The Intelligent Workplace

The Intelligent Workplace

Episode 28

The benefits of play in the workplace

​Simon Tyrrell
Chief Product Officer
LiveTiles​​

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Simon Tyrrell has had a long and successful career in the Tech world. Not bad for a failed academic (his words)! Simon is a bit of a renaissance man in the industry, he has a unique skill to be able to get to the core of a problem, and solve it. He enjoys pushing boundaries and trying new things, and he likes to also stir the pot.
 
He may have a serious role as Chief Product Officer at LiveTiles, but he is also a big proponent for fun workplaces. And to be clear, this isn’t about installing the cliché table tennis table into a meeting room.
 
Simon see tangible benefits with instilling a sense of fun into serious activities. A Design Thinking advocate, with a desire to find new ways to solve problems, he has recently created a Microsoft Teams card game. The game simplifies the implementation of Microsoft’s powerful communication and collaboration tool.
 
This chat is for anyone who enjoys challenging the status quo, or who is thinking about implementing Microsoft Teams.
 

Simon:                 

Hello Chris and I finally made it on.

Chris:                    

Oh, look this is very exciting-

Simon:                 

Very exciting.

Chris:                    

Look mate as we sit here in an unused office space that you suggested we turn into a podcast studio, which ultimately led to the birth of the intelligent workplace podcast. Can I first of all say thank you for that, but I’ve got to ask you, have you always had the ability to take a bit of a different view of things?

Simon:                 

No, I’m not sure why. I think I’ve always had curiosity.

Chris:                    

Yep.

Simon:                 

I’m a failed academic. I left University in the last year of a law degree. And I think that structured learning world just didn’t mesh with me at all. But as I’ve sort of built into the career in tech and started as a contractor on a help desk and then work my way through to what I do today, I think if you said to me, what’s the fundamental thing you’ve fallen back on?

Simon:                 

It’s just a sound conceptual knowledge, but also curiosity around things and a desire to learn more, not necessarily always to a huge depth of detail, but enough to build concepts and build a foundation. And I think if you do that in our industry, you can be pretty agile to the ever changing nature of it.

Chris:                    

So you’ve actually purposely trained yourself to sort of think this way have you?

Simon:                 

Yeah I think possibly some of its natural, but yeah I think you have to, you can’t deal with the ambiguity and the nature of change that we deal with by being too rigid in your thinking. And I think it a lot of people struggle when they do that. And as we’ll talk about today, I think that that sense of curiosity and how that leads to playfulness if you will, is critical in the modern world and how you unlock a part of the brain that to be honest I think is probably locked away some time in the education system.

Simon:                 

I’ve had teachers say they think it’s about grade five, grade six in the Australian system. So that’s 10, 11 sort of age could be the transition to high school. No one’s really sure yet but seems to be we lose that ability to imagine and I think that’s critical.

Chris:                    

Does society start to make us conform in that way because we lose that sense of fun as you say around that age. And then if you try and regain that at a point in time, and I’m talking about the fact that you’ve recently taken back up mountain biking and I’ve pulled out my old skateboard and on our way to work.

Simon:                 

That is funny-

Chris:                    

But I get funny looks like, Oh, you’re too old to be doing… I’m 43 I don’t care.

Simon:                 

Absolutely, if you think about your kids, if you’ve got kids and when they start school, you’re walking to the classroom and they’re sitting on the floor in small groups and they’re playing. They’re learning about the world around them. They’re learning mathematics, they’re learning language, they’re learning all the core subjects through actual play. You can pair that to walking into say a grade five, six senior primary school, early high school where they’re sitting at desks in rows generally. And the focus switches to academic outcome, almost rope learning.

Simon:                 

What’s that reminiscent of? Most workplace right? And so I think that does flow through where obtaining success through a grade pass or fail comes at the detriment of actual imagination, creativity and learning that way. And I do think that that idea of seeing the middle aged man on his skateboard has this connotation of you’re too old yet, it’s a bloody good thing for you to be doing for transport, for your health, for your own exercise, all that stuff.

Simon:                 

I think it’s a really big issue.

Chris:                    

And now look, we’re going to get onto a tangible example of play time helping out in the workplace but first up play time in the office in general. What are some of the benefits that you see of doing it?

Simon:                 

So I think there’s a few things. One, as alluded to before is unlocking curiosity, right? Allowing people to explore different ideas, possibly different ways to look at solving a problem for example, without fear of judgment. I think that’s a big one in a workplace. So I compare doing some sort of game type approach to a problem solving versus sitting in a workshop doing business requirements or being facilitated, right? There is a fear of judgment. There is a power play going on there that generally the facilitator, if it’s not the facilitator, it might be the CEO of the companies in the room. They have the power in that conversation.

