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A playful template to develop your team with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®

Today is a special day! We're really proud to announce a new template named "Develop your team". Created in collaboration with Strategic Play, a great team who empower organizations to unlock their creative genius using play, and especially LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methods.

To celebrate this collaboration, we welcome Jacquie Lloyd Smith from Strategic Play and Author of the book "Strategic Play: The Creative Facilitator's Guide", as a guest on our blog. She's sharing her 20 years’ global experience in the design and delivery of incredible learning experiences in a playful way: a card deck featuring LEGO® visuals and now powered by Stormz!

A deck card using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® and powered by Stormz

So we leave it to Jacquie to tell us the genesis of this collaboration and how you can develop your team with this practical, visual, and user-friendly technique.

Stormz Technology and LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methods

By Jacquie Lloyd Smith

Have you ever met someone, maybe only briefly, but your paths continued to cross until you finally connected?

Well this is the story of how we at Strategic Play and the creative minds at Stormz began an interesting visual project. The story takes place over a span of five years and starts in Buffalo, New York, going to Sestri Levante, Italy; back to New York, then to Toronto and Whistler, Canada; and ends in Paris, France. Beautiful locations for the happenstance meetings, but the backstory is not as interesting as the final outcome—the electronic visual cards.

Back in June of 2016, we (Jacquie and Steve) at Strategic Play® were in the final stages of production of the cards, when Mary Ellen introduced us to the Stormz technology tools. From the first iPad swipe we knew it was a partnership made in heaven. The teams at both Strategic Play and Stormz had already met at a number of creativity conferences, but until this moment we did not know what we were going to develop together.

We are happy to announce we have now firmly connected our 3D Diagnostic Cards, based on LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methods, with Stormz. These cards are available online in an introductory set in the complementary Stormz Visual Package. If you are a facilitator using Stormz, make sure you try out the set and please send us an email to let us know what you think.

Build your values on LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® with Stormz

Stormz is designed and developed for group discussion and decision making, it is proving to be a powerful tool for creative problem solving. The technology allows for groups to identify, discuss, vote, and comment on concepts and ideas in order to gain greater understanding.

The diagnostic cards are powerful, pocket-sized tools for inspiring creative thinking, problem solving, decision making, and collaboration. Why do people love these cards and what makes them so powerful?

The LEGO® vignettes use a degree of satire to convey powerful meanings about human conditions.

With this form of communication, it’s easy for anyone to say “The Emperor has no clothes.” In a world where people often hide behind language, tread carefully not to offend, and search for real meaning in communication, these visuals help conversations get to the point where people can tell the real story in a way that is perhaps lighthearted, palatable, and most effective. The cards allow people to tell their stories and move away from a “you” point of blame to an “I” point of view.

We designed these cards to transform dialogs and enable critical conversations.

Used with the Stormz technology on smartphones and iPads, facilitators have a tool to reach large groups and facilitate powerful conversations. Online or in-person.

Create a free account and play with the new Stormz Lego template or learn more about Strategic Play Diagnostic Cards!


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Stormz and Imper Group Power a Large Group Meeting in Russia

We are extremely proud to share that our close partner and Stormz certified facilitator from Moscow, Imper Group’s Mikhail Rossius, successfully ran a large-scale event with Stormz last month, gathering over 140 directors of Russian hypermarkets from French retailer Auchan in a ground-breaking convention.

With the help of the Stormz software (available in Russian language) and its dedicated Box, Mikhail facilitated various activities:

  • The Weather report, a quick introductory session to assess the mood of the crowd;
  • A 30-minute four-step ideation session, where participants ranked all the ideas and enriched the top 8 with new insight;
  • A Core Value workshop, asking participants to look for synonyms of the three words that best describe their core values;
  • A Q/A session to collect questions regarding the presentations;
  • And, finally, a Surprised-Delighted-Concerned feedback session to finish in style.

What did Mikhail have to say about this last one?

“This particular session came out to be really collaborative, as their leaders allowed meaningful discussions to take place. On the scene with an iPad, they facilitated the discussion, answered questions and remarks that came up. “

He added:

“From what I saw, it was a huge breakthrough from a traditional large group event”

Mikhail is our Key Local Partner in Russia. Contact him, if you need help for your next corporate meeting or if you want to be trained to using Stormz for your own work meetings, trainings or events.

Thank you, Mikhail, for sharing this experience with us and congratulations!


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How to create a shared vision with pictures?

How can we share our thoughts and feelings? How can we use words to describe what we’re truly passionate about? How can we express the fleeting impressions, the transient feelings that nourish our imagination and that we would like to translate into our professional ventures?

