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Insights / Agile Transformation / Team Dynamics on the Forbidden Island

May 16, 2016

Team Dynamics on the Forbidden Island

2 mins read

At the most recent Games for Agility, Learning, and Engagement (GALE) meet-up, we played a variation of the game Forbidden Island by Gamewright. I learned this variation from Teague Hopkins at Culture Camp DC in 2015. This game helps people understand the importance of team dynamics and how disruptions can impact the teamwork in place.

Forbidden Island gameForbidden Island is an uncomplicated, short, cooperative game. To give it a slight edge for the dynamics we want to discuss, we put the game under a timebox of 10 minutes and ask the team to focus on collecting the most items. Usually you play 2-3 rounds of the game with different options based on the dynamics you want to show with a debrief in-between. I use this game on occasion as part of a workshop to launch a newly formed team. I also utilize it to help management understand certain aspects of self-organizing team dynamics and how they can negatively affect them.

At the recent GALE meet-up, we played three rounds and explored how teams decided how they would operate, made decisions, and resolved conflict. We also discussed how leaders emerged. The first variation I did was removing a team member midway through the game so they were no longer available to help towards the team goal, then reinserting them close to the end. This simulates having a person reassigned temporarily and no longer being available.

The second was replacing all of the team members except one just a tad over midway in the game. Perhaps management thought the team was underperforming and replaced most of the people with who they thought would do a better job.If you are interested in learning how to run this board game as a facilitated exercise, download the facilitator guide I created, grab a copy or two of the game (MSRP is about $18, but you can find it for less) and give it a go… Please tweet at @paul_boos, @teaguehopkins, and @excellaco and let us know how it worked! We’d be delighted to hear about your experiences.

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