Simon:                 

And so people will instinctively and naturally hold back. Whereas if you break that down and everyone’s playing a game of some sort and there’s a whole range of things you can do, but all of a sudden everybody’s curious. Nobody really has the answers yet. Right. And I think once again, you see how kids play, you see how they invent situations and then work out how to solve them. We just don’t do enough of that in the workplace. So I think that’s the big one is curiosity and what would you say, flattening the power structures within a room. Energy is a big one. Trying to inject energy the old 3:00 PM crash that happens in most workplaces where everyone loses energy. That ability to inject some movement or some laughter or some a little bit of fun into someone’s day I think is a big one for energy.

Simon:                 

Team dynamics, the ability to understand different working styles through these types of activities once again not structured workshops but you just learn that this person works in this certain way and I could relate to them in a safe environment. And that’s why I think it’s a big one.

Chris:                    

I think it’s all about the relationships there as well. In our industry we have some people such as myself who might be more sort of extroverted, but we’ve got a lot of guys that are cutting code and those things which like their own quiet time and their own space and aren’t huge fans of conversation. So in this way if you bring them into a game, it’s you’ve both got to work together to get that desired outcome.

Simon:                 

I’m yet to meet an adult who doesn’t enjoy fun. Fun is different activities, but at the end of the day, if you can find an activity that people feel they can participate in, once again that safe environment, right?

Simon:                 

You’re not being judged on a performance review or about this, you’re not gaining a pass or fail, an A or a D. You’re just contributing to a playful exercise, whatever it may be, is a really good way to do it.

Simon:                 

Simple example we used to use back in consulting days was something as boring and dry as information architecture design, right? Very, very important in the types of stuff we do and have done in the past. Incredibly boring, sorry to all the information architects out there but you know, simple things like using Lego to try and think about that. Once again, it breaks down those barriers. You no longer have the experts in the room and the non-experts, everybody’s equal. Everybody can have a play. It’s destructible. So you can say “hey, here’s where I think it works. And we used to use color coded, right.

Simon:                 

So red meant secure, sensitive areas. Green meant open to everyone. So trying to work out governance models and you could just quickly visualize and go, geez, we have a lot of red, right? Oh that means we’re securing everything. But hang on our strategic objective was to try and open up collaboration. So you could go through hours, days of traditional workshops for that. Whereas this technique was a real simple way and everybody felt part of it because they were playing and all it was was sticking Lego blocks together.

Chris:                    

So they’re being creative and you’re also probably boosting productivity because they get back to their desk and they’re energized-

Simon:                 

Hopefully a better result because we’ve got more perspectives and more insights.

Chris:                    

Yeah. I think back to previous times in my career and success at work was seen as being measured by the amount of time that you spent at your desk. Quality of work, looking for ways to work more efficiently and delivering outcomes were second place back then. But now things have changed with more focus on work life balance, working smarter and not having to actually work harder and the quality of work is highly dependent on your wellbeing. Just see this is all playing into that?

Simon:                 

I think so. I think I absolutely agree with those statements and I think playfulness in the workplace contributes a long way to those things. As I mentioned before, such as just that playful outlet, if you think about the part of your brain that you activate most of your working day, right? It’s the critical thinking, the analytical piece, computational thinking that side of the brain. Unfortunately the other side, which is that creative, playful, creative in a very broad sense, but playful side that where imagination happens is often not actually triggered.

Simon:                 

Now I personally don’t feel that’s healthy. I can’t see how activating one part of your brain to the detriment of the other is, is ultimately good for your overall wellbeing. But just things like releasing stress, that analytical side and a lot of research talks to the fact that that’s where you can get too deep in your thinking, too analytical and really start to impact things like sleep patterns, et cetera. Whereas exercising the other part releasing things like endorphins et cetera, similar to what exercise does, can really help balance that out and give you that release so maybe you’re not building up stress as much. And I think you see that in jobs and careers where there’s a lot of analytical thinking and not much play in broad terms is, they have high instances of wellbeing issues and isolation and things like that.

Simon:                 

So now it’s a much bigger topic than this. But I think there is a role to play on helping give people that release and also the change of environment, whether that be doing one of these activities outside of the office but even doing it within the office but a completely different style of exercise to the norm just keeps, gives people that break from the mundane from all of that. So and that’s before you even get to productivity improvements of all of that happening.

