Jenga: turning competitive into cooperative, and finite vs infinite games

We are used to playing competitive games. Football, indians and cow-boys, poker or rock-paper-scissors are all competitive games. Whether I win and you loose, or the other way around.

jengaCompetitive games are useful for learning things like getting more than your fair share during a negotiation or like killing the enemies of your people.

For the last decades, war has decreased and Toyota taught us about the importance of win-win negotiations for sustainable business. You need to teach a new set of skills for cooperation instead of competition. That’s why you need more cooperative games… or turning our competitive games into cooperative ones.

Jenga is a tradicional basic game. A group of people take turns for removing little wooden bricks from the bottom of a tower and try to put them on top of it. The first person making the tower fall, loses.

In this competitive game:

  • You want everyone else to fail, so you’ll make moves that let the worst case scenario for the next player.
  • You are interested in the shortest possible tower. The faster someone fails, the easier you win.

How about turning competitive Jenga into cooperative Jenga?

Let’s say the rules are changed so the goal is building the highest possible tower between everyone. The rest of the rules are left the same. Now:

  • You want everyone else to succeed, so you will do moves that facilitate the next person move.
  • You are interested in giving advice, support and assistance to the others, so they make moves easier for them and also easier for a sustainable growth of the tower.

With Cooperative-Jenga you get longer games, cooperation and team building and a way of working based on sustainability and on helping others.

Help, cooperation, long-term thinking, sustainability… against rivalry, individuality and seeking for failure.

What are the skills you prefer learning and practicing today?

 


Related:

  • The short game, the long game and the infinite game (Seth Godin): “In the infinite game, though, something completely different is going on. In the infinite game, the point is to keep playing, not to win. In the infinite game, the journey is all there is. And so, players in an infinite game never stop giving so they can take.”
  • Don’t give up, don’t let others give up and absolutely never make others give up. “When a colleague is in trouble or has failed, you can always show up and offer some help, whether it represents a helping hand, a good piece of advice or just listening to some whining. As a team member, you always have the option to support the rest of the team.”
  • Assertiveness (John Welford): “To be assertive is not, as some people imagine, to be overbearing and aggressive, but to be straightforward, open and honest. It means that you relate well to people, able to express your needs freely, take responsibility for your feelings and stand up for yourself when necessary. In conflict situations you seek, where possible, to reach a ‘win-win’ outcome, in which the needs of all parties are fully acknowledged.”

 

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Team’s organization: using a physical whiteboard or being digital

You are working in an agile team, so you probably find a good idea using a kanban panel, a lean comm-cell or something like that.

Great.

But…

what if you are in a remote team? Lots of applications solve this from a technical point of view. Whiteboard emulators, with virtual post-its and sharpies on colours you can’t even name.

should_we_use_a_whiteboard_while_working_remote

And then the problems arise. You are discussing an issue and the panel is not there, directly visible. Maybe the application is not open, so you need to log in, and maybe your password expired yesterday night, so you end up discussing without looking at the board.

Maybe the team is not 100% remote, and a part of the team is co-located while others are remote. Then, the people at the office find convenient having a physical panel, so they can interact easily with it even with the computers off. Nice idea, but then the remote workers can’t watch it, can’t update it.

What could we do? As many times, the answer is… it depends.

  • team 100% remote: go digital. 100% digital. Everybody meets in front of a screen, so it’s convenient to have 2 windows, one with the IM/videoconference software, the other with the board. And while working, the board must be open. Always.
  • team 100% colocated: go with the whiteboard. 100% physical. You benefit from the size, the fact that is always present and the easiness of manipulating items.
  • part remote, part co-located: this is the hard situation. Best case scenario is going digital with a big screen (MS-Surface?) always on, so the colocated people still benefit from the 100% co-located scenario, and every meeting with the remote colleagues will benefit from having online app. If can’t afford a Surface, a 45″ screen will do the trick with an small computer (arduino?), a mouse and a keyboard permanently attached, on and open so you can easily manipulate it.

