Building strategy through play

What might happen if…?

This is a question that can scare most managers into inaction. But it is a powerful question that, when treated the right way, can lead to deep insights and an ability to prepare multiple strategies, uniquely formed for a specific scenario.

Praemonitus, praemunitus.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Let’s play games

What if we could find deep insights by playing some games. We can all do this, we are Homo Ludens, we are born to play and it helps us to learn our first language by learning to use our mouths, throats and diaphragm to make sounds and words. There is no barrier to entry and we can concentrate on offering our unique insights.

Playing games allows us to level the playing field of our organisational structures in order to gain the maximum amount of insight. We can use game structures to:

  • Hear from everyone in the room;
  • Uncover deep insights that might not be obvious to everyone;
  • Explore concepts, ideas and scenarios;
  • Develop plans for varying eventualities;
  • Stand outside our roles, organisations and environments to gain other perspectives;
  • Break out of our habitual thinking and find truly new ideas and new structures to best support them.

Would you like to play a game?

– Joshua – War Games – 1983

License to wander

Games give us the license to allow our minds to wander into spaces we might not ordinarily go. As mentioned above we can break out of our habitual thinking and encourage scenarios to be explored that might not occur to us in our day to day work mindset. Further to this, we can test our assumptions in an environment where failure does not cost us too much.

There is a reason the military play out war games. Testing assumptions and scenarios allow strategies to be created to rectify poor assumptions and mitigate against scenarios that could cost us dearly if we are blind to them before they occur.

This article in the Boston Globe details how a group of political operatives, former government and military officials, and academics got together to play out various scenarios for the upcoming US election. According to the journalist who wrote the article, the games did not go well. According to Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown law professor and former Defense Department official who co-organised the group of 80 contributors to the games:

All of our scenarios ended in both street-level violence and political impasse

Admittedly this does suggest looming disaster, but the games can only be considered a success as by understanding the possible scenarios ahead of any one of them occurring we can begin to shape strategies to mitigate against them. We can develop a playbook or better understand the future of our products or services this way and use this knowledge and insight and the strategies to improve them.

Imagine being seen as the most prescient organisation within your industry or sector. Using games we can be seen as the Steve Jobs and Apple of whatever we do by gaining all of the advantages listed above.

Human minds are plug-and-play devices. They’re not meant to be used alone. They’re meant to be used in networks.

– Professor James Gee – American researcher

Get in touch with us and we can co-create new strategies that can help your organisation be ready for whatever the world throws at it. Let’s play!

Building mental health with fun and play

It is a joke as old as time.

Four people meet on a Zoom call. One from Brighton, one from Athlone, one from the Netherlands and one from Liverpool. Much laughter ensues.

They all leave in a better state of mind ready to tackle their day.

On Tuesday the 24th of March 2020, I was joined by three people from remote parts of Europe including one person from the Netherlands, one from Brighton UK and one from Athlone in the Republic of Ireland for a Zoom call. The call was aimed at uniting the team in having some fun and laughter using games (mainly from the Improv world). This was an experiment in whether we could find a moment to play even in our isolation.

There is a lot of research into the effects of fun and laughter on the brain. It has been found in the work of Dr Lee S Berk that laughter can help suppress the stress hormones Cortisol, Epinephrine and Dopac. These hormones are responsible for those feelings of anxiety we may feel, especially in times like this. There is also a positive effect in the creation of HGH (Human Growth Hormone) which helps to boost the immune system. []

The power of laughter to decrease stress and anxiety

We had some fun and laughter with particular high points being the discovery of Annette as the Warrior Queen of a Diamond Mountain and the shared wisdom on changing a bike tyre that brought us the phrase “Never, ever do not attempt to play with yourself”. I’m still puzzling over the logic in that.

The moment I loved the most was when the phrase “Playing is all I want to do everyday” emerged from a shared moment.

Thanks Martin and the team. It was the best fun I had in a long time

– Annette Josephine Mulvihill

Get in touch with us and we can help your teams build social capital and release stress whilst also exercising new ways of collaborating, listening with intent and relating to one another in a distributed workplace.

21 methods for finding game-changing ideas

Where do ideas come from? How does someone have an idea that seems so original that it seems like a gift from the gods?

To be frank there is no one sure-fire recipe for having a great and game-changing idea; but there are things we can do to increase the ease of our idea creation and also to increase the quality and quantity of the ideas we have. These techniques are really about habit forming and can help to enrich your output.

Download our guide to methods for finding game-changing ideas here.

Be sure to join our newsletter for a weekly dose of idea filled inspiration.

The problem with conformity.

Conformity contributes to how we feel part of a movement, a tribe, a family or any grouping of human beings. But, there is a price for this mechanism that allows us to feel part of something. That price was illustrated by Solomon Asch in his famous psychology experiment.

The Asch Experiment

The aim of the experiment was to investigate how social pressure from wanting to be part of a group leads us as humans to conform. In this case by ignoring the obvious answer so as to conform with the view of the majority.

The basic experiment used a group of people that was asked a simple question. In this case the question was “is the line drawn on this board equal to the length of line A, B or C on this other board?”. There was always an obvious answer but there was a twist. Out of the group only one member was being experimented on, the rest were all actors. The actors gave the wrong answer, for example saying the answer was line C when it was clearly A. Over the full set of trials of the test the subject conformed about 75% of the time. You can see an example of the test here in this video:

The interesting thing that was done though was to change the experiment’s parameters. A second round was undertaken where the actors all gave the answer C which was wrong except for one of them. This actor gave the answer B, which was also wrong. The result of this round showed that the person being experimented on conformed only 1% of the time, although we have to allow that they may have just got it wrong.

