How to use Serious Play for better product development, with Nancy Beers.

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Panem et circenses. In ancient Rome it was believed that bread and circuses, or food and games, would be all that’s needed to keep the populace quiet. Things are rather different today.

In many workplaces we have people who’d rather keep quiet than speak up. There’s a lot of working along, being too busy to improve, going on.

“All work and no play makes …” you probably know the rest of the quote; uttered by a character the likes of which we know don’t make for a good workplace culture. 

What better pattern interrupt than Serious Play, which helps us to get teams to speak up, share and create. We want a lot of play. The more the better, really, according to Nancy Beers, my guest on this episode.

Lego is but one of many ways of integrating games in the world of work. Fun fact: the plural of Lego is Lego. But is Lego really appropriate for directors who are fighting over politics?

This was a concern voiced by an engagement sponsor I worked with some time ago. A coach-friend of mine shared the process and why it was likely to enable progress in a particularly sticky situation.

The sponsor was satisfied and the session went ahead. My coach-friend facilitated a great session and the directors came out with a resolution, after weeks of issues before.

The idea of games and serious play can seem quite unusual in the context of corporate life.  In this episode Nancy shares one of her many experiences that beautifully highlights this. 

At an internal event she faced off with 100 people in suits. There she was, a Serious Play facilitator, on the stage for a keynote. Minutes later the unexpected happened. More about this in the episode.

Another common query, especially these days: How can we have more fun and games at work, when we’re all working remotely over video-calls?

This episode is packed with myth-dispelling encouragement and tips and techniques to bring more fun to your work and get more out of it too.

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Key Highlights

I strongly believe that playfulness is the way to go to lighten people up, it’s not only about fun but also making connections because playing is essentially connecting to people. – Nancy Beers


Playfulness helps with our mental health because we need to unwind and it makes us feel alive while having fun. – Nancy Beers


What I have learned is that when people have difficulty in seeing themselves play the games, in 99% of the cases, the resistance is coming from the facilitator. Facilitators need to be 100% convinced in the normality of the games and courageous. – Nancy Beers


I think play is essential and needed to bring change. It can be a bit grotesque at times, but I’m here to change the world one game at a time – that’s my mission. – Nancy Beers


For the more introverted people, there are more introverted ways of doing playfulness such as drawing exercises or the game Dixit, which will also help take your eyes off the screen for a while. – Nancy Beers


A big tip for playfulness is to start small and trust people, trust that people are playful by nature and even though they may have hidden it well, trust that it will come back. – Nancy Beers


Playing games is useless without proper debriefing. I let the debrief be led by the group and not by me, the facilitator, because people are smart and by asking them questions, they will open up on their perspectives of what they have learnt. – Nancy Beers


I’m particularly interested in relationship dynamics when playing the games, in the debrief I will ask what people think happened in the group and very often they have practiced self-reflection on their behaviour and contributions. – Nancy Beers


It stood out to me that when playfulness is done in an online setting people are way more comfortable in changing things about themselves, because they are working from home. I found them expressing themselves more and in stage one of the games. – Nancy Beers


For the more introverted people, there are more introverted ways of doing playfulness such as drawing exercises or the game Dixit, which will also help take your eyes off the screen for a while. -Nancy Beers

Photo of Georg Fasching

From the desk of Georg Fasching, passionate purveyor of Product Flow, and seasoned executive, team, and organisational change coach.

For his high-leverage, curation of methods and instruction, visit https://get.teamgenius.eu/.

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