At a recent NEN E-Leader Workshop for leaders of Entrepreneurship Cells on college campuses, I used a version of the Low-Tech Real-Life Social Networking Game from the excellent new book ‘GameStorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers‘ by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo.
The objective of the game was to explain how online social networks can help entrepreneurs form new connections by discovering and becoming more discoverable to potential collaborators who share their passions.
Here’s how I organized the game:
Step 1. I divided the 5o odd participants into two groups and gave each group a white board.
Step 2: I asked each participant to write their name and three things they are passionate about on a post-it note and put it up on their group’s white board in a random order.
Step 3: Then, I then asked each participant to compare their “passion-tags” with the tags for their group members and draw a line if the tags match, without moving the post-it notes.
Step 4: Finally, I asked the participants to look at the network of post-it notes and lines on the white boards and share their observations on what they learned from the game.
The participants learned several important insights about online social networks from the game –
1. Each one of us is connected to everyone else, only by a few degrees of separation. In the small groups, the maximum degree of separation was three, but even in large social networks, the maximum degree of separation is believed to be six.
2. Some people are more connected than others, because they have broad passions that are shared by many others, or because they spent more time making connections with others with similar passions. For instance, the person who had the highest number of connections in one group has spent time to read through the passion-tags of each person in the group.
3. When people declare their passions publicly, they discover and become discoverable to others who share their passions. Otherwise, they miss out on opportunities to make new connections, even in the same room. For instance, several participants in one group discovered that their shared a passion for cooking after the game.
4. Serendipity plays an important role in declaring passions and discovering connections, so we need catalysts to discover people who share the same passion. For instance, one participant had mentioned graphic design as a passion, but hadn’t make any connections, until I mentioned it and several people said they shared his passion for graphic design, but hadn’t mentioned it as a passion-tag.
5. Once we discover others who share our passions, we are more inclined to like them and collaborate with them, even if we have known them in another context before. For instance, several participants were pleasantly surprised to discover that there were other gamers in the room.
6. In an interesting twist, some post-it notes fell off the white boards and some participants remarked that this was similar to people becoming inactive or leaving social networks, leading to broken connections. So, social networks are not static and both people in our networks and the passions we share with them are constantly changing.
In a one hour session, I spent 15 minutes in setting the context, 15 minutes in playing the game, and 30 minutes in discussion.
It seems to me that whenever I put aside my slide decks and use storytelling or games instead, I enjoy my workshops more (and the participants seem to learn more).
What about you? What are the most innovative games you have played in workshops you have hosted or attended? Do share your insights in the comments below?