This shows that conformity is a powerful behavioural problem. Whether we do this out of fear of being ridiculed for being in the minority or if it is a deeper psychological influence is not important. The important thing is that it only took one divergent voice from the norm to allow others to speak more freely in support of what they personally believed to be correct. Even if it  wasn’t the same answer as the other person straying from the most common answer.

The importance of hearing from every voice in the room, group, organisation or team is obvious from this. Our workshops using Lego Serious Play, Liberating Structures and Game Storming offer methods for stifling the conformity in the group and gaining maximum insights and ideas.

Talk to us today to discuss your needs and we can design some bespoke workshops for you.

Putting Play to Work

One of the many things I love about the LEGO® SERIOUSPLAY® method is that name. Serious play seems like an oxymoron right? Play is supposed to be fun and easy and time away from work. “Child’s Play” has long been a phrase that refers to the easiness of a task. But if you watch children at play you can see that it is serious. Everything they do in play is steeped in meaning. We can learn from this.

Why we should use play at work

Play can take many forms but at the most basic level it is an activity that creates enjoyment and engagement. Pamela Meyer says in her book From Workplace to Playspace:

Play in the organizational system allows for dynamic engagement

This attribute of play, that it is engaging, makes play powerful as a tool to us. Play can be used to engage us in our tasks, to help us confront the daunting problems that we may often ignore or sweep aside. If we approach these with a playful mindset we are able to open up avenues of discovery and knowledge that can help us to build strategies and solutions. We already use this in our work life. How many times have you heard the phrase “let’s play it out”? This is a useful phrase because we can literally play it out using play methods like Lego SeriousPlay, Game Storming and Applied Improv.

On top of play being a useful tool in the workplace for discovery, idea creation, knowledge building and strategising, play can have many beneficial effects. Bright HR have researched this with the wellbeing expert Cary Cooper and have found that fun and play are important to the workforce and can have benefits to the organisation. These benefits include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Lower stress levels
  • Reduced workforce absences

This research is based on play being an activity of fun with no work place value other than the wellbeing of the workforce. As the research was carried out in partnership with a wellbeing expert perhaps this is to be expected.

What if we could make the activity of play productive?

If we can make the activity of play productive in terms of the work that needs to be carried out then we can achieve the benefits to the wellbeing of the workforce, which benefits the organisation but also further benefits to the organisation such as greater collaboration, more abundant ideas, greater knowledge sharing, less habitual thinking and so much more.

By way of example. Improv is a tool that can be used in the workplace that can be used to uncover and share knowledge, play out scenarios and promote collaboration through active listening (How Improv techniques can help your business).

Lego SeriousPlay has a method that can be used for any number of issues in the workplace. For instance, team building, solving problems and even defining the values of the organisation. Perhaps designing the business or the value proposition by coupling Lego SeriousPlay with Strategyzer’s value proposition canvas.

Game Storming provides activities that likewise can share knowledge and help with problem solving, design and so much more.

Looking back to how seriously children take play, there is good reason for that. Through play most children are able to learn to stand, walk and use their voices as well as the basics of language by the age of three. Play allows us to push boundaries and see what we can do and our methods at MundoNovus are able to bring these benefits into your organisation.

So not only is it Serious it is Purposeful Play.

Talk to us today to discuss your purposeful play needs and we can design some bespoke workshops for you.

A conversation about bringing play into work

Before the Easter break I had the good fortune to sit down with Carlos Saba from Happy Startups to discuss my journey in starting MundoNovus and how bringing play into work can help organisations and individuals to unlock potential in their knowledge and add that creative spark.

Take a listen. I will be revisiting many of the topics discussed in this podcast in insightful articles in the future. We touch on elements of Lego SeriousPlay, Game Storming, Applied Improv and Design Thinking.

For more on the Happy Startups approach to creating your business please visit:

How Improv techniques can help your business

Applied Improv allows ideas and insights to bubble up through a positive structure that by it’s nature has a preference for seeking out solutions.

We’re not looking for funny, we’re looking for deeper insights, but if funny also happens then we will happily take that too.

Improv is an ideal way to find deeper insights with the collaboration of your team. The main tenet of improv is to accept the created world you are in through the notion of “yes and”. This means that you say yes to the premise offered to you and then build on that.

The beauty of this is that we can construct a seed idea by creating a setting and a subject. The subject might be “the plans for the launch of a new product that your business has developed”. We can bring in things from the real world, it is fine, this isn’t Inception. We can also create a setting that is out of the ordinary to see where that may lead.

This method is one of literally thousands of ways we can apply improv to help new ideas and understanding emerge. This can help to unearth things we didn’t know we knew. These could be areas we hadn’t thought about in a standard meeting or ideas that are so fresh that we have to try them.

But this is not the only impact that Applied Improv can have on your business or indeed your life.

What if everyone on your team listened more actively to one another?

The more that Improv skills are practised by your team the more they will retain them and let them bleed into their day to day life. When working within Improv or even just when using Improv exercises active listening is a skill that is quickly learned as it is imperative to a coherent scene. When in an active listening state we are more likely to spend time really listening rather than waiting for our turn to speak as so often happens in conversations or standard work meetings. This in turn promotes empathy as once we listen to understand deeply we are more aware of others having different ideas, emotions and opinions.

In essence, what is occurring is a development of NVC or Non-Violent Communication which is sometimes referred to as Collaborative Communication. This is an approach to communication developed by the psychologist Marshall B. Rosenberg from the 1960s onwards. Improv aligns well with the intentions of NVC and specifically fits with the intention of “Caring equally for everyone’s needs”.

So to recap. Improv helps deeper insight, ideas and understanding to bubble up through our directed workshop. It can also help create a collaborative atmosphere in your team brought about by empathic and active listening.

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