A journey into your team’s bright future!

By Thomas Spielhofer, Gregor Habinger, Johanna Amlacher and Ana Popovic

May 2020

Purpose of this gamification format:

The purpose of this format is to help in a team-building process when merely online communication through the Internet is available. It is inspired by solution focussed coaching (and similar methods such as future pacing), focussing on a bright common future of the team and the possible paths to get there. Therefore, it emphasises on shaping the future rather than on learning from the past. Being a gamification approach, it is inspired by the agile game Epic Bedtime Stories.

Durance: 

3-4 hours

When to use it:

A situation where this game might come in particularly handy is an ongoing team-building process. A situation, where team members do not yet know one another very well (or at least not in that specific formation). The team yet needs to find out how to best cope with an uncertain future, and there is no extensive history of shared working experience to draw from (nor burdening them). However, it can also be played at any other team reflection, such as Scrum retrospectives, e.g. to offer a well-established team the room for new perspectives on how to master challenging situations.

As the game has agile roots, and offers a chance to practice iterative working, it is particularly well-suited for, but not-limited to, agile teams. It can be played with one or several teams. 

The game comes as an online format. It is thus one of the not-so-many options for online team building: situations in which teams must remain distributed. In fact, this is how the game was created –  as an offspring of the Covid-19 pandemic, where a group of Agile Coaches (of the Agile Game Nights Vienna Community) experimented with ways to master the conundrum of facilitating good interaction between individuals without direct contact and without full perception of one anothers mimic and gestures. 

Who could use this format:

This format is intended to be used by any experienced team facilitator, Scrum Master or Agile Coach. 

Experiences:

The Epic Online Futurespective has been used at the Agile Game Night Vienna in May 2020 with 20 participants plus two facilitators, simulating 5 teams. Preliminary versions were tested in smaller settings. Prior to that, the game Epic Bedtime Stories, which this format is based upon, was used by the authors several times, both in company and university context. 

Licence:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Required Infrastructure:

  • Video Conferencing tool that allows to connect all team members and provides the possibility of breakout sessions (Zoom, Microsoft Teams,…)
  • A tool that allows for simultaneous viewing and editing of a shared document by all participants (Google docs, Pads,..)
  • Internet Connections of all participants with sufficient bandwidth and latency to allow for smooth video interaction

Roles:

  • Game Facilitator  – moderates the meeting and operates the tools (such as creating virtual breakout sessions)
  • The Star Chronicles Editor – personifies the need to create a coherent, publishable document. He/she sets standards for the publication, such as the length of each story or requirements for graphics/visualization. Furthermore, he/she gives feedback on the readability of stories

Game flow:

1.     Check-in

2.     Game Facilitator conveys the game rules

3.     Game Facilitator leads the participants into the space metaphor. E.g. “Now we all enter the uncharted deep space together… let us explore what mysteries and adventures lie ahead of us!”

4.     Warm-up exercise and distribution of people to space crafts (typically one real life team becomes one space craft crew. In well-established teams it can make sense to mix teams to create new perspectives on how challenges can be solved)

5.     Iterative game flow:

a.     Star Chronicles Editor reads a story describing the respective challenge at hand

b.     Each team writes a short story on how they successfully mastered that challenge

c.     Feedback to the stories by the Star Chronicle Editor

d.     Reflection: E.g. Game Facilitator asks the teams what they can learn from each other’s solution approach and/or what helped the teams in creating the story 

6.     Transfer: Game Facilitator asks what the team can learn for the real world (using standard coaching approaches) 

7.     Closing

Warm-up exercise:

To ease the players into the scenario and to get them used to use the tools we advise to use a warm-up exercise. It can be omitted for seasoned players of the game or well-established teams. For the warm-up exercise the Star Chronicle Editor presents the scenario:

You are students of the Space Alliance Academy on your last training flight of your education. Looking forward to graduating from the Space Alliance Academy, you are full of anticipation and in a good mood. Soon you will be exploring the vast possibilities of space. And the best thing? You have already been assigned to your future spaceships and making your training flight with your future crew.

Looking around you, you see a lot of happy and optimistic faces and you know deep in your heart that this is the right crew for you. Everything just clicks and it seems as if you were already working together for years…

But all of the sudden an alien spaceship appears in front of you. Your computer systems immediately tell you that this is an unidentified spaceship from an unknown race, that has never had any interaction with the Space Alliance. But fortunately the spaceship is unarmed and seems to come in peace.

Your universal translator does not know their language making first contact difficult. Therefore you will use visual signs to communicate with them. The first communication should be a presentation about who you are as a team. 

The participants have 10 minutes in their virtual breakout sessions to come up with a picture that best describes them as a team. To get them used to the tools later used in the game the participants need to put that picture into a virtual slidedeck. 

After the participants return from the virtual breakout session into the main room, each group briefly presents their picture and its meaning.

Challenges:

1st Mission: Space Alliance Academy Senior Class at the Great Holographic Star Gala

Starting position:

Every year the most successful crews of the Space Alliance Academy senior year are honored by the Star Chronicle by inviting them to the Great Holographic Star Gala.

It is a great honor to be recognized by the Star Chronicle and a reward for the hard work of the crew. 

