What“Game Storming” by Gray, Brown and Macanufo, 2010, 290 pages
ThoughtsSometimes people get into a rut, doing the same things and getting the same results. While once upon a time these actions and results were what was needed and suited the context, this may well have ceased to be the case. The old and established ways somehow no longer seem terribly relevant and the results have lost their luster and bring little joy. The same kind of rut can happen to organizations. Daily operations run fairly smoothly, but there seems to be no forward motion, no new initiatives, no creativity. What can we do to get out of our rut? One interesting suggestion is to incorporate more games into our everyday activities.
Game EnvironmentGames allow us to temporarily suspend the rules and constraints of everyday life. A game creates a world of its own in which we engage with others for a set period of time. It allows us to work with fuzzy goals, to ask questions, make hypotheses and imagine situations and outcomes that may seem quite remote from everyday operations. Games allow us to move beyond whatever box we may find ourselves confined to.
The vital thing is that all participants understand and agree to the setup and rules of the game to be played. Only when this agreement is achieved can the game be played on an even playing field. If one or more participants are forced into playing a game defined by other player(s), are not made familiar with the rules that govern the game or do not agree to these rules, it is no longer a game. Instead of a game played on an even playing field for a clearly defined period of time, we may be heading into the territories of manipulation, coercion, misrepresentation and even deceit. Not the best place to be heading.
Let us assume that all players play the game of their own free will, agree to the setup and rules and that the environment is one of openness and trust. What do we need to bring to the table to make for a productive game? We must be willing to let the goal be adjustable as we explore the routes to achieving it. Unlike operations, where goals are usually quite clear and measurable, in the game world we are creating the goal as we move toward it. We must also be willing to let go of the strictly logical and analytical approach. To truly tap into our creativity we need to give our intuition and imagination free reign. Games employ not only the traditional written form of expression but a high degree of improvisation and visual representation of ideas and concepts. Overcoming any constraining beliefs about abilities for improvisation and creating ad hoc visuals is vital.
Applying GamesMost of us will already have some familiarity with a number of the most common game techniques, such as (silent) brainstorming, matrixes, voting on ideas and ranking/prioritizing ideas. What we may not necessarily have given much thought is how a game develops and runs its course. Broadly speaking, a game runs through three phases.
OpeningThe opening of a game has many functions. It introduces the group to the topic, establishes agreement to purpose and rules. Not least, it opens up people’s minds to think of the topic in a number of non-conventional ways, to see new and hitherto untraveled roads to the desired destination. It is vital that an environment of trust is established from the get go, as people need to be comfortable and feel confident to share what may at first seem like “far out” ideas and thoughts about the topic. The Opening is about divergent thinking; generating as much and as varied input as possible.
Classical opening games are (silent) brainstorming, idea creation based on images, creating poster presentations for the topic, doing pre-mortems of why the topic failure and stakeholder analysis.
ExploringThe Exploring phase is where the group takes the input generated during the Opening phase and use it to see topics in a new, and surprising, way, to come to new insights, to test the different approaches to the topic and to work towards the approaches that are carry the most impact. Activities during this phase center on finding patterns and analogies in the input that was created in the Opening Phase. The Exploring phase focuses on emergent thinking.
Typical activities during this phase can be sorting ideas into categories/affinities/matrixes, doing root-cause investigation, ranking ideas, force field investigation and flipping perspectives on the topic at hand.
ClosingThe purpose of closing a game is for one to have a clear demarcation of a return to the ordinary, everyday world with its rules, processes and roles. The other main purpose of game closing activities is to arrive at conclusions as to which approach(es) to pursue, to define activities and next steps in order for the selected approach(es) to have actual impact after the game is over.
The Closing phase is about convergent thinking; narrowing down your possibilities to the one the group agrees to pursue and to make plans for how to get things in motion. Without Closing phase activities the insights gained in the game will remain in the game space and no change is likely to be achieved in “real life”. This may well lead to frustration and disillusionment for game players).
The Closing phase can see such activities as testing approaches for newness, usability and feasibility, assessment of impact and effort, creating who/what/when plans, making start/stop/continue decisions.
TakeawaysMany organizations focus heavily on their operations, and rightly so. Operations is the bread and butter and keeps the show going. However, at times in order to progress we may need to look at topics in a new light without being bound by the rules, assumptions and biases that lie with the Operations processes. To that end we may want to create a separate space with its own set of rules where we can meet in trust and openness and look for new, not hitherto imagined approaches to our business.
Games provides such a space. They let us tap into our imagination and intuition and thus come to conclusions that are beyond what daily operations can offer.
Feel inspired? Have ideas? Need to launch initiatives?
Get in touch with NT Management Consulting today.