rumors generate interest and energy. Again, keep it short – 15 seconds each. Remember that a juicy rumor could become next weeks’ Crossfire or In-depth Analysis topic.
- Coming Attractions: What hot projects or decisions are coming up in the next week? What meetings should I attend? Give each participant 15 – 30 seconds to provide these ‘teasers’ that are quick and to the point.
- Question Balloons <link here>: Close out any questions that have not been addressed during the meeting.
- Cliffhanger: Use a suggestion box to choose the Crossfire and In-depth Analysis topics and participants for the next (or future) meeting. This builds drama and anticipation for the next meeting.
- We cannot recommend strongly enough that most status information should be pushed outside of the StatusCenter game. Dashboards, email updates, and the like should be used to distribute information that does not need to be reiterated with a captive audience.
- Alternate short ‘highlight’ games with longer ‘analysis’ games to satisfy audience members who want depth, while keeping the pace engaging.
- Stick to status subjects. Decisions, brainstorming, and other topics – no matter how legitimate – should taken off-line. Even Crossfire, which can be used to present two different opinions, should be seen as a way of exploring ideas, not as a way to come to a decision.
- Add, delete, or replace these games based on time and need.
- There are many proponents of standing status meetings (often called ‘huddles’). Try this method.
- Try ‘co-hosts,’ like many news shows.
StatusCenter will be most successful if roles are clear and attendees have prepared in advance. Consider creating a template for 60-Second Update and Project Jeopardy to help attendees understand what kind of information to include. By moving basic status information to pre-meeting communications and then breaking the meeting itself into fast-paced chunks, you can transform a meeting that people tend to tune out of into one they will definitely want to watch.
Object of Play
Iteration retrospective activities are tricky; it is often difficult to think of practical improvements, and reflecting on negative aspects of the project can leave your team feeling upset and unmotivated. A great way to prevent these from occurring is to play a game that focuses on the positives while also pointing out aspects that need to be changed. As described in Diana Larsen and Esther Derby’s Agile Retrospectives, Learning Matrix does just this. In this game, teams collaborate to identify what they liked and disliked about a past project, as well as point out whom they appreciated and what they believe should be altered for the future. Whether analyzing the results of a conference, product, or meeting, Learning Matrix can help you uncover your top-priority items to enhance your iteration.
Number of Players
5 – 8
Duration of Play
Quadrant 1: Frown face for aspects you disliked, should be changed
Quadrant 2: Smiley face for aspects you liked, should be repeated
Quadrant 3: Light bulb for new ideas to try
Quadrant 4: Bouquet: people you appreciated
2. Provide players with plenty of sticky notes and markers. Allow 5-10 minutes for participants to individually write down their ideas for the four topics on separate notes.
3. After all players are done writing their ideas, ask them to present their sticky notes to the group and post them on the designated sections of the chart.
4. Narrow down the notes to a few requiring immediate attention. Give each player 6 – 10 dot stickers, which they will use to dot vote for the ideas they believe are top-priority. Resolve ties by discussing which note is more pressing or having another dot vote. Count all the votes to determine which ideas should be focused on. Narrowing ideas down is important, as it allows the team to concentrate on priorities and increases the chance of effective improvements being made.
5. Move the notes around to reflect the order of priority. Collaborate to evaluate how these ideas can be used to enhance your next iteration and discuss where you can begin making improvements.
Online Learning Matrix
Clicking on the image to the right will take you to an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com. Here, the picture will be used as the “game board” and you will find four icons in the top left corner. As with the in-person game, the each icon represents a different topic:
Frown face – aspects you didn’t like
Happy face – aspects you liked
Light bulb – new ideas
Bouquet – people you appreciated
To add the icons, simply drag them to the board and describe what they represent. Everyone can edit the placement and description of each icon, which can be seen in real time. Collaborate through the chat facilitator to build from each other’s ideas and improve your past project.
Encourage players to continue thinking of ideas for each quadrant, even after all the sticky notes have been posted or the quadrants have filled up. Write the additional comments around the topic images to maintain the positioning of the original notes.
A good facilitator is necessary for this game in order to keep everyone focused. If the project team leader does not feel comfortable in this position, it is best to hire a neutral facilitator. This must be someone who can gain the team’s trust and create an environment in which participants feel comfortable sharing their ideas.
