Board Games For Business

Long before Facebook, Instagram and Angry Birds, in an age long past (or so it seems), families spent hours together huddled around the kitchen table, enjoying spirited games of Monopoly, Sorry, the Game of Life, and Risk. A welcome break from television — the chief electronic entertainment of the era — board games provided adults and kids alike a chance to interact with each other in real time: laughing, communicating, and strategizing together, across generations.

The Monk and The Tiger

The other day, I was re-reading one of my favorite inspirational books, Sylvia Boorstein’s short and pithy “It’s Easier Than You Think“, and came across this famous parable:

“A monk was being chased by a tiger toward the edge of a cliff. He leaps off the cliff, grasping a vine that has grown over the edge. Below him is a long drop to certain death, above him is the snarling tiger.

Scavenger Hunts vs. Treasure Hunts: Is there a difference?

One of the most common questions I hear from prospective clients is, “So what can you tell me about your scavenger hunts?” For a native San Franciscan like me, this is akin to a tourist saying “I just love Frisco…especially your trolley cars.” Sad to say folks, my lovely hometown by the bay is San Francisco (not Frisco), we have cable cars here (not trolleys), and Dr. Clue creates treasure hunts (not scavenger hunts). Semantics do matter!

So what exactly is the difference between a scavenger hunt and a treasure hunt?

Collaborative Games

What exactly is a “game”? A quick search on Wikipedia delivers this definition:
game
/g?m/
Noun

“A form of play or sport, esp. a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.”

Although I agree that games must necessarily have rules (and structure), what strikes me as Interesting about the definition above is the phrase “[especially] a competitive one”. It seems that the internet, like most of society, has bought into the notion that games must be competitive in order to qualify as “games”. But is this necessarily so?

Off to See the Wizard

Kyoto, Japan circa 1986, and there I was — standing at the ancient gates of Tofukuji monastery — eagerly attempting to meet the wizard.

In truth, Fukushima Roshi is no sorcerer, nor is Tofukuji the Emerald City. But the Abbot of Tofukuji temple is certainly “wizardly” in his sense of calm, equanimity, and spiritual development…or so I had heard. My college classmate, Tim Armacost — a Zen Buddhist and old Japan hand — was the one who had initially insisted I drop in on the Roshi when touring Japan’s imperial city.

“You have to go visit the Roshi. He may not change your life, but then again, he just might.”

Should Games be More (or Less) Competitive

There’s a popular social movement in schools these days, compelling teachers and coaches to minimize competition on the playground while increasing collaboration. It’s gone so far that one school I heard about even removed the scoreboard from their high school football field, insisting that keeping score put too much pressure on the students and inflated the competitive element, reducing self-esteem.

“The Wave” of Team Decision Making

A few days ago, I watched a fascinating movie from 2008 — “The Wave” — available widely on DVD, Netflix, etc. Although the film takes place in Germany (with an all-German cast), it’s actually a dramatization of the true story of an unusual teaching experiment conducted by Ron Jones at his Palo Alto, CA high school in 1969. As the “The Wave” begins, young teacher Rainer Wenger finds himself compelled to teach a one-week course on the topic of “autocracy” — not his favorite subject. After his first class — taught in the traditional, lecture manner — fails to inspire much interest from his students, Rainer decides to try an experiment.

The “Golden Rule” at Work – Re-Examined

One of the most popular axioms in western culture is the Golden Rule, loosely summarized as “Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.” Although valid in general (who doesn’t want more love, respect and kindness?), the Golden Rule is flawed when it comes to personality styles and preferences. People just aren’t all wired alike; they have different needs, different ways they want to be treated. And this is particularly true during times of stress. At work, it is the leader’s task not only to know how he, himself, prefers to be treated in times of hardship, and how his staff might react in the pressure cooker, but also what each of his teammates might need in order to recover from the crisis and get back on track.

Why Teambuilding?

Earlier this year, I was in Denver preparing for a treasure hunt. The night before the program, the client asked me to join the group for a drink at the hotel where we were staying. Expecting fifteen people when I arrived in the hotel lounge, I was surprised to see that only fourteen team members were present. Who was missing? “Oh, that’s just Mark being Mark” explained my client contact, Anthony. “He doesn’t believe in business-related socializing during his ‘private time.’”