Best workshop exercises we know
A conversation between Dave Gray and Jose Manuel Redondo Lopera
Jose Manuel Redondo Lopera writes the Facili-station newsletter, and I (Dave Gray) write for the Gamestorming newsletter. We thought you might enjoy reading a conversation between the two of us about our favorite workshop exercises. We will each write three letters, responding to each other’s thoughts. This is letter number 1.
There are a few exercises I come back to over and over again. Activities that are part of my thinking and will come up every time I plan a workshop.
The first is a simple one: the post-up. Most people will be familiar with this one. It’s the one where you start with a question or topic and ask people to take a few moments to write their ideas silently on stickies. Although most people have done this, they may not realize all the ways it is useful and important, and better than typical brainstorming:
People start from a blank slate, and write down their thoughts before they hear anything from others. This results in a greater diversity of ideas.
People have a chance to think before they talk. Some people need more time and a bit of quiet to collect their thoughts. This gives everyone that time.
Engages introverts. Writing down your thoughts is easier for a lot of people than blurting them out. When asked to shout out their ideas, many people will simply not do it. Breaking the exercise into two segments — thinking and then sharing — makes it easier for everyone to participate.
You hear from everybody. After writing their thoughts, I ask people to share them in turn. When you take turns sharing, you get to hear from everyone.
The empathy map.
Another activity that I bring into almost every session I plan is one I designed with my team: the empathy map. Every meeting has a “customer” — the person we are meeting about, or for — and keeping that person in mind is the best way to keep people focused and on track. The “customer” could be the user of the product you’re designing, it could be your boss, maybe a shareholder, supplier, employee. But there is always at least one, and sometimes more. The empathy map is a quick and easy way to remind everyone why we are here, and to get them “indexed” to the purpose of the meeting.
I have noticed a lot of people have misunderstood the empathy map and are using it differently than we, the designers, intended. So in 2017 I created an “empathy map canvas” to help people get more out of the exercise. You can read more about the updated Empathy Map Canvas here.
Finally, I find the 2x2 matrix format especially useful and will use it often at the point where items need to be ranked and/or prioritized. What’s great about a 2x2 is that it allows you to pick two criteria (say, effort required no impact to the business) and find the items that are in the sweet spot (for example, low effort and high impact) by noting which quadrant they fall into.
Jose, I hope this has been helpful to you and our readers! I look forward to reading your response.