This exercise allows you to perform iteration retrospective analysis while maintaining a positive environment. By organizing your thoughts, you can lay out your plan for improvement and discover how to enhance your project for the future. Collaborate to identify what should be repeated, changed, or tried, and to congratulate team members for a job well-done.
Object of Play
Analyzing past events can get repetitive, leading to a lack of creative ideas and dulled critical thinking. Without an engaging strategy, you could get stuck in a pit of unproductive ideas, causing you to lose all sense of direction and become blind to areas needing improvement. To resist this useless slump, Actions for Retrospectives, based on Nick Oostvogel’s Actions Centered, allows teams to examine multiple aspects of an event or project in order to form original ideas on how it can be enhanced in the future. Break free from the barriers of boring retrospective analysis strategies to discover how you can make your next project, meeting, conference, etc., a success.
Number of Players
5 – 8
Duration of Play
How to Play
1. Start by drawing a large 2×2 matrix with a square labeled “Actions” in the middle; this is designated for the changes that the team commits to making as a result of the retrospective. The four quadrants surrounding it represent different aspects of your event:
- Puzzles: Questions for which you have no answer
- Risks: Future pitfalls that can endanger the event
- Appreciations: What you liked during the previous iteration
- Wishes: Not improvements, but ideas of your ideal event
2. Provide the players with pens and sticky notes, preferably different colored notes for each quadrant. Have the participants write their ideas for “Appreciations,” “Puzzles,” “Risks,” and “Wishes” one category at a time, allowing 5 – 10 minutes for each section.
3. Once players have written all their thoughts, ask them to post their notes on the chart. As a team, go through the ideas and cluster related ones together.
4. Discuss the novelty, feasibility, and impact of the ideas, and collaborate to analyze how they can be applied to the next event. Use this process to create practical, efficient “Actions” in the middle.
There are many techniques you can use to amplify the benefits of this game. For instance, making players feel comfortable sharing their ideas is crucial to attaining high-quality results. One way to do so is to describe “Risks” as possible improvements, rather than negative aspects that could ruin the event. This will encourage participants to share their ideas about what should be done to ensure the success of the event without them feeling as though they are criticizing others. Also, to increase players’ concentration, you can wait to write and describe the titles of each section until just before it is time to think of ideas related to them. This will force players to focus on one category at a time. Don’t forget to create a playful environment so participants will let their thoughts flow and form higher quality ideas.
Actions for Retrospective has many applications in the business world. It can also be used for any product, service, or section of your company to identify how they can be improved. Take advantage of the game’s organized format and extensive collaboration to advance toward your potential.
Clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com. Here, this image will be used as the “game board,” and there will be five different icons that players can drag onto the chart and describe to capture their ideas.
- Puzzles = question marks
- Risks = bombs
- Appreciations = smiley faces
- Wishes = stars
As with the in-person version, the chart is divided into five quadrants for the five categories of thoughts.
All moves can be seen in real time by each participant, so everyone can collaborate to edit the ideas. Also, you can use the integrated chat facility to encourage the players to expand on their ideas and come up with fresh insights.
This unique strategy involves teamwork and spatial organization so your group can think differently about retrospectives and brainstorm changes for progress. Also, by writing thoughts down and working together, participants will be more comfortable providing ideas for how to improve the event rather than feeling as if they are criticizing past ideas. Play Actions for Retrospectives to reflect on the past in order to advance toward the future.
As some of you know, we are working on a Gamestorming iPhone app, the Gamestorming card deck.
Here’s part of the description we are submitting to the App Store:
Each card describes a game that you can apply to any number of business settings, including object of play, step-by-step instructions and strategies for making it work. Create a card stack of your favorite games and use it to plan your next meeting. Then when you are in the meeting, pull up the stack on your iPhone for easy reference. Over 100 games and counting! As we add new games to the Gamestorming deck your app will be automatically updated.
The Gamestorming card deck will include all of the games from the Gamestorming wiki. But we need your help. We want each card to look beautiful, with a picture of the game being described. And to do that we need great photos like this one from Brynn Evans.
If we use your photo to illustrate a game then you will get a promo code that will let you download the app, pre-release, for free, as our way of saying thank you.
