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Game Shifting Board

This post is part of a series on Agile Learning Center tools and 2015 ALC Everett #debrief

Agile Learning philosophy aims to put people over process. Our systems, which are always being worked on by the community that uses them, are meant to be light, flexible, and non-intrusive. The place where process most often over takes the needs of people is in meetings.

If you’ve ever been in a meeting, especially consensus meetings, you’ll know how frustrating they can be. At ALCE we required students to attend two meetings per day as well as a Set the Week and Change Up meeting at either end of the week. On top of that the students were expected to take the lead on these meetings by facilitating them.

So to limit the process overhead and help make the implicit process of the meeting explicit we employed a tool called the Game Shifting Board (GSB).

Early versions of the Game Shifting board from ALC Summer
Early versions of the Game Shifting board from ALF Summer

The GSB gives a visual representation of the current phase of the meeting and other attributes of the meeting. Note the purple dots next on the picture above, they indicate the current settings  of the meeting. Anyone is free to request a change to the meeting’s settings at any point during a meeting. This gives everyone the power to observe the current meeting and adjust it to make it most effective.

@abe’s reimagining of the Game Shift board for ALC Everett

I will detail the GSB we used in Everett (pictured above):

  • Start conditions – when or how the meeting will start
    • On time – meeting starts on a scheduled time
    • Attendance – once everyone is in attendance
    • Threshold – once enough people are in attendance
    • Penalties – late comers are penalized, example: if you are late you can’t talk.
  • End conditions
    • On time
    • When done
    • Interrupted – if there is an event that will interrupt the meeting simply meet until that time
    • Fragmentation – end once people naturally fragment
    • Pause – indicate that a meeting is currently paused
  • Intentions – what the intentions of the meeting are
  • Content – where the content of the meeting is derived from
  • Memories – where we draw any supporting “memories” for the meeting
  • Bodies – how the group’s bodies should be arranged
    • Relaxed
    • Focused
    • Raucous
  • Talking – how talking should happen in the meeting
    • Babble – side conversations welcome, free for all
    • Popcorn – people yell out what they want to say
    • Jump in – people jump in when they have something to say
    • Turns – we take turns speaking
    • Listen to Greeny – Greeny was the name of our talking stick, so to talk you had to be holding Greeny
    • Breath first – like jump in but you were required to take a deep breath before speaking
  • Facilitation – how we would facilitate the talking
    • Hand raising
    • Stack – each person who wants to speak is put on a list and goes in order
  • Break out – leaving the large group and moving into small groups
    • Pairs
    • Small Groups
  • Transition Games – these were little games we could play to change the energy levels of the meeting

Some GSB have the play, pause, stop type controls seen on the ALF summer image. This is the Meeting Mode. It indicates what phase the meeting is currently in. Each phase having different expectations.

We would set the initial configurations before a meeting. Then during the meeting, if needed, anyone could request that a setting be changed.

So Tommie might notice that everyone is talking out of turn and being loud. He might request that we change our Bodies to focused and the talking to raise hands to try and bring more order and focus to the meeting.

Alternatively he might see this as a sign that the meeting needs to allow for more energy and change the settings to raucous bodies and babble talking.

As the settings change anyone can enter the meeting and get a sense of how they are expected to act and contribute.

This tool, like all ALC tools, should be remixed and remade to suit the needs of the community.


    • Drew says:

      I think game shifting isn’t the highest priority. We never used it too heavily but our meetings also went very smoothly on their own. The power of this tool is when you have disfunction in your meeting space, which is often from misaligned understandings of what the intention of the meeting is. It also helps focus meetings.

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