As somebody in the team described it, “it’s like Chinese whispers, but with pictures”. The inspiration for this game came from a children’s TV game show called copycats.

Timing:

A team of 5 people with two rounds and a intro and debrief for each round took 20 minutes in total.

Materials:

A team of 5+ people, if larger could be split into two teams.

A way of timing, phone with stopwatch etc.

Post-its and pens.

Whiteboard or Flip chart + pens.

Instructions:

The concept of the game is for the team to communicate a picture through each member of the team and ending up with the last person drawing the same picture on the white board at the end. As somebody in the team described it, “it’s like Chinese whispers, but with pictures”.

The rules:

Each person only has 2 seconds to look at the picture.

Each person has only 15 seconds to draw their picture.

No talking until the end.

The team need to shield their post-its drawings from the others while the game is in progress.

The Flow:

It starts with a Product Owner (the facilitator in this case) describing to one of the team what he wants them to draw, this can be verbally outside the room or already written on a card/post-it. The next person then has 2 seconds to look at the drawing and has 15 seconds to draw the object and then show it to the next person… and so on. The final person in the team can use the whiteboard and draw the last picture in front of the whole team. Starting with the last person the PO then goes through the team asking in turn to guess what they thought the picture was meant to be. The team then scores 1 point for each person who guesses the answer correctly. (for example if by going back through the team the 3rd person in the chain guesses correctly then they earn 3 points)

The running:

Arrange the team around the table and give them each some post-its and pens. Describe the concept of the game and the flow, then ask for a volunteer to start or which way round the table the team would like to go.

At this point it is best to have some objects/things already written on cards for the team to draw (real world items are best: lighthouse, car, umbrella, bottle etc.)

Start the timer and show the first person the name of the object. Then keep the timings and instruct the team when to move on. At the end encourage the last person to standup and draw their picture for the team. Then proceed through the team asking them to guess of the picture, and ask what the team were thinking during the game, what were the challenges etc. Facilitate.

Learning Points: Discussion and facilitation guidance

There are several themes going on here, the communication of visual concepts, the rush and timings, the lack of negotiation and requirements clarity.

The most enlightening moment was when asked in the second round why they nearly all got the same drawing, one of the team said “it was because I consciously didn’t add to the drawing”. Meaning they didn’t solutionise, add to, or draw what they think it ought to be they merely copied the previous drawing. This for me captured the relevance to software development where requirements are misinterpreted and then expanded by the developers without the communication loop from “doing the right thing” to “doing the thing right”.

The first one started off as a bottle, the second a banana 🙂

## 3 thoughts on “Copycats”

1. Tim Leegstra says:

Just used this game for a Scrum retrospective with a group of 6 people. Easy to do and a lot of fun. We even did a third unplanned round because everyone liked it so much.

2. Andy Hiles says:

Yeah, its quite a simple game to do, it would be really interesting to see this played in a really large group and track back to explore where the pictures started to become distorted from the original.

3. I think I have seen a variation on this game where the players alternate between drawing a picture and describing in words. player 1 draws, player 2 writes description of pic, player 3 draws from written description, etc