Business Transformation

8 Tips On Using Games In Meetings

One morning when dropping my four-year-old daughter off at school, she told me, “I love the games we play at school, Mum. What kind of games do you play at your office?” After thinking about it for a moment, I had to answer, “Well, none actually.” At the time, it felt wrong and now, eight years later, and after teaching countless classes and reading extensively about neuroscience, I realize how desperately we needed games in my previous job and how much we would have benefited from them.

Einstein considered games to be “the highest form of research” and neuroscience has demonstrated that he was right about their role in cognitive development (as he was right about so many things!). Playing is indeed among the most effective ways to learn and to build group organization. Looking at natural learning processes, we have all witnessed lion cubs playing with each other to learn how to fight and in doing so, to settle the future hierarchy. This game is, in the long term, a survival challenge. “Play it until you can do it” is an entertaining and effective way to learn.

Moving from the jungle to our own professional lives, where could we exercise the playing skills? Well, meetings are actually the perfect playground. 11 million meetings are held each day, representing 15% of an organization’s time and it has been observed that middle managers spend 35% of their time in meetings. That is a lot, especially as 67% of employees complain that meetings hinder them from being productive at work (statistics are from Attentiv, KornFerry, The Muse, and Cleverism, 2020). Obviously, meetings are perceived as an necessary pain for most of us. Could games turn these lemons into lemonade?

Playing is not only about learning new skills, it also enhances collective intelligence, trust, and camaraderie. Those soft skills are what make the company, but are rarely on the to-do list of trainings per se, because they need a context to be exercised. Managers can deliver all the pep talks they want about collaboration and sharing best practices, but I believe staff truly collaborates when they focus on something to do together, creating trust and bonds they can leverage on projects at a later stage. Collective intelligence isn’t an immediate switch on mode, it takes time, energy, and …games.

If you bring games into your meetings, you could help build a team culture where all stakeholders are more engaged with meaningful social interactions, in other words, I believe, the backbone of a resourceful organization.

Let’s take a look at 8 top tips for using games in meetings.

  1. Remind everyone that games enhance collective intelligence by creating trust, boosting creativity, and elevating the mood.
  2. Announce that you are the game master. You might want to bring accessories – bells or music are very good ones – to launch “play time”.
  3. Choose games where everyone wins: paper planes, Lego, and role-playing video games like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes and Yo-kai are great for building collective intelligence in a very inclusive way.
  4. Let your colleagues overplay their roles: encourage them to get out of “office mode”. You can ask them to bring something incongruous for the meeting, add a prompt to the invitation email like “For tomorrow’s meeting, please bring a pair of sunglasses/something yellow (you name it)”. It will definitely pique their curiosity and you it will result in some great team pictures.
  5. Respect the introverts by offering a specific role like “time master”, “jury member” or “secret weapon”.
  6. After playing, give everyone time to cool down, to chat, and to ask each participant about the game.
  7. Prepare a closing ritual, thank the participants, play some music, assume your facilitator role and announce, dramatically, “The show must go on, let’s get back to business now”.
  8. Games work at online meetings too. For example, with running stories, one participant starts a story and stops after a couple of sentences and names another person to continue the story. Storytelling is a powerful way to connect the members of the team and to get a sense of the atmosphere. In fact, the meeting can even be renamed with the title of the story. Once I attended a “sexy mosquito meeting” and it was the best – and only – sales forecasting meeting I actually remember.

With the current pandemic, most organizations are rethinking their working models to develop both inclusivity and efficiency in the New Now. Introducing and encouraging gamification as an opportunity to leverage the multiple dimensions of collective intelligence is, I am convinced, the new game to play.

Written by Delphine Blin-Genin. Have you read?
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Delphine Blin-Genin
Delphine Blin-Genin is an opinion columnist is a lecturer, columnist, and learning strategy consultant. Genin has a master’s degree in management from ESCP Europe and has studied neuroscience for business at MIT Sloan. She joined Swiss Education Group in 2018 and teaches business planning, marketing, and ethics to students at César Ritz Colleges Switzerland. As a learning strategy consultant, Genin has an acute understanding of neuroscience and entrepreneurship.

Delphine Blin-Genin is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.