Happiness at Work
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Playing Games to Uncover Stories of Success!

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Our work at Attuning focuses on guiding teams and individuals to diagnose the imbalance in their company, and to embrace their unique path of change so that they can thrive. We help them look at their situation from many perspectives, so that they gain new insights.    We educate individuals to become complex thinkers by supporting them to develop qualities such self-awareness, adaptability, and collaboration within their networks. We are focusing not on individual leaders only but also on creating the right conditions within an organization to support large scale development of leadership in that network.

Here’s the example of a small business employing ten people. The company just started offering a new product, and asked the employees to sell it to all the regular clients. Most of the clients declined to buy another product. The employees’ time is spent selling old products and managing customer issues related to the old product. They “know” that their clients are not going to buy the new product and so, they focus on staying busy, doing what they know it had worked in the past: selling the old products.

Pressures at work build up every day and everything is a priority, all the time.  People are upset because they do not know what do to in this complex situation.  They are expected to answer the phones that ring incessantly, sell old products to new people, sell new products to everybody, do the marketing including social media, and attend to all the emergencies that are coming in non-stop. Now, their office manager just announced that their end of year bonus is tied to bringing in new clients.

We came in and asked everybody to play a little game:

First everybody had to write down anonymously on a piece of paper what they did not dare to share with their boss about selling this new product. All the notes were placed it in a bowl.  Then, we divided the employees into two groups.

The groups were competing with each other to find solutions to what was written on the small pieces of paper in the bowl.  The winning group was the one that found the best questions, stories or solutions to counteract what most of the notes said.   We read the first random note out loud:  “People are really, really not interested. They don’t need this product!” Then each team started to explore:

Team 1: “Do they buy it from somewhere else?”

Team 2: “Did you ask if they ever bought this product and it did not serve them well”?

Team 1: “Could we focus on how the product is used and when it is bought?

Team 2: “Could it be something we are not seeing here?”

Slowly, the teams got engaged from a strength-based perspective, rather than with a focus on failure. Question after question, they started to find their own answers and started to uncover what they have not seen before. They started to acknowledge their own lack of interest, or belief in the new product.  The CEO is part of the process and learns how to observe, be quiet and guide his employees. They all get the chance to ask him questions about the new product.

What emerges from this one hour session is this:

  • The CEO must support his people to develop new abilities to help them diagnose each complex situation and make decisions
  • The company will create a culture of collaboration and make it easy for the employees to share with each other and to explore options
  • The employees agree that they need help with a better communications strategy to support the sales process

In a private conversation with the CEO, we create paths to support the employees on each of the points above. A new story started to emerge.

Two weeks from the session, the energy in the company started to shift. The employees were able to engage clients with more courage, and creativity, not in an aggressive way, but looking for possibilities, for new stories and ways to connect with them and to listen deeper. A deeper engagement with the employees led to more individual enthusiasm and more collaboration on the team. In turn, that led to better conversations with clients, and resulted in a few new sales.

Small shifts can lead to big changes. Diagnosing the disequilibrium is key, and addressing the “elephant in the room” with games that support better conversations, makes all the difference. Then, the real work can begin.


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Hi, I'm Ligia, business strategist and co-founder at attuning.org. I am interested in the concept of teaching through games and play. You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook.

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