Here’s how to submit a photo:
1. Find a game on the Gamestorming wiki that doesn’t have a color photo at the top of the page. That is, a page like this one (which has no image at the top), or this one (which has only a black-and-white diagram such as those in the book). That’s because we want the cards to have beautiful color photos of the game in action, like this bodystorming photo by Christian Crumlish, not just a dry black-and-white diagram.
2. Join the Gamestorming flickr group and submit your photo to the group. Make sure you give the photo a Creative Commons, Attribution-only license. The title of the photo should match the game you are submitting it for.
3. Send us an email at gogamestorm (at) gmail (dot) com with a link to the photo.
If we choose your photo, you’ll get the app for free and also the bragging rights that your image is in the iPhone app. Whenever someone pulls up the Gamestorming app on an iPhone, you’ll be able to pull up your “game card” and say “I took that photo.”
We look forward to seeing your photos, and thanks in advance for your help!
Gamestorming is an amazing way to improve the performance of teams. Unfortunately, Gamestorming doesn’t work too well when your team is distributed. In this guest post, written by Luke Hohmann (who also wrote the foreword to Gamestorming and his own nifty book, Innovation Games), Luke will describe some of the tools his company has created to enable distributed teams to gain the benefits of serious, collaborative play.
Framing the Games: Computer Supported Cooperative Work
Researchers in the field of Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) typically organize work as a grid in two dimensions. The first is time: either your doing work at the same time or at different times. The second is the physical structure of the participants: you’re either co-located, standing or sitting next to each other; or distributed, in different offices, buildings, or continents.
Here’s a sample picture. Happy gamestormers in the top left playing Prune the Future. The games described in our respective books occupy this quadrant as they are same-time, same place games. A Scrum team’s taskboard is shown in the lower left. In the lower right, we have a standard mailbox. And in the top right? Well now, that’s a problem for the our intrepid Gamestormer: you can’t easily put a sticky note or index card on your monitor and play games with other people.
But My Team Is Distributed!
Yup. The realities of the modern workforce means that you’re likely to be working in a distributed team. And while it is trivial to say that we’re working in an increasingly global set of team, it is not trivial to say that we’re working with a pretty crude set of tools to help us accomplish our goals. Unfortunately, that leaves people who want to Gamestorm in distributed teams with a lot of questions and not enough answers.
Consider, for example, this post that Dave and Luke wrote together. We agreed to write this together through a combination of email and tweets. Luke then wrote the first draft directly in WordPress. Dave edited this. And this cycle continued until we published it. According to the CSCW grid, we used a different time/different place technology. And it worked well enough.
But what if we had wanted to work together on the same document at the same time? CSCW researchers have been working on this for quite some time. For example, in 1968 Doug Engelbart gave an amazing demonstration of shared, collaborative editing over a wide area network (see a great presentation on this, including cool videos, here). In the early 90’s researchers at the University of Michigan created ShrEdit, a shared (collaborative) document editing platform. A more recent example is EtherPad. These systems, and many others like them, provide excellent platforms for one kind of collaborative work – collaborative text editing.
Unfortunately, shared document editing is not the right kind of solution for distributed Gamestorming teams because each of the games has a unique set of goals, rules, and contexts. However, by understanding the kinds of collaborative goals that motivate Gamestorming, we can design a solution that meets their needs.
Visual Collaboration Games
Let’s focus on one class of Gamestorming games: Visual Collaboration Games. These are any game that:
- leverage visual metaphors to serve as the “game board”, a guide to participants on the goals / objectives of the game, and a way to provide real-time feedback on the game;
- use simple rules for structuring the placement “game tokens” (such as post-it notes), including how many tokens can be placed, the meaning of the tokens, and where and/or how the tokens can be placed.
This is an abstract definition, so let’s use two games to illustrate these concepts.
In this game, the visual metaphor is a stylized head that helps player develop a deeper, more empathetic, and more personal understanding of stakeholder’s experiences in a business ecosystem. The head is divided into sections based on aspects of that person’s sensory experiences, such as what they are thinking, feeling, saying, doing, and hearing.
Tokens are post-its or other artifacts that are placed on this visual metaphor represent the players best understanding of the person’s real, tangible, sensory experiences. For example, anything placed in the “hearing” section represents what that person might hear and how might hear it. While it is common to use Post-Its for this game, Luke has encouraged in-person players to add physical objects to the “empathy map game board” as a way to capture as much “empathy” as possible.
