At the start of a morning workshop, there are usually a few people who are tired, glassy-eyed, checking their phone and largely disengaged. I love the challenge of waking these people up! And it’s usually not difficult — it just takes a warm-up exercise. I’m not talking about jumping jacks — although perhaps those would work — but rather a mental exercise. A warm-up gets everyone comfortable with one another and starts the creative juices flowing.
Hopes and Fears
Sample output from a Hopes and Fears exercise. In this case, we were considering whether all employees should have the ability to edit the intranet.
If you’re kicking off a project, I like Hopes and Fears (described in detail on IBM’s Enterprise Design Thinking site).
- Put two headings on a whiteboard: “Hopes” and “Fears”.
- Ask everyone to write down one hope and one fear for the project. Give them a couple of minutes.
- Ask each person to share theirs out loud, one after the other. You can write them down as they share, or if you use sticky notes, they can post them themselves.
Besides engaging the room, this warm-up helps you address potential problems. On a recent project, I was concerned that the scope was too large. In a Hopes and Fears exercise, one of the stakeholders listed “We’re trying to solve too many problems” as a Fear. This provided an excellent opportunity to discuss the scope and agree to reduce it!
After a warm-up exercise, workshop participants are fully engaged.
If your workshop involves drawing or sketching, Trading Cards (described in detail on Gamestorming) is a great warm-up.
- Hand out 4×6 index cards.
- Ask everyone to write their name and draw a stick figure of themselves. It helps to provide an example of your own card.
- Then ask them to write a little-known fact about themselves
- Ask everyone to pass the cards around the room. Encourage everyone to ask another person a question about themselves.
At a recent workshop, we learned that one person is studying Punjabi, one is working on the guitar, and another went to college on a softball scholarship. People are fully engaged after this exercise and ready to get to work!
According to Dave Gray, founder of XPLANE, “Humans are like cars: we perform better when we’re warmed up.” Although it takes a few minutes, time spent warming up is time well-spent. It’ll make the rest of your workshop more productive.
Chris McGrath has led intranet projects for over 20 years. He co-founded ThoughtFarmer, an intranet platform used by hundreds of organizations worldwide, and has worked on many SharePoint projects as well. Now, through Tangowork, Chris provides vendor-neutral intranet strategy and development services.