The crew is very happy. Each award-winning crew is allowed to design a poster that describes the crew members, their roles, strengths and what made their crew special during their time together at the Space Alliance Academy.

The posters will then be hung forever in the Andromeda Infinity Hall of the Space Alliance Academy and will inspire other new crews.

The crews also have the opportunity to introduce themselves briefly.

The ceremonial highlight of the gala is speaking together of the interstellar oath of Chaika.

The interstellar oath of Chaika is the top premise for all Space Alliance crews. They commit themselves to always do their work according to the oath. The oath is the start of many adventures under the banner of the Space Alliance.

The interstellar oath of Chaika is not just a rule; it is a philosophy – an attitude towards life

“I will make my decrees for the benefit of all beings, to the best of my ability and judgment, and treat them with respect. I never put myself above other people and I will not interfere in the lives of less developed populations. Interference, even for well-intentioned reasons, can have terrible and irreversible effects on your life and that of all galaxies.

The non-interference in the life of  other peoples  is the main foundation for all decisions.” – The interstellar oath of Chaika.

Star Chronicle Editor specifications for the poster and presentation:

  • Short description / description of the crew, their roles, their strengths and special features
  • Graphics and images desired, but not absolutely necessary
  • the poster consists of only one page
  • The time at the Great Holographic Star Gala  is precious – each crew has only 2 minutes to present themselves and their poster (use the time wisely)

2nd Mission: The Moon of Artica (potentially double episode – 2 iterations)

Prolog:

“I will make my decrees for the benefit of all beings, to the best of my ability and judgment, and treat them with respect. I never put myself above other people and I will not interfere in the lives of less developed populations. Interference, even for well-intentioned reasons, can have terrible and irreversible effects on your life and that of all galaxies.

The non-interference in the life of  other peoples   is the main foundation for all decisions.” – The interstellar oath of Chaika.

The interstellar oath of Chaika is not just a rule; it is a philosophy – an attitude towards life

Starting position:

Your starship meets a pre-industrialized world on the planet Artica in a distant solar system. The level of development of the most developed species is comparable to that of Homo Sapiens on Earth in the Middle Ages. Your ship sensors show: One of the two moons on this planet is about to become unstable. The calculations of the science officer show that the moon will crumble and fall on the planet in huge rubble. The damage to any living being on this planet would be formidable.

 Topic for Iteration 1:

  • Describe the story: What happened? Who did what? What else happened? What was the result for Artica and your crew?

Topic for Iteration 2 (from the Star Chronicles Editor):

  • How do you manage to save life on Artica as well as comply with the oath of Chaika?
  • What helps you to solve this dilemma so that you and your team can go along with a clear conscience?

3rd Mission: The Neutral Zone (potentially double episode – 2 iterations)

At the neutral zone, the outer border of the space force, probes have registered suspicious measurements: Tachyrion particles. An unmistakable sign that camouflaged spaceships, e.g. the Inquisitors, are there. That doesn’t bode well! To prevent an attack from the start, all ships in this sector are pulled there. With only six ships, however, it is almost impossible to patrol the entire neutral zone, let alone withstand a concerted attack. 

Topic (from the Star Chronicles Editor):

  • How can the six ships still succeed in preventing a war?
  • How do they coordinate so that they respond successfully to the diverse, unforeseen events?

Special resource: a virtual spaceship deck is being set up, in which representatives from the ships can communicate with each other and coordinate: the plenum in Zoom (or any other remote collaboration tool)

Social learning (in previous groups):

How did you do as a team? What was helpful? What would you do differently?

Transfer:

1. What did you like?

2. What would you do differently about the game?

3. In what context would you use the game?

Variations

The game can be played with virtually every metaphor that you can think of, that is appreciated by your audience, and that makes sense in your context. It could be everything from medieval times via old western to high fantasy scenarios involving dragons and elves.

We have chosen a space metaphor as it frees the mind of creative boundaries. As avid viewers of science fiction movies and series can confirm, space heroes often solve problems by defying physical laws and sometimes even common sense, arguing that planets in outer space can have any rules you like or mystical new technologies can do that. If you select a more realistic scenario, say 18th century France for example, you might have an audience struggling to find solutions using only the tools at hand at that particular time and place. Using well introduced worlds known from films, like Star Trek or Star Wars, might increase familiarity or motivation but could also have negative effects, like the exclusion of participants not so familiar with that scenario.

This game helps teams to identify informal decision patterns or team dynamics as it puts people into the metaphor and lets them interact. If you want to focus more on problem solving you could vary the game to put the participants outside of the metaphor and ask them to be screenwriters for an established science fiction show. They need to write a screenplay in two iterations for an episode where the starship crew solves a particular problem successfully (the problem being similar to the real problem). In the third round the participants then try to map the story to their particular problem. For example if the participants decided that the fictional starship crew resolved the situation by using a technical device, you could ask them what this technical device could be in real life.

References:

Result of the Epic Online Futurespective at the Agile Game Night Vienna:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/18nHzSlfU0c8WqFLZ1hg0JEQLsGvwKZs7q-BC6mo2_Ng/edit?usp=sharing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *