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The 1 minute colour monster competition

By John ~ Friday, 16 August 2013

Having been hired by DrugDev to consult on the user experience of some in-house tools, I wanted to get the staff who were the users of those tools involved in a series of collaborative workshop sessions to explore the problems of the existing systems and input into the new design. The challenge was to plan a workshop with junior members of staff in mind, more used to sitting at their desks and dealing with reams of data than attending workshops where they would be encouraged to be creative, sketch ideas and problem-solve collaboratively. The one minute colour monster competition is one of the tools I invented to warm up the group.

Simon the monster

In preparing the workshop I talked to senior management who gave me a real sense that the group I’d be working with were friendly and open, and that they themselves would support and participate fully in the workshop.

Objectives

Though this is a fun exercise and could seem silly, it had a definite purpose; there were some things I wanted to introduce and some things I wanted to find out:

  1. Shift the emphasis from meeting with a boss, their expectation, to a collaborative problem-solving session and set the tone
  2. Discover if there are any nervous participants in the group who might be less willing to participate
  3. Find out who has confident drawing skills so they can be paired up with people who may lack the confidence when sketching ideas
  4. Introduce collaborative sketching and through that the idea that no-one should have to feel they own or need to feel defensive about their contribution
  5. Introduce a dot voting system and to prompt discussion about the winner in order to lightly introduce Agile project management and prioritisation
  6. Introduce the idea of timed sessions

Method

This is a quick exercise and you don’t need any special kit, just some pens and paper.

Note: be sure to warn about thin bits of paper and Sharpies on white tables!

Each member of the group is given a blank piece of A4 paper, 1 black sharpie and some coloured pens and asked to start drawing a monster, the sillier the better, but they have just 20 seconds, so they shouldn’t try and draw all of the monster, just the start of it.

Once the 20 seconds is up they stop and pass their monster to the person on the left. Each monster should go to each person at least once, maybe twice depending on the size of the group. Once the monster you started with gets back to you, tell the facilitator and the session stops. Each person should now name their monster.

Pin them on the wall for people to look.

Each member of the group is then asked to take three post-it notes and to put 3 dots on one, 2 dots on another and 1 dot on the final one. They are then asked to put the 3 dot post-it underneath the monster they like the most, the 2 dot post-it under the monster they like second best and the 1 dot under their third choice.

The one with the highest score wins.

In the particular session I tried this out, the wider focus was to introduce Agile project management and user stories without trying to bludgeon people with buzz words.

This exercise was adjusted slightly once the voting was done to help explain the MoSCoW method and what we ended up with was a Must Have Priority monster. If we were in the business of building monsters, this is the one we simply Must Have. This monster can be taken to the prioritisation meeting on behalf of the group and so they have more chance of steering the outcome of that session.

How did it go? It was a noisy and lively session, everyone participated, everyone thought it was fun. I won’t really know if it was successful until we reconvene for a sketchboarding session and I’ll be taking my MakeyMakey and various conductive items for the warm-up to that session!