And as always, try, inspect and adapt. Plan, do, check and act. You already know…


Related:

  • Remote. Office not Required (Friend, DHH): “Feeling like a second-class worker doesn’t take much.[…] There’s also the annoyance of having every debate end with ‘John and I talked about this in the office yesterday and decided that you idea isn’t going to work’. Fuck that.”
  • Combining Lean with Agile: the developer perspective (Kris Hoogendoorn): “Above is a photograph of our Scrum board before we embarked on our Lean journey and a picture of our Lean Comm Cell today. You can immediately see how Lean has transformed our daily stand-up. Instead of just focusing on progress with the Scrum board, we now focus on three additional aspects every day”
  • Kanban Boards, Atlassian. “Regardless of whether a team’s board is physical or digital, their function is to ensure the team’s work is visualized, their workflow is standardized, and all blockers and dependencies are immediately identified and resolved.”

 

Building bridges, not walls

On one hand there are walls. The people at Troy, the people at Jericho, build walls millennia ago.

antigua_muralla_zaragoza

A wall used to keep your family, your business, your house, your art and your temples safe from strangers. At night, everyone belonging to the community, gathered inside the safety of the city walls.

But then artillery came in, and military air crafts did it too. And walls were reduced to dust or became touristic attractions. Walls are not a shelter anymore.

On the other hand there are bridges. People have been building bridges for millennia. Ancient Romans built bridges still in use today.

With a bridge you can safely cross through a river and go to the next village. You can use it to go visit your parents, or to reach the market to buy some goods you don’t have on your own town.puente_de_piedra_zaragoza

Strangers will make use of the bridge to connect to you. To reach your village, and your business and your loved ones.

Bridges are still in full use. Every city has been building bridges to ease communication problems. And bridges, the ancient and the new ones, have become touristic landmarks too.

A wall can’t keep your business, your team, your project safe anymore. Your best developer will be tempted by a job offer from a company who operates with remote teams in three different continents. Your competition is operating under some Asian country laws. Your Australian customer is expecting your product to be delivered right to them, no middlemen involved.

But a bridge is more useful than ever, to connect your business, your team, your project. Your best developer will be working with a supplier’s interface to integrate your product into theirs. You will need someone with a clear understanding of how things work in the places where your competition is located. You can send products from one part of the world to the other easier than ever, and you can get direct feedback from your customer in a matter of seconds.

Bridges are at least as safe, and much more productive, than walls.

How much effort are you spending on building bridges and walls?

 


Related: Burning Bridges (Seth Godin) “A bridge well-crossed gets better over time. When you need to break it down to push through, you’ve not only hurt the person you trampled on, you’ve hurt your reputation.”

 

 

What’s the song that sounds while you interview candidates?

Hiring people is starting a relationship. What’s the original sound track of your process?

Maybe you are interviewing to the rhythm of Bonnie Tyler. Looking for strong, fast and fresh heroes, because your company’s survival depends on them.

I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night
He’s gotta be strong
And he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight

Heroes are handy for start-ups and rapid-growing business, where and when fulfilling short-term needs is top priority.

On the other hand you could sing Tina Turner’s We don’t need another hero.

Looking for something
We can rely on
There`s gotta be something better out there
[…]
All else are castles built in the air
And I wonder when we are ever gonna change
Living under the fear till nothing else remains

All the children say
We don`t need another hero

Companies trying to strengthen their foundations, searching for scalability and growth, don’t need heroes anymore.

heroes.pngAnd there is a third option. You can sing The Chainsmokers’ Something like this.

I’ve been reading books of old
The legends and the myths
Achilles and his gold
Hercules and his gifts
Spiderman’s control

And Batman with his fists
And clearly I don’t see myself upon that list

But she said, where’d you wanna go?
How much you wanna risk?
I’m not looking for somebody
With some superhuman gifts
Some superhero
Some fairytale bliss
Just something I can turn to
Somebody I can kiss
I want something just like this
I want something just like this

Hiring people is starting a relationship. The interview is not only a filter to separate the ones who fit from those who not. The interview is the very first big moment for making the candidate fall in love with your company.
If you are able to make him want to work with you, it would be much easier for you when/if you reach the negotiation stage.
Hiring people is starting a relationship. Take care of what sounds when interviewing. It would be your first song. And the candidate will remember it.

The subject is the message. 3 simple rules to write more efficient e-mails

  The medium is the message. – Marshall Macluhan

E-mail is cheap, both in time and in money. People can send it to an arbitrary number of people, lists, aliases… People can send it from their desktop, while commuting, while having dinner with their boss or their family.

