I don’t know if it is a recent trend or whether I just started noticing it recently, but on a few outings, we found board games on the table in a bar or restaurant. They weren’t even themed boardgame style establishments, which are also popping up more and more in different cities. In all cases, we ended up playing and having fun conversations about the usual social contextual skills. Invariably, we also related it back to our day job roles and some people definitely showed innovative ways of playing games they had never played before.
When it comes to office meeting rooms, social spaces such as canteens or play areas are popular. The most frequently spotted toys in businesses are table tennis or pool tables and on occasion an Xbox or PlayStation. Most of these have a limitation in terms of the number of players and not everyone is comfortable playing those games, I would even hazard a guess that the most regular players are young and male. Some end up very competitive and that rules out some less able or less competitive people also, who opt out before starting. Board games or tabletop games will often drive conversation and take a bit of time to complete. Because in most cultures, board games are associated with friendly social settings such as friends and family or way of playing tends to be more jovial and inclusive. Especially, when it comes to gender and different age groups, we all remember 3 or 4 generations of all gender at a family board game, it is in fact no different in a work environment.
In the world of gamification, we only rarely receive the request to design a board game. Saying that to get communication kickstarted it can serve as a great ice-breaker. The range of board games on the market today will allow you to encourage collaboration also as well as being informative in itself. I played Cashflow Quadrant a bit to learn about financial savvy and most of us that have played Monopoly know a small amount about real estate. Whether we like it or not we pick up knowledge by the mechanics of the game and its associated win conditions.
Now, imagine a change management program, where a significant new direction is encouraged. The associated board game teaches you how the new work order works and how you can all win in the new world order and if appropriate win together. The first step in any new game is getting to grips with the rules and then putting them into practice. We have had a proposal with the game Mastermind in it to encourage more questioning around complex problems. It will require management buy-in and them leading the charge to pay the games and it may make meetings a bit more fun. After that leaving the games available in public spaces and freely accessible is another way to encourage more play.
If however simple communication is an issue, maybe just leaving existing board games around and encouraging use at break times, can also break the silence.