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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 month, I shared my corona-proof Online Energizers and because it looks like we’ll be playing online for the unforeseeable future, I decided to share another round of online favourites. Normally, I only discuss one game per blog but because some games tend to be shorter and less complicated I decided to combine them. These games are ideal icebreakers to get to know each other and work just as well online as offline.

This month we’ll be playing: SHOES, SCAVENGER HUNT, RORY STORY CUBES

As I wrote in my Online Energizers-blog, just before this corona madness started I signed up to work for a new client. Which is always amazing, of course. First of all: YAY! New client! But also because it means I get to meet new people and I love, love, love meeting new people. As Scrum Master, it’s really important to get to know my new team as soon as possible so I can start to design a programme to best suit my new team’s needs. Obviously, I’ll schedule one-on-one meetings with all of them to get acquainted but the first thing I like to do to start getting to know my new team is play a few games. That way, not only do I get to know my new team members but the rest of the team has a chance to get to know each other better too!

The games we’ll be playing this month are actually different versions of the same thing. They’re all designed to get people to start thinking about themselves in unexpected ways by asking them really weird questions. This way, we can move beyond the stereotypical and expected answers and get to know the real you. A lot of the time, you’ll even surprise yourself with the answers you’ve given as a result of the game’s questions.

SHOES – This is the simplest version that can be played anywhere, anytime. It doesn’t require any props, just people and the shoes on their feet. And to be honest, it would even work with only their feet without the shoes. Each participant is asked the following questions:

  1. What do you have on your feet?

  2. And what does that tell us about you?

Why the feet? Why not ask: what clothes are you wearing? Because, well, our feet are the furthest away from our heads and we tend to forget about our feet. So it’s an ideal subject to get people out of their comfort zone and force them to think outside of the box.

Funnily enough, women are usually really aware of what type of shoes others are wearing while men usually don’t have a clue. Is this sexist? Is it an eye for detail? I really don’t know, but I just think it’s funny.

And to answer the questions: When I was playing this game last month with my new team, I was wearing my handball training shoes. What does that tell you about me? First of all, that I prefer comfort over style and, secondly, that I really, really, really miss playing handball.

These answers are usually the starting point for some really funny conversations that are ideal icebreakers for getting to know each other. It’s all about associative thought and they not only work as an introduction but you can also use them more retrospectively by either changing the questions or adding a third, for instance:

  1. What does that tell us about your role within the team?

That’s what’s so great about all these games. They’re so incredibly flexible and versatile. Expect the unexpected, because the answers provided will usually trigger responses from other participants too and, as a Facilitator, I really need to keep my wits about me to make sure that the conversations don’t go completely overboard and everything keeps heading in the right and fun direction. But because the game’s so flexible, I can also easily change that direction by asking another question. The possibilities are endless.

SCAVENGER HUNT – This one’s a bit more complicated because you’ll be needing some props but I actually think this one’s ideally suited to the current ‘working from home’ situation because it’s really interesting to see which items the participants end up holding in front of the camera.

So, how do you play Scavenger Hunt? Easy: each participant has to choose an item that can be found within arm’s reach of their computer. When it’s their turn, they hold their item in front of their camera and all the other participants have to scavenge that same item, or a similar item, from their own homes for ‘show & tell’. As Facilitator, I usually start first.

With my new client’s team, I chose a pair of scissors. Why? Because I had just discovered I own not one, not two but NINE pairs of scissors. And why do I own nine pairs of scissors? Well, funny you should ask. It so happens that…….

The last one to answer the question, gets to show the next item. And so on.

You’ll notice that after that first round, people will start becoming more and more creative with their items and their answers. Again, associative thinking. There are no wrong answers, it’s all about the connections inside people’s heads. It never ceases to amaze me, all the links people come up with. You get to hear some really unexpected stories and use those to get the conversation going. And, which is especially useful for me as the Facilitator, I can also expect to hear some things that are not only fun, but useful to know about a person. Things I get to ask them more about during those one-on-one meetings I’ll be having with the team later on. Scavenger Hunts are a Scrum Master’s treasure trove.

RORY’S STORY CUBES – This is next level associative thinking and I was really worried at first because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to play this game online. This is one of the essential items in my Scrum Master tool kit, without it I would be lost! Story Cubes are sets of 9 eight-sided cubes with pictures on them. Think rolling dice cubes but with pictures instead of numbers. They come in all kinds of varieties, such as Fantasia, Travel, Actions….

I use these to get people to open up about themselves, for instance, or about how they believe the game we just played went, about their day, about anything really. Story Cubes provide a creative framework that can be used to start all kinds of conversations. Because they provide a framework they help people structure their thoughts while at the same time getting their brains going trying to come up with suitable associations to link the pictures on the cubes to the subject at hand. As I said before, I would be lost without them.

But cubes are very physical things, so how was I going to use them online? Luckily, I came across something that made my Open Source Hippy heart happy: the online Rory’s Story Cube Generator provided by those wonderful and brilliant people at MIT! I truly believe that knowledge should be open, so I’m really happy that they decided to create and share their generator. YAY!

For my online introductions I ask participants to have a go at the generator, select four of the nine cubes and use those pictures to tell something more about themselves. Again, it’s really interesting to hear what people come up with based on these random pictures.

So, there you have it: three different versions of associative thinking games that are ideal to get to know your new team…… and so much more!

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