The project started by interviewing a local software company in Umea. We talked to a team of three people working on a project together. Two of them had recently moved to Umea to join the team. The company was founded by one of them and the new team members joined later on. We interviewed them with open ending questions which let them talk about their experiences working in a team.
We learned that most of the issues arising in the team work are because of the way responsibilities are distrusted. The small size of the team and its fast expansion has created a situation where all the members need to constantly collaborate with each other and at the same time often change the responsibilities.
There has been occasions where the lack of communication created issues in the team dynamics and influenced the workflow. Allowing the team members talk about their experiences itself made them better realize how many of their problems could have been be solved by simply communicating with each other.
To better understand the opportunities, different scenarios were sketched. The hero of the scenarios was the one that tells the story of a new team member joining the team. This is the time when the responsibilities need to be distributed in a different way. Most of the time there is a tension between collaboration and ownership in the new set-ups and the lack of communication can create issues.
The making of the game itself was a game; a practice for collaborative thinking and building! We spent two weeks in Sonderborg working with the students in the University of Southern Denmark to build the game. Prototyping was a big part of the process.
The game is designed in way that accomplishment of the goal is only possible through collaboration. Each player has his/her own responsibilities but they constantly switch positions and therefore need to hand over their responsibilities to one another. This creates a situation in which the players feel the need to share a common strategy. To make the players realize the importance of communication there are restricted rules for communication that requires them to be smart about how and when to communicate.
The goal of the game itself it to place the colored marbles into the assigned colored holes. The board is divided into three segments and the players are only allowed to move within their appointed segment. Movements are guided by play cards. Players can use rotation cards to rotate the board. Rotation means that players are handing over their own segment to another play. Only the player who is authorized for next movement is allowed to talk.
There are three types of cards; one that lets players move, one to skip their turn and one to rotate the board itself. Players can choose to take an action (move card), skip their responsibility (skip card) or hand in their responsibilities to others (rotate card). These are the kind of behaviors we observed in our research.
We held a public game session at the Innovation Center in the University of Southern Denmark in the city of Sonderborg. We involved a group of professionals from different companies. They played the game with their colleagues and then reflected on their experience.
Participants expressed that they encountered different emotional situations that could have been avoided had they had the chance to communicate in a better way during the game. The silence rule made them have a better appreciation for face to face communication! They also realized that the being unaware of their teammate's strategy can result in unexpected failures. We were quite successful in creating the situations that resembled the real teamwork experiences. We propose that playing collaborative games can help communicate better.