3_rules_for_email_productivitySo now, you receive, let’s say, some hundreds of mails per week. Some of this mails require an answer from you. Some of this mails are just to keep you informed. Some of them can wait, but some of them needs an answer right now.

But you need to open them, just to tell which is expected from you.

Only if we could have a look without needing to open them.

Yes, we can.

Just taking advantage of the subject of the message.

Rule#1: Always read the subject before answering. If the subject doesn’t relate anymore, adapt it to the new theme. Particularly if the subject has become just a bunch of chars like “Re:FWD: RE:RE:RE: Fwd Re:FWD: RE:RE:RE: Fwd: Yesterday’s meeting minutes”.

Rule#2: The FYI (for your information) mark is pretty useful. Why hiding it into the body? Just include the FYI in the subject.

Rule#3: If it’s a short message, don’t even use the body of the message. Just type the message on the subject and use “(eom)”  (End of Message) to tell the recipients they don’t even need to open it.

The additional croquette and why you should keep your workers informed and motivated

I was having some tapas with five of my friends from college.

We arrive to that big fancy bar.

Before ordering, someone realized something strange happened with the menu…

  • 6 croquettes: 6 €
  • additional croquet: 0,75 € each

It was an obvious mistake, we agree. If you would order six croquettes you’d pay 1€ for each one. And then, from the seventh on, you would get a 0,25€ discount.

But we were having fun, so it couldn’t hurt to ask the waiter about it. So we ask him if we could order six “additional” croquettes instead of the six pack.

He told us, “if it’s in the menu, you can ask for it”.

We explained him that it should be an error, that if we ordered only additional, they were making less money.

“I only work here”, he answered.

In the beginning, he didn’t know about the menu. But in the end, he didn’t care about the profit.

Please… please, please, please… If you are a boss, a manager, an owner, keep in mind that your workers make the profit. Keep in mind that they need to understand how this profit is made. But, above all, keep in mind that they need to care about it.

Inform them. Motivate them. Good news is that both things are strongly related.

Quote on creative complaining: Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan gives us a remarkable clue about how to complaining about your working conditions. Captain Miller’s (Tom Hanks) squad has been complaining about its mission’s goals. And then, Private Jackson complains in a different way. A way which pleases Hanks character.

Private Jackson: Well, from my way of thinking, sir, this entire mission is a serious misallocation of valuable military resources.

Captain Miller: Yeah. Go on.

Private Jackson: Well, it seems to me, sir, that God gave me a special gift, made me a fine instrument of warfare.

Captain Miller: Reiben, pay attention. Now, this is the way to gripe. Continue, Jackson.

Private Jackson: Well, what I mean by that, sir, is… if you was to put me and this here sniper rifle anywhere up to and including one mile of Adolf Hitler with a clear line of sight, sir… pack your bags, fellas, war’s over. Amen.

If your working conditions are bad, if your goals are unclear, please complain, but keep your complaining creatively directed towards a solution.

After that, Captain Miller is asked by his men, about his own complains.

Private Reiben: Oh, that’s brilliant, bumpkin. Hey, so, Captain, what about you? I mean, you don’t gripe at all?

Captain Miller: I don’t gripe to *you*, Reiben. I’m a captain. There’s a chain of command. Gripes go up, not down. Always up. You gripe to me, I gripe to my superior officer, so on, so on, and so on. I don’t gripe to you. I don’t gripe in front of you. You should know that as a Ranger.

Private Reiben: I’m sorry, sir, but uh… let’s say you weren’t a captain, or maybe I was a major. What would you say then?

Captain Miller: Well, in that case… I’d say, “This is an excellent mission, sir, with an extremely valuable objective, sir, worthy of my best efforts, sir. Moreover… I feel heartfelt sorrow for the mother of Private James Ryan and am willing to lay down my life and the lives of my men – especially you, Reiben – to ease her suffering.

It’s not that Captain Miller never complains to his superiors. We can see him complaining during other sequences in the movie. But he won’t complain in front of his men (or to them).

If you’re leading a group, never, ever complain to them. Let their morale be as high as possible. Let them know you are controlling the situation. Try hard to let them understand the goals and to overcome the constraints and the conflicts. Complain to the ones that must find a solution. Complain to your boss. Then complain to his boss.

Anyhow, if you love what you do and believe in it, please, start complaining. Right now.

 


Related: