If you don’t have a handle on the fires (or issues) hitting your business daily, then you will get consumed by them! 

I’m constantly telling my clients that they need to pause (pause from the fires, the immediate issues), look up and look out (see what’s coming so they can make better decisions now to mitigate more of the coming issues). When we’re so focused on all of the problems around us, we don’t have time to do anything else. We get exhausted. We get decision fatigue and that makes the bigger, more important, more strategic decisions harder to make. 

From a neuroscience point of view, if you can play a game, have fun, smile and/or laugh, your brain becomes flooded with dopamine that enables your mind to open up and solve problems faster. 

So, let me tell you about a business game I use for identifying issues called Speed Boat. I love this game because it gets people talking, has them share what’s working and not working in their companies – even the people who tend to not share until it becomes the fire that can overwhelm the team, the leaders, and the organization!

The Set Up

I usually draw a very simplified speed boat on a white board and draw in some squiggly lines for the water as I’m telling the team in the room that we (the business) are a speedboat trying to get to our vision/dream/goal. But, there are anchors (issues) holding us back, slowing us down. Our goal is to identify the anchors so we can deal with them and get where we want to go.

The Idea Generation

Everyone gets a pad of sticky notes and we take five to ten minutes to quietly write down their answers to questions like these on sticky notes:

    • What’s propelling us forward? What’s working – with the project, the team, or the organization?
    • What’s slowing us down? What’s holding our team, our product, our company back from achieving our goals?
    • What are some big things coming around the corner that could hurt us?

Each idea/answer gets its own sticky note (only one idea per sticky note – trust me on this one!). This gives everyone an opportunity to get their ideas out, especially those who are internal thinkers and don’t necessarily share out loud in a group as often as us external thinkers! 

The Discussion

Once you have your ideas, go up to the board and place them in the water if they’re an anchor or in the air if they’re propelling you forward. 

As they do they, they’ll begin seeing some similarities. You then ask the team to group the sticky notes that seem related, and encourage them to discuss what they wrote. What did each person mean by “this” idea or “that” issue? Get real clarity on the explanation, the meaning behind the sticky note ideas. This makes grouping ideas and thoughts together easier.

Once you have the groupings of sticky notes, then divide the room into teams of two or three people. Each group will get one or more of the bundles of sticky notes off the white board and determine a good overarching name for each batch of similar issues. The point of this is to take the tens of issues you see in the water holding you back and turn them into a more manageable number to deal with.

The Exceptions

That’s the “rule” – the basis of the game. Here are some “exceptions” or additions you can make. 

  1. Draw an island where “X marks the spot” of your goal or vision of where the product/ project, team, or organization is going. It helps people remember this isn’t a whining session with no purpose. It’s really about identifying those things we need to fix, mitigate, eliminate in order to get to our desired outcome. And maybe there will be a Mai Tai or cold beverage there waiting for you!
  2. Use a sailboat instead of a speed boat. Then you can add clouds (because we can’t draw wind!) and place the things you, your team, your company do that propel you forward amongst the clouds. These are the things you may consider continuing doing because they are making you successful currently.  
  3. Add an iceberg or pirate ship in the distance to represent possibilities of upcoming danger (pandemic, economic downturn, cyber attacks taking down financial institutions and our access to our money, etc.) – things that can stop the team from getting to their goal. Things we don’t want to ignore, but may not necessarily need to spend as much time on right now. 
  4. Draw the sun to represent the things that make the team happy. How do we ensure we continue celebrations, team bonding, friendly competition – whatever it is that makes the people happy to be on this team, this project, this organization.
  5. Have the team play the 20/20 Vision game. The Speed Boat game really focuses on just getting the ideas out where we can see them, not on solving them. There are other games for that. And, that can feel unfulfilling to participants. So many of us are Achievers in the StrengthsFinder world. We want to do something about it! This quick additional game gets a priority order of the main ideas/issues on the board. As a group agree on the top one to three issues they want to tackle first so they aren’t working on the lower priority issues. Once they’ve prioritized the list, then put the issues up on the white board and have the individuals sign up for whichever team they want to be on to solve that specific issue once and for all.

I discovered that doing it in a gaming format makes the exercise go faster, we produce more and deeper ideas, and really helps us determine what is under our control and what is not. I find it very helpful! 

What are some of your favorite games or hacks to identify what’s holding you back from achieving your goals? 

You can check out ideas on YouTube or the website or Amazon