It might seem really odd that a question like that really put a smile on my face, but it did and here is why:

Running workshops including gaming techniques to create results rather than “meetings” is something we introduced as part of the agile software development process.

Soon after that, I noticed that my motivation to participate in “normal” larger meetings in other parts of the organisation decreased more and more. Why? I guess I just didn’t feel as engaged, I felt everything was too theoretical and I also thought I was wasting my time as often I switched off for quite a long time.

So, I started using simple workshop and gaming techniques more and more in reviews, in working through complex inter-departmental issues and every time it felt that valuable insight was gained. None of these meetings had anything to do with software or other technology developments by the way.

Therefore, when this colleague from a different part of the organisation asked me if we could “workshop” this topic next time, it made me pretty happy because we had made an impact on desired ways of working without imposing anything top-down.

Now, workshops and games are by no means the one-size-fits-all solution, but they:

  • create an open, participative atmosphere
  • energise the room
  • make people think (properly)
  • achieve consensus or democratic results
  • create a “we” effect
  • create a level playing field, eliminate personal issues
  • can create powerful results and point to further to dos beyond the workshop scope
  • are fun

Well, of course you can’t run every meeting as a workshop, but if you are looking to gather and group issues related to a broader topic and then drill down on the real core of a problem, when you have more than, say, at least 3 participants, they help.

I’d argue that workshop techniques help you prepare better for meetings (if only considering the material required), but you will have to be organised, moreso than just walking into a room and saying “right, what’s this meeting about now” when you’re supposed to be running it (and we have all done that).

What you need:

  • time to prepare the workshop and some idea of the tools you want to use
  • time to follow up (digest the results into manageable text, to dos, etc. (we use Confluence and Jira to handle this)
  • all relevant material
  • enough space in your meeting room/area
  • to be awake
  • patience – the workshop might move into a different direction than you might anticipate – but that’s all about being agile, and unless a group fully goes off on a tangent, which is entirely off topic, their focus might be more important than the original purpose of you getting-together
  • good judgement of the participants – how do they function as a group? Is there trust?

There are of course, countless books written on the topic and you can just about pick and choose any of them. One book and web site, which were recommended to me and which I find pretty easy to use without over-complicating things is Gamestorming (and no, I have no relation business or other, to the publishers and authors):

So if you like what you read and saw: happy workshopping!