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Game of the Month January - Change Game

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

There are so many games to choose from. But which ones are really worth the effort? Of course, being the Happy Scrum Master, I have quite a few favourites which I'm more than happy to share with you. Last time, we split into small groups and created complete chaos playing Brainshock. For this blog, we'll be working in pairs while I challenge your creativity and eye for details. This month we'll be playing:


What is it?

Change Game is another one of those awesome games that doesn't require twenty-something props but where you only need two people to get started. Although it's definitely way more fun and much more of a learning experience when working in a bigger group. The aim of the game is to demonstrate how difficult it is for people to deal with changes and everything that comes with it. The game is made up of several rounds and each time the participants are pushed a little bit further out of their comfort zone and are forced to become more creative when making changes.

How does it work?

Each round is made up of the following steps:

Step 1: Take a good, long look at your partner for about a minute or two. As Facilitator, what stands out for me, is that for some participants this feels like a really long time and that having to look carefully at another person can feel awkward. How often do you really take a good look at someone else?

Step 2: At the signal of the Facilitator, you turn your back to your partner and change five things from your appearance.

Step 3: Turn back towards your partner and find the five things they've changed. When you've found all the changes, put up your hand to let the Facilitator know you’re done.

When everyone has spotted all their partner's changes, you'll be asked to turn your back once more and change another five things about your appearance. New things, mind you!

The Facilitator determines the number of rounds but I usually stick to about three. Usually....

What makes this game so interesting?

If I'm honest, this game is my favourite game because while at first glance it may simply appear to be a fun game to play, it's made up of several layers. The debriefing is essential, though. Watching from a distance, it becomes clear just how difficult it is for participants to make all the changes they've been asked to make. For me as Facilitator, it's really cool to see the different ways people deal with this. Luckily, playing this game isn't exactly a punishment for the participants either. Similar to Brainshock, it won't be long before you're shaking with laughter because of your own actions, your partner's and those of everyone else in the room. Change isn't easy but it can be fun when you're all in the same boat.

And why is this one of my favourite games?

The game is a string of insightful moments that clearly demonstrate why people find it difficult to deal with changes.

Lesson 1: most people associate change with loss. In the first round, people take of their glasses, their shoes; in other words, they get rid of things. There are only a few people who realise that adding something is also a change and grab hold of a pen, for instance. Just ask people about the first few changes they made. Lesson 2: it's difficult to make changes stick. In the second round, most people will restore most of the changes they've made in the first round. People like to return to situations they're familiar with. They prefer not to be pushed out of their comfort zone. If the game were to end after only two rounds, all that would have happened is that the participants had a good laugh and were made to feel slightly awkward. The third round is where it gets interesting. That's when you get to what I like to refer to as the 'light-bulb moment' of the game:

Lesson 3: By pushing people outside their comfort zone they become more creative and start to work together. You'll see people loosening up during the third round, and start making funny changes. Putting sweaters on inside out, that kind of stuff. But people will also start to take a look at their neighbours and exchange items with players from other teams. I've even seen people change 'duos' so that when their partner finally turned around, they were facing a completely different person. ;) The simplicity of this game is what makes it so powerful because even though making changes to your appearance might seem trivial, it clearly demonstrates change processes at work. People don't like 'enforced' changes and will resist having to comply with them during the second and third round. 'No really,' they'll say: 'it's absolutely impossible to change another thing'. But when push comes to shove, it is turns out it is possible after all and you’ll see the most amazing and creative results and that's what you're hoping to achieve when making a change.

But it's also why I usually stick to a maximum of three rounds, instead of doing four or five or more, because:

Lesson 4: people can become tired of change. There is a limit to people's 'willingness to change'. Too many changes all at once and people will freeze and not simply protest but actually start to resist and oppose the changes or even try to sabotage them. The beauty of this game is that it clearly demonstrates all these layers in the change process. It makes my heart burst with joy.

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