In this game, the visual metaphor of a tree is used to represent traditional product and/or service roadmaps. The evolutionary growth of the product or service is captured in the tree, with branches representing broad product capabilities or areas of service, and apples and leaves representing discrete roadmap items. Trees can be identified via various growth areas – “sooner” and “later” or “this year” or “next year”. The physical metaphor of pruning a tree to ensure healthy growth enables players to “prune” unnecessary features from a product or offers from a service portfolio.
No End In Sight To Visual Collaboration
Visual Collaboration Games are one of the most powerful classes of games that exist. And the supply of these games is inexhaustible: every visual image that we use in business can serve as the foundation of a visual collaboration game. Some examples:
- Grid / Matrix Games: Perhaps the most common visual collaboration games are the various grid games. Examples include: Boundary Matrix, WhoDo, SWOT Analysis, Pro/Con List, Plus/Delta, Impact & Effort Matrix, and How-Now-Wow Matrix.
- Business Games: These games are based on powerful images used to help business teams understand complex problems. Examples include Levitt’s Whole Product Model or Collis’s Sweet Spot of Strategy.
- Time-Centric Visual Games: These games rely on visual representations of time to help structure play. Examples include Pre-Mortem, Remember the Future, and Start Your Day.
- Custom Visual Games: These games rely on special visual metaphors to capture and guide participants. Examples include: Cover Story, Prune the Product Tree, Speed Boat, and Context Map.
Disappointed that your favorite game isn’t listed? Don’t be. While we’re trying to collect all of the games that we can into the Gamestorming wiki, the reality is that if you’re a good gamestormer or Innovation Gamer, you’re going to be inventing visual games as needed for special circumstances. And once you play them in-person, chances are pretty good that you’ll want to play them online.
Sounds Great! I Want To Play ONLINE Right Now!
Excellent! We were hoping you’d say that! Here is another image of the Empathy Map. But this one is special – clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at www.innovationgames.com. In this game, there will be three icons that you can drag on your online Empathy Map:
- Smiley Faces: Use smiley faces to indicate what would make your persona happy.
- Grim Faces: Use grim faces to indicate what would make your persona concerned.
- Frowns: Use frown faces to indicate what would make your persona unhappy.
Keep in mind that that this is a collaborative game. This means that you can invite other players to play. And when they drag something around – you’ll see it in real time!
Playing Visual Collaboration Games
The benefits of playing in-person, co-located visual collaboration games are considerable. The visual metaphor guides the group in solving a critical problem. You have a shared artifact that captures key aspects of your collective understanding. The results of the game play can be used and shared with others. And many times you don’t have to tell the participants that they’re playing a game, which can be important when introducing serious games to organizations who might be resistant to change. Players can just smile and compliment themselves on having a good time solving a problem.
And now, the power of online games means that we can use the same visual metaphors to enable distributed teams to solve complex problems. We can add semantics to the images so that we know where items are placed. The system acts as a perfect Observer, silently recording every event, so that we can analyze the results of multiple game plays with many distributed teams. And the flexibility of online, visual collaboration means that we’re only limited by what we want to try.
We’re going to be adding more instant play, online collaborative games to the Gamestorming wiki over the next few weeks.
To learn more about how to convert any Doodle or image into an online, collaborative game, read this post.
I had a surprise client turn into a favorite client recently, namely ViaTech Global Publishing. Kurt Heusner, the CMO, tracked me down like many of my clients – through the semantic web – and together we planned a really successful session for 75 of their top team members. I met with Kurt before Gamestorming was published and, because our planning continued after the book was released, we had the opportunity to design the 2.5-day meeting specifically around the participatory work in the book. We used techniques like The 5 Whys, The Blind Side, and Empathy Mapping and I gave the group a short talk on Best Practices for Presentations (you can click on the image above to see the five practices I chose). At the end of the retreat each team gave a storyboarded presentation as a sales pitch for ViaTech and the visual thinking the group did the two days prior was intensive. Kurt and I both got fantastic feedback from the employees (the visual and participatory work was, for me, almost magical to witness) and everyone got a copy of Gamestorming. I’m telling you, folks, if you really do want problem-solving and innovation to occur, you’ll do no harm to dive into visual thinking meeting techniques. They give you, as I’ve witnessed dozens and dozens of times, productivity on steroids. See David Sibbet’s recent book, Visual Meetings, for more proof positive. Until next time, game on.