Forget Jeopardy. Or even Two Truths and a Lie. My new favorite training activity is a variation of The Newlywed Game. Here are three reasons why:
1. It is fun. With a purpose. For some reason, “fun” has become a dirty word in the training business. As long as there’s a purpose to the activity, I have no problem with it being fun. This week when I threw The Newlywed Game into the design of a meeting, part of the purpose was to share information in a format that wasn’t three hours of PowerPoint. Pairing people up from different teams (the “newlywed” portion of the activity) and having them individually answer a series of questions and then compare answers invoked a lot more smiles than bullet points and slide templates.
2. It’s a little different. And unexpected. I’ve played Jeopardy to review content. I’ve played variations of board games and card games to explore material. I’ve role played and told two truths and a lie and I’ve gallery walked to discover what my fellow trainees have written. I’ve never played anything like The Newlywed Game in a training or meeting before. Even though it debuted on TV in 1966, it felt fresh when I facilitated it this week.
3. It reveals how far apart (or close together) people may be in their thinking. And their facts. Perhaps the most useful piece to this game was that it allowed key decision makers and managers in the room to identify how out of alignment people from various teams were on key facts, figures and terminology. We threw in some nonsensical questions as ice breakers (ie: “Which team member sneezes once a day at exactly 3pm?”), but the majority of questions we asked had significant real-world implications if we weren’t aligned on core content (ie: “What is the overall operational target for 2015?”). By pairing people from different teams and having them compare their answers to the same question in order to score points, we incentivized people to attempt to give their best guesses on key information in order to find out what people knew or did not know in a non-threatening atmosphere. We quickly discovered significant mis-alignment (that we otherwise would not have uncovered had people sat passively through a PowerPoint-based presentation) and a series of follow-up meetings to address these alignment issues have been scheduled.
How did we bring The Newlywed Game into our training session? If you’re not familiar with the basic game concepts, here is a link to an actual episode. I modified the rules to meet the purpose of our meeting.
1. I paired up people from different work units.
2. I asked a series of questions about one work unit that would be important for the other work unit to know. For example, one work unit we had in the room was a team that was responsible for approaching donors for funding, therefore it would behoove them to be able to answer critical questions about key performance indicators and milestones when seeking funding for programming carried out by the other work unit in the room.
3. Participants sat back to back and wrote their answers to the series of questions that I asked.
4. If both partners answered correctly, they received a point.*
* I made clear from the beginning that a) my judgment was final, so there was no use in arguing over answers and b) there would be no prizes, so people should worry more about finding out the correct answers than they should worry about keeping score.
Would this work with executives in the room? It’s definitely risky. It obviously depends on your work culture. Some executives feel an activity like this isn’t dignified and may instead opt for a series of PowerPoints to which people may or may not be paying attention. When I facilitated this activity on Monday, we had three C-level executives from the organization in the room, participating fully. I think they were willing to humor me on the design of this session because it was fun. With a purpose. We shared key information and identified significant weaknesses in our alignment across the organization.
When was the last time you took a risk in your training or meeting design? I’d love to hear your stories in the Comment section!