If you’re not going to AgileCamp 2014 on May 3, you’re really missing out. The one-day agile event (with pre-camp workshops on May 2) is bringing together some heavy hitters in the agile community — many of whom just happen to be members of the Innovation Games® tribe as well.
The conference promises to have something for everyone interested in agile, whether you’re an expert or novice, with sessions on enterprise agility, agile leadership, team dynamics, lean innovation, GTD with agile and lean and the agile coach / scrum master kata. And then there are the keynotes from folks like our own Luke Hohmann, Rally founder and CEO Ryan Martens and Lean Kanban Inc.’s CEO David J. Anderson.
Check out the Innovation Games tribe’s contribution to the program below:
May 2, 2014; 1PM – 5PM
Introduction to Kanban
IGQI, CCA and ValueInnova CEO Masa Maeda
Agile Facilitator’s Toolkit
CCA and Innovation Games® Training Graduates Susan Berry and Randall Thomas
Conteneo Founder and CEO Luke Hohmann has joined the faculty of Modern Management Methods Conference, Lean Kanban 2014 in San Francisco, presenting a talk on the main stage, “Improving Lean Kanban in Large Distributed Teams,” on May 7, 2014. Modern Management Methods Conference is the latest interation of the Lean Kanban Conference series, bringing together an international roster of thought leaders in the Lean Kanban community to focus on new ways to manage today’s creative and knowledge worker businesses, especially around better decision-making and risk management.
Luke’s 90 minutes session will cover new and complimentary techniques for collaborating at scale, focusing on improving Lean Kanban in organizations with large, distributed teams–including methods for improving portfolio prioritization and organizational (not team!) retrospectives.
Founder of the Serious Games At Work website, Tom Grant will be hosting an Innovation Games® workshop for Customer Understanding on May 29-30 in Washington DC. These games (originally outlined in Luke’s groundbreaking book, Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products through Collaborative Play) enable you to work directly with your customers, eliciting unique insight into what they truly want from your product or service. Tom Grant has been using serious games for over two decades, in education, software innovation, and military affairs. He currently works as a senior consultant for the Cutter Consortium, and previously as a senior analyst at Forrester Research.
This two-day certification course will teach you how to use a variety of games with your customers to:
CCA and Agile Coach Karen Spencer is putting Speed Boat to work to bring better Internet Service to her community
When it comes to using game to collaborate, Karen Favazza Spencer, an Agile Coach living in Gloucester MA, has a longer history than most. Although she’s been in the business world for over 20 years, she started her professional career as a kindergarten teacher. “Using collaborative games is like Innovation Games is coming home for me. I taught school using similar techniques and now I am using collaborative approaches with adults.”
She’s even using games in her work as the Chairperson of the Gloucester Cable TV Advisory Committee. Recently, Karen took the time to tell about how she’s using Innovation Games® for creating change in her community.
Conteneo: How did you discover Innovation Games?
Karen: At an Agile Boston Event in 2011. When I first saw the Innovation Game® Speed Boat, I immediately recognized its application as a data-gathering exercise for Risk Assessments or FMEA (Failure Mode and Effect Analysis). Since then, I’ve used that particular exercise many times, as well as taught it to others. I’ve always believed in making things visual and interactive. It’s the former teacher in me.
Besides Speed Boat, are there other Innovation Games or techniques that you use in your work?
All kinds. Product Boxfor feature discussion, 20:20 Visionfor prioritization, Remember the Futurefor initial planning. I also frequently use games from the Gamestorming portfolio, like Fishbowl and Plus/Delta. Whenever I have a problem that requires collaboration, I scan both the Innovation Games® and the Gamestorming inventory for inspiration.
You’re tackling the problem of Broadband connectivity in your community. Can you tell us about that?
In Gloucester, MA, many residents have only one option for Internet service. We’re on an island, and because of our geography, some residents experience fluctuating service levels and very slow upload data transfer speeds, particularly at certain times of day. We also have challenges with our wireless reception due to granite outcroppings, but our biggest concern is economic development. Our fishing industry is struggling, and our unemployment level is higher than the state average. We want to ensure that new businesses interested in establishing themselves in Gloucester have the broadband environment that they need to flourish.
Happily, our city has taken steps in the past several years to improve our levels of broadband service. However, to attract the type of new businesses we want, the type of maritime and marine research business we need to augment our community’s slumping fishing industry, we need to understand the broadband industry and the telecommunications environment much better. We intend to develop a sustainable long term strategy and infrastructure that will allow us to compete with any other New England region.
On January 25, we held our first in a series of three exploratory meetings for the purpose of engaging and educating the community and enlisting new committee members. We now have six committee members who are passionate about improving our circumstances, and most of whom have technical expertise in this telecommunications. We have also made contact with several of our neighboring communities. It feels like we went from 0 to 60 in just 6 weeks!
Tell us more about how you used Innovation Games.
I decided to use Innovation Games® to engage residents, businesses, schools and nonprofits in a discussion about our “as is” Internet environment and our imagined “to be” environment. I used a visible agenda and survey to open the workshop, and then progressed to a game of “Sail Boat” (also known as Speed Boat) for data gathering around the issues. Then we used Cover Storyto articulate our vision for the community. We had about 20 residents playing these games, using post-its and flip chart paper at our local library.
I enlisted three of my Agile associates (Gloria Shepardson, Pat Arcady and Gary Lavine) to act as observers during the games. After the residents left, the four of us used the game, Empathy Map, to organize the observations they recorded on index cards during play and to generate insights. The output from all of the games used that day created a very usable foundation that I expect we will build on.
How did your fellow residents react to playing Innovation Games? Any surprises?
I asked for feedback and a numerical rating on index cards after the event. The participants rated the event as “good” to “excellent” across the board. That was a relief, because I knew I was sticking my neck out using these games. Comments on the index cards included “Great interactive meeting,” and “I wholeheartedly like this dialogue focus. Thanks!” I was also gratified by the emails I received after the event and the number of great folks requesting to sit on this committee.
What’s the next step for Broadband in Gloucester?
We’re just getting started! Broadband is a complex problem that involves many stakeholders, an ever-changing environment, and complex technology. Each member of our new committee is currently working on a different aspect. When we meet as a committee, I’ll continue to use game techniques to facilitate the knowledge share, so that our committee and our community can continue to move forward. I expect that will involve developing municipal or regional plans that will be eligible for economic development grants.
I’d also like to contribute to the national conversation about broadband. Given the January 14 DC US Court of Appeals ruling in favor of Verizon over the FCC regarding Net Neutrality, and the pending acquisition of Time Warner by Comcast, this is currently a hot topic. Providing our American businesses and citizens with sufficient affordable and reliable broadband to be globally competitive requires the involvement of passionate people. It isn’t something that we can afford to be blasé about.
The Mayor of Gloucester provided the platform, and I used Innovation Games® to engage the community in this dialogue. I’d like to use our local experience and, perhaps through the Innovation Game® Trilicious, to engage the entire nation in the creation of better broadband for all of us.
Because we have produced or co-produced successful Participatory Budget initiatives since 2011 in cities around the world, I was thrilled when the White House promoted the use of Participatory Budgeting in its Second Open Government National Action Plan. In this plan, the White House has specifically requested for “tools and best practices” for implementing Participatory Budgeting. That’s sharp thinking, and having experienced practitioners share their work helps the global community. It’s also a timely request, as we’re in the midst of preparing for the largest ever Participatory Budgeting event: We’re recruiting 10,000 citizens for a series of Budget Games Jan 23-25, 2014 for San Jose, CA (want to help? Sign up here).
So whether your goal is engaging 10 people or 100,000, read on: You’ll be able to leverage our wisdom to make your event a success.
Seven Best Practices
Based on our experience, here are seven best practices when implementing Participatory Budgeting.
1. Start with a Serious Game.
The essential element of Participatory Budgeting is participation. The most powerful, most compelling, and most thorough from of engagement occurs through serious games that are carefully designed to help citizens deeply understand issues, develop empathy and insights, and create the actionable results that drive policy decisions. Our Budget Games meet this quality: They have been carefully designed and proven through years of use to create the results needed by elected officials. And, our games are a stark contrast to traditional forms of “town hall meetings” in which citizens may or may not participate, may or may not speak, and are frequently criticized for their inability to generate actionable results.
The games also provide unprecedented scale, enabling you to leverage the in-person versions of our games to engage dozens to hundreds of citizens, and our online gaming platform to engage thousands to millions of citizens using standard web-based technologies that enable powerful analytic capabilities on the results. (Our dream is to see 500 Million citizens using our platforms to engage with their governments.) The best news is that these are not mutually exclusive: We have produced hybrid events, in which participants are playing both in-person and online games. You can, too.
2. Ensure Elected Officials and Citizens Are Included.
When we implemented our first Budget Games event in San José, CA in 2011, we worked with elected officials to develop the set of budget choices for the games. This ensured that the issues being presented to the citizens would produce high-impact, actionable results because the elected officials were quite explicit in seeking the feedback of citizens.
In 2012, we extended our process to allow citizens to suggest new projects to the list of projects included in our game. These “write-in candidates” provided a means for the City to identify critical new projects while also framing new projects in the context of existing initiatives. Five new projects were added by the more than 100 citizens who played these games.
Our formal recommendation is to always start with elected officials to ensure that they will act on the results. The elected officials, in turn, can choose the degree to which citizen input will drive the choices presented in the games. And if you want to produce an event that is focused exclusively on developing ideas, our game Make My Neighborhood Great! is a proven approach.
3. Organize in Small Groups.
A key design requirement of any event designed to motivate participation is organizing the participants in small groups, ideally between 6 and 8 participants. Simply put, humans do not collaborate in large groups. The advantage of this approach is that instead of one large mass of people failing to meaningfully discuss issues or make choices, our game events produce a unique result from each game played. We can then analyze results to identify key patterns of produce the high-impact results desired by our elected officials.
4. Include Subject Matter Experts.
Our Budget Games are carefully organized to include Subject Matter Experts (like the Fire Chief, Police Chief and other representatives from different departments) who are present to answer questions from citizens. This helps citizens understand complex system dynamics (for example, more police won’t improve public safety if the roads don’t have sufficient quality), creates empathy in experts who are at risk of losing touch with the concerns of “ordinary” people, and builds relationships with citizens and civic servants, a critical component in restoring trust between citizens and their government.
5. Use Certified Facilitators.
A well-designed Participatory Budgeting session tackles complex issues directly, exploring multiple perspectives and considering many scenarios. There is no obviously “right” or “wrong” choice. Instead, citizens must weigh competing factors, explore various options, and find ways to reach a meaningful outcome.The careful design of our serious games helps ensure that citizens collaborate to create actionable results. However, our years of experience producing Participatory Budgeting events confirms our experience in working with many for-profit entities around the world: Certified Facilitators produce the best results. Certified Facilitators ensure the event is planned thoroughly, help manage the flow of the conversations, ensure that no one dominates the conversation, draw out shy or reticent participants, and gently help citizens explore choices. We are proud that our global team of Certified Collaboration Architects has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in pro-bono services.
6. Provide Food.
Food should be a part of any event. Of course, you must tailor your food to local customs: Jurgen de Smet, a Certified Collaboration Architect has produced a series of successful events in Aalbeke (Kortrijk) Belgium, writes that participants enjoyed a beer during an evening event (read the full story here). In San José, CA, participants enjoy coffee and pastries in the morning and a boxed lunch in the afternoon (though beer is not involved in the San José games, I sometimes wonder if it should be ;-).
