Earlier in the week I got the chance to play with the PlayCards with a group of two-dozen technology leaders at this autumn’s IT Directors’ Forum. Whilst I’ve run a few games now online using virtual versions of the cards in Miro, this was the first time I was able to try out physical versions of the cards.

After a brief introduction into the two models that underpin the cards (Innovation in 4 diagrams – 3. The Play Matrix and Innovation in 4 diagrams – 4. The Skills of the Bricoleur), we then played three games.

The simplest game of all is the one-card draw. The group was split into 6 and each team were given a pack of the cards. The deck was shuffled and each play was dealt one card. That was a card that they would act upon in the next week and I asked them to take a photo of the card to take it with them.

Who knows who will act? I don’t. But as I set up the exercise, people are very willing to put their trust and their lives into the random drawing of cards, whether with Tarot or playing high stakes poker, so why not?

The next game was a game of improvisation, using only the skill on the card (one of 13 innovation skills that the deck is based around). The scenario was that the team was setting up a new initiative. They could use the innovation skills to build how they would structure that project, and each player took turns to draw a card, and then use it to inspire an idea based on the “Yes, and…” improvisation technique.

Something like:

1: We are working on a project to improve our customer services.

2: (Draws card – “Work out Loud”) Yes, and we’ll set up blog to make sure we can give a running commentary of what we are doing as we are doing it.

3: (Draws card – “Disrupt yourself”) Yes, and we’ll ask everyone in the project team to try out a new service provider compared with who they usually use just to note the differences and similarities in the two companies’ customer service models.

4: (Draws card – “Be happy being childlike”) Yes, and we’ll run a session where everyone has to use Lego to build a representation of what the outcomes of the project might look like.

1: (Draws card – “Copy without shame”) Yes, and we’ll imagine what our service would be like if it was run by RyanAir…

…and so on. No idea needs to be seen as great or bad – just ideas spurred by the cards.

The final game was a cut down version of the 2×2 matrix game I ran during PlayCards Field Notes: a game for teams to explore innovation skills and gaps. This time around it was simply to explore concepts of comfort and discomfort.

The cards were shuffled and then players drew one at a time, placing them onto a pile either for those which the instructions they found comfortable and another than discomforted them. Each draw they’d say a little about why they felt the way that they did, and others chipped in with their own reflections.

After drawing a few cards each, the questions then were asked did anyone say they were comfortable with everything? If so were they being truthful? And would the participants’ own teams feel able to be honest about concepts of comfort or discomfort?


What did I learn? Well, there was amazing engagement. A real energy in the room. For the rest of the event a number of people came up to me to comment on how it had got them thinking differently about innovation. And a couple invited me to come and play games with their own teams. It was a fun 50 minutes.

One thought on “PlayCards Field notes: more games to play

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