Creativity may be fickle and volatile, refusing to be pinned down by words and speech. We must therefore find other ways of communicating, test new languages. We may, for example, use our writing skills for a brainwriting or get on with a more practical approach to prototype solutions. There is, however, a tool which stands at the core of our imagination and thought processes, a tool that may turn out to be our most trusted ally in our search for optimal creativity: images!

Think about this old childhood picture that brings back to mind so many memories; or about the company logo that conveys everything you need to know about them. How about this painting whose plastic beauty leaves us speechless? Images can have artistic purposes, they can help us remember past events or serve the purpose of asserting one’s identity. Regardless of its specific role, images represent who we are and strengthen our creative abilities. It is also an incredible way to communicate, as they can instantly express what a thousand words could never aspire to fully describe.

Illustrating your Stormz workshops

There are three main ways to use images during a Stormz workshop:

In this article, we will mainly talk about the third one since you can now export, copy-paste and share your workshops with the cards’ attached files! We will show you how to use visual cues to enrich your collaborative workshops, should it simply be to live a shared experience, to reflect on your core values or to find inspiration.

Four workshops to share a common vision!

These four workshops will no doubt inspire your participants and unlock new creative possibilities for your team!

Visual brainstorming – Find inspiration by analogy

visualbrainstorming

One of the main rules of brainstorming is to create an environment where the participants’ contributions echo one another, mutually reinforcing each other and bringing ideas to fruition up until your teams come up with the golden egg. In that perspective, rather than starting on a blank sheet of paper, it may be useful to summon images to provoke the unlikely encounter between seemingly unrelated elements and build innovative solutions from there.

In this workshop, the participants should implement practical solutions with a creative constraint of two inspiring images. Try out this workshop on Stormz!

MoodBoard – Visually illustrate the overall "feel" of an idea!

moodboard

The MoodBoard is popular in creative circles and remains associated with designers, constantly surrounded as they are by images, substances and patterns of all sorts. Discovering someone else’s MoodBoard is like peeking into someone’s mind, its mood and intentions. This technique doesn’t only apply to creatives; it can bring huge benefits to whole teams, either to express some feelings or to build a common vision.

The MoodBoard will allow you to exchange all sorts of images and documents and to think, in a collaborative way, about those you feel closest to. Try out this workshop on Stormz!

Value Board – Define your values!

valueboard

In this workshop, you will have to position yourself in regards to images already present in the workshop rather than having to find them in your environment (as required in workshops like the MoodBoard). Every image will question your perceptions and relationship to your surroundings, giving you the opportunity to reflect on your true motives.

This workshop will also make you work on your shared values and inspiration models in order to increase your every-day commitment to virtuous practices. Try out this workshop on Stormz!

Photostorming – Send a postcard to your team!

photostorming

Postcards have the ability to gracefully conclude an awesome experience and allow us to share it with people we care for who couldn’t be there. Photostorming is an interactive, short and most engaging workshop where your participants will have to write a postcard of the event for colleagues who were not able to make it.

They will have to take a picture – or a selfie! – and write a few words explaining what they learnt from this experience and what they enjoyed the most about it. Try out this workshop on Stormz!

Images, pictures and all kinds of visual elements will turn your workshop into a truly creative and inspired experience and increase its spontaneity. If you would like to use canvases, whether they are specifically adapted to your own methodologies or standard ones, we kindly invite you to read this article!


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Celebrating the facilitator as the pillar of creative events

2016 has been an incredible year for our team, full of new experiences and encounters. It is therefore with a great and hardly concealed pride that we have witnessed how more and more people, operating in all kinds of fields, have started using Stormz to facilitate ambitious workshops and manage their own meetings.

Last August, we planned a meet-up so that facilitators with diverse backgrounds and expertise may come together to discuss their shared passion. Corporate facilitators are just as eager to use Stormz as independent agencies. We also have our own facilitators, that you may already know, and are increasingly calling on gifted outsiders we trained ourselves. But most importantly, we always work to ensure an optimal Stormz experience with services ranging from methodological counsel to technical assistance for more extraordinary events.

Facilitating a brainstorming session, managing a collaborative seminar or leading a CPS-based innovation process: these situations require a deep understanding and a solid background. This is why the facilitator’s role has significantly increased in the last few years to the extent of becoming a key and indispensable figure regarding creativity and collaboration. He is the one responsible for the technical set-up of the event as well as the methodological expertise, ensuring an environment where new synergies can be formed between participants and between ideas.

Facilitator

For us, Stormz is specifically designed to serve as the facilitator’s own digital tool. Its purpose is not to replace them or put them out of a job; on the contrary, it allows them to manage incredibly creative workshops and address increasingly complex challenges. For that reason, we would like to celebrate their work and insist on how much we value their commitment, their audacity and their creative abilities. It is also for that purpose that we have created the facilitators directory, registering all Stormz-trained facilitators.

With this tool, you will be able to get to know the facilitators who are using Stormz, in France and elsewhere, and learn more about their background and specific expertise. A contact sheet is available, should you wish to team up with them. Hiring a facilitator, for an isolated event or an on-going innovation process, allows an organization, working alongside a trained professional, to experiment new types of interaction and increase their knowledge about collaboration techniques. This directory is open for all the facilitators trained at Stormz. If you want to save your spot in the next training or be part of our directory, just contact us!. You can also register for our webinar to have a presentation of Stormz!


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Brainstorming is a matter of commitment

Brainstorming is not dumb

Which has more value: an idea produced by a single individual or generated by a group of people brainstorming together? Does brainstorming only favours creativity?

Although brainstorming experts have been struggling with these questions since this technique was first invented by Alex Osborn back in 1948, the fact that they remain unresolved has not kept it from becoming one of the most widely used creativity method in the world. For many, brainstorming is seen as the living example of corporate inefficiency and viewed as an over-simplistic method responsible for producing both uncreative and unpractical ideas. As brainstorming became more and more popular, it lost the discipline it initially relied on, to such an extent that today’s criticism is mainly aimed at the way it is used in companies rather than at the method itself.

And indeed, brainstorming is too often used as a self-sufficient tool without being incorporated into an authentic innovation process like the Creative Problem Solving (CPS) detailed by Osborn and Parnes. Gary Hamel wittingly compares brainstorming to a car engine which, used without the drive belt or other car parts, loses most of its purpose. The suspension of judgement rule only makes sense if we divide the brainstorming into two distinctive steps of divergence and convergence. One must make sure, in a first place, that spontaneity and the ability to take risks are preserved and give room, afterwards, for critical thinking.

Many group bias (political influence, responsibility dilution, etc.) often keep brainstorming from producing ground-breaking creative ideas and could even, in some cases, have an inhibiting effect on shy people. Osborn himself, in a 1958 study, showed how individual ideas are more relevant than those generated collectively. Many believe that they would move forward more quickly if they were the only ones taking the decisions, regardless of their peers’ opinions or of the overall framework of the work session.

To counter such misleading views, we must insist on the collaborative aspect of brainstorming rather than on the creativity it supposedly favours. Having ideas is not a goal in itself, it is merely a means to collaborate on innovative projects. Unless you are some kind of superior lifeform, you will necessarily have to rely on your colleagues to enrich your ideas, put them in motion and implement them. We will see, step by step, how brainstorming can become the cornerstone of collaboration and creativity.

The aim of divergence is to gather everybody's ideas

In order to set up a good phase of divergence, one must build up the group carefully and be able to choose facilitation methods adapted to the situation.

The recipe for a good brainstorming

As we become increasingly more specialized, problem-resolution will necessarily need to adopt an inter-disciplinary and global approach to benefit from various and sometimes conflicting sources of expertise and worldviews. CPS practitioner Ruth Noller illustrates this with a simple equation:

C=fa(K,I,E): Creativity is the combination of Knowledge (K), Imagination (I) and Evaluation (E).

Ideas fall into French chemist Antoine Lavoisier’s famous maxim “Nothing is created, everything is transformed”. Regardless of how innovative they seem to be at first hand, they always represent a mere combination of pre-existing ideas. That is why we must rely on highly diverse sources of knowledge and embrace opposing views and perceptions. A whole step of design thinking, inspiration or empathy, is dedicated to gather relevant field-related knowledge. The key to organize a successful brainstorming session is to invite participants who are directly involved and affected by the issue at hand and whose coming together will help shed new light on the topic.

Finding new combinations requires to embrace opposing worldviews and build new bridges. A 2010 study conducted by MIT’s Alex Pentland suggests that a team’s global worth depends much more on the ability to show empathy and awareness towards each other’s interests than on the average IQ. This is the only solution to reach an idea that everyone might feel compelled to support. Even though this can be hard and laborious work, it is critical to combine every participant’s individual aptitudes to implement a common and achievable project.

Choose the brainstorming that suits you

Since 1948, brainstorming has known many new developments as a number of variants have emerged to address the group bias that may obstruct the creative process.

Last summer, in its article Brainstorming is dumb, FactCoDesign talked about one of these variations, brainwriting as a solution to brainstorming bias. Writing has three benefits that speech lacks: anonymity (so that everyone can express their ideas freely without putting their ego on the line), asynchronicity (so that everyone can advance at their own pace) and the ability to keep a physical track of the ideas and improve them.