7. Share Outcomes.
As described by the White House, “Participatory budgeting allows citizens to play a key role in identifying, discussing, and prioritizing public spending projects, and gives them a voice in how taxpayer dollars are spent.” While this is a great start, we have found that citizens want more than just being heard: They want to know, in a very real way, that elected officials are incorporating their feedback into the process. They want to see the changes in policy and understand which projects are being tackled.
Some Participatory Budgeting events do this directly, as in the 2013 Participatory Budget event in Vallejo, CA, in which citizens directly prioritized $2.4M allocated by the city council for this purpose. Early that year, San José, CA, citizens did this indirectly, when they provided input into more than $81M in potential spending, $63M in revenue generating and additional budget cuts, and $295M in a 30-year bond paid through a $100 parcel tax to rehabilitate pavement in deteriorating streets. These results were then included after additional analysis into final budget choices.
Our experience is that direct Participatory Budgeting projects are based on smaller, more tactical / near-term budget issues, while indirect Participatory Budgeting projects are better equipped to address larger, more strategic / longer term budget issues. Regardless of whether or not your Participatory Budgeting is focused on smaller items or larger items, the key is to show participants that every voice was not only heard, but that they were engaged in producing identifiable results.
While I could add additional best practices, these seven are enough to get you and your Participatory Budgeting projects focused in the right direction. Now let’s explore some critical mistakes to avoid.
Five Things to Avoid
Large Groups. It’s surprising how frequently we encounter event designers who think that 20, 40, 100 or even 1,000 people can engage in Participatory Budgeting as a single group. This is just not possible. Humans do not collaborate in large groups. If you’ve got more than 8 people in a group, you don’t have a collaboration model– you have a broadcast model. Some event designs try to overcome the issues of large group size by presenting an issue to a large group and then giving each person an electronic voting device. This is nothing more than a real-time survey and does not produce the level of meaningful participation we seek in Participatory Budgeting.
Trying to Change the Structure of Representative Democracy. We are not trying to change the structure of our democracy. We are trying to increase the degree of civic engagement. For anyone looking for anarchy or revolution, move along: You won’t find it here!
Changing the Rules of the Game. All of our games have been designed through years of experience to produce the right result for the problem you’re facing. We recommend that you follow the rules of the games we’ve designed until you’ve gained enough experience to change them. Once you’ve built that experience, have fun experimenting. (More next month on adapting other games for use in Civic Engagement!).
Anonymity. Unlike voting, in which anonymity is considered essential, in our Participatory Budgeting events, whether online or in-person, we neither promise nor promote anonymity. For obvious reasons, in-person games cannot be anonymous. For potentially long and boorish technical reasons, the more you play online games, the more likely it is that we can uniquely identify you. So, we don’t promise anonymity when we don’t want it or can’t grant it, and neither should you.
Underestimating the Planning. A well-designed and produced Participatory Budgeting event is incredibly powerful, deeply engaging, and hugely impactful. A poorly designed and rushed event is frustrating, disenfranchising, and ultimately fails to produce the desired result. The root cause in both cases is planning: Adequate planning in the former, inadequate planning in the later.To ensure success you must invest in planning. Don’t worry if you haven’t produced a Participatory Budgeting event before: There are thousands of Certified Collaboration Architects around the world who can help you.
Like our best practices, this list can also be extended. But, if you follow the rules of the games we’ve created, you’ll find that you can easily avoid these negative outcomes.
Participatory Budgeting and Games
Whether you’re a concerned citizen, a community leader, the head of your PTA or the General Manager of a $220 million dollar product line, I hope that this post has inspired you to examine how serious games can be used to strengthen civic engagement and communities. And if you’re inspired, we hope that you will join us in helping to support the 2014 Budget Games for the City of San Jose, CA, or put the games to work in your community.
Innovation Games Qualified Instructor Jonathan Clark will be a keynote speaker at the forthcoming Agile Turkey Summit in Istanbul, Turkey on September 27th. His keynote is entitled “Why Serious Games are Good for Business” and he’ll explain what Innovation Games® are, why they work so well, and how to use them as part an Agile process.