Echoing that thought, this Harvard Business Review article conjured similar arguments to promote online brainstorming. This technique enables us to extend a brainstorming’s life-span and incorporate it in a long-term process. No need to classify the post-it notes once the session is over, as its outcomes remain accessible at all times and may be used again for a new session or for individual work. A recent study showed that a creativity peak was reached right after a brainstorming session. It can therefore be extremely useful to ask participants to share new inputs just as they go back to their office.

However, both variations (writing and online) have their own bias, including the lack of spontaneity and additional distance to the whole process. Every solution has its own faults and advantages and should be used within a specific context.

The best solution is to be highly adaptable and be able to choose the method that best suits your needs. That is why the facilitator, its knowledge and experience, are key to ensure that the workshop goes smoothly. The facilitator is in charge of implementing the methodology, both in theory and in practice. He will also have to create an environment that favours creativity and everyone’s ability to generate relevant, original and achievable ideas.

The aim of the Convergence is to build a common project

The convergence phase requires care and commitment to select the most creative ideas and structure them into concrete projects.

brainstorming is about commitments

Regardless of the intrinsic value of an idea, the most important factor is the level of commitment it produces among the participants. The idea may be absolutely brilliant, however, if no one is enthusiastic enough to follow through, it will be stacked away and quickly forgotten. Unlike individual ideas, brainstorming-generated ideas benefit from the added-value of all participants, therefore increasing its chances of being ultimately implemented.

Lewin’s 1945 housewives experiment shows how a highly interactive discussion reduces resistance to change and increases the level of commitment and the ability to take initiatives among participants. A decision will be more enthusiastically implemented when it is produced by a process seen as democratic enough to take everyone’s input into account.

Most high-altitude accidents occur after the ascending phase because of the misleading feeling of having already reached one’s goal. A similar effect plagues the brainstorming process, as accumulating a mass of original ideas regardless of the convergence phase dramatically increases the risks of leaving on the side the most valuable ones and fostering frustration within the group. It is therefore critical to know, before the start of the brainstorming session, how ideas will be selected: by vote, collaborative evaluation or via a jury.

Such a step cannot be improvised as it requires a strong methodological rigor to ensure that the decision faithfully reflects the intentions and motivations of your group. It is the facilitator’s responsibility to find out and practice new decision-making methods. For instance, sorting out your ideas with a COCD Box will enable you to choose the most promising ones, both for the short and long term.

You need to reinforce your ideas

Greenhousing, developed by the ?What If! team, aims to use the brainstorming-generated ideas to build operational ones. As Mark Payne would say, an idea is nothing more than an idea, the sketch of a work of art in progress. One or several ideas must be used to form a concrete and elaborate project. One of the first step to make ideas more operational may be to simply ask to detail who will be in charge of implementing it, with what means and according to what timetable.

Many methodologies may be used to enrich and structure a project, such as the scamper, which relies on a set of questioning to help you fiddle with your project, or Bono’s hats, which will encourage you to view your project from different point of views and personalities. And many more.

Other alternatives are available: you can use canvases like the business model canvas to structure your project or the customer empathy map to take into account your clients’ perception.

Collaborating with the help of a canvas enables you to agree on many different aspects of your project. It can therefore be regularly updated according to the feedback of your team members and the project’s progress. If you defined one or several personas for your project, it is important to go on the field to see whether your perceptions are correct so you can regularly improve them. Once again, the canvas, like brainstorming, should be viewed as a means to agree on a common reality based on individual experiences.

Brainstorming is only the beginning

At Stormz, we strongly believe that it is much more relevant to view brainstorming as a collaboration method rather than using it as a creativity process as it increases individual involvement, strengthens group cohesion and helps implement innovative projects.

Largely based on brainstorming dynamics, Stormz is generally used for change management, collaboration workshops and training events. It is therefore obvious how brainstorming techniques go well beyond the issue of corporate creativity. We also notice that the success of a creativity session heavily relies on the facilitator’s abilities to manage the session and choose the appropriate tools and methods.

That is why Stormz was created, first and foremost, as the facilitator’s own digital tool, so versatile and rigorous that it will enable him to organize collaborative events in a wide variety of settings (small or large groups, onsite or online, etc.). We have also shared many templates in our library for you to freely discover, test and use with your teams or clients.

Being a professional facilitator is a full-time job that requires extreme commitment to constantly learn new methods and tools to live up to the position’s responsibilities. If you wish to organize truly productive creativity sessions, it is therefore critical that you find the right person to fill that seat, either from the company’s own ranks for regular meetings or outside experts for exceptional events.

Whichever it is, we strongly advise you to get in touch with facilitators’ communities, such as the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) whose members will be glad to share their experiences with you. You can also have a look at our facilitators’ directory to work with certified-Stormz users trained at many methodologies. We have worked many times with every single one of them and know how much they can bring to your events.


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