Simon:                 

Innovation, I hate that word, but new ideas being discovered that otherwise wouldn’t have been discovered because you just didn’t have the perspective. I think it all contributes to that. Not to say you’re playing, 8, 10 hours a day, you still need to get this stuff done. But I think building it into the processes, the practices and just the culture of your team or your office or your company, I think it’s critical.

Chris:                    

And of course you need the space to be able to do this. And I think back to the 90s and early 2000’s, the office spaces we worked in back then weren’t designed to allow for play at work. You basically had your cubicle that you spent most of your time in. If you were lucky, there might’ve been a lunch room to sit in and chat with colleagues, but not much else really. But nowadays we’ve turned that model upside down and you have workspaces like the one that we have here at LiveTiles down here in Hobart. I’ll share some pics of it with the listeners at a later date. But do you want to explain what you’re trying to achieve with this space?

Simon:                 

Yeah, absolutely. So we’re very lucky in that we have this great space. It’s very open, large high windows, lots of natural light views of the water, et cetera.

Simon:                 

So, but lots of offices have nice views, et cetera. But we’ve also got an old clunky building around it, its an old art decade council building and it’s not the most attractive thing. So trying to make it look like a classic office wasn’t really going to work anyway. But when we walked in here and we saw the council had crap everywhere as you know, we cleaned it all up and cleared the space out. What struck me was this is too good a space not to have multipurpose too and I don’t want us to get stuck where the select few get the nice office. [crosstalk] Yeah, exactly right.

Simon:                 

So the first thing we did is we put all the desks on wheels and we try to put as much furniture on wheels as possible and we also, I wouldn’t say mandated, but everyone got on board the concept of moving the office on a regular basis and we started doing it every two weeks that ebbs and flows with different things going on. But the concept here is we can basically turn the office into different environments for different purposes. So whether that be we’ve got a really intense work period coming up we can structure the office around that.

Simon:                 

We might be looking at something brand new where we need to bring different disciplines together really closely so we can do that. We might run an event. We had our first customer advisory board for APEC down here just the other week and so we were able to use a part of the office for that and move a lot of stuff around. So it really is trying to drive to ultimate flexibility of the space and being able to adapt the space and its purpose to the thing you’re trying to do at any one time. So if we’re running a big design thinking day and we do a lot with teachers and students and I’ve had 60 teachers in this office space, so being able to have everyone who doesn’t want to be at work, work from home that day and not be impacted by it, but then being able to open the space up to support 60 people standing, right.

Simon:                 

Versus the regular day where teams of people are needing to be physically close to each other and sitting at their computers doing their work. So ultimately it was about flexibility and also trying to think of the physical space in the same way you’d think about digital tools or processes. Flexibility fit for purpose, not just stuck and not always thinking you have to go elsewhere to get that-

Chris:                    

You’ve forgotten the one thing that we’re here to talk about, fun. This office is great for fun as well. We’ve got an AstroTurf covered floor where we have a basketball hoop and a game machine, we’ve got a bar made out of Lego, table tennis table. We’ve at some stages during the year, we’ve had the leftover AstroTurf rolled out for a little mini cricket pitch. You’ve definitely gone that next level and try to make sure that we are activating that other side of our brain as you said.

Simon:                 

Yeah. But it’s interesting, right? Because obviously tech startup is synonymous with cool toys and you see it all the time. Google’s done or so and so has done that and it’s always about the cool slide running down the middle of the office or whatever. The reason we’ve put that stuff in it’s actually some real practical reasons, right? One is to get people moving. So for example, something like the basketball hoop or at one point we were thinking about indoor lawn bowls.

Simon:                 

But even the arcade cabinet, right? Okay. Yes, it’s cool to have an arcade cabinet, right. But the point of that is that it gets people, groups of four people on a regular basis throughout the day getting up off their chairs, and okay they are only walking a short distance, but they’re standing right. They’re changing their posture. It’s also interesting the team dynamic that happens there and the conversations that can be started or continued in that it’s once again, it’s disrupting that everyday versus you and I talking at your desk, right? Where there is a power structure, you’re being distracted. I think it really disrupts that. And so it’s not so much about it’s cool to have it. It’s more about providing those different moments of interaction, right, that people can have throughout the day.

Simon:                 

Moments to do some physical movement without even realizing they’re doing it right. So things like gym plans are fantastic, but what are the percentage of employees actually take companies up on those. It’s actually very low, but it’s also trying to promote people to do simple things like walking meetings right? Regularly getting out of the office with the team over lunch. Just changing the environment. So yes, it’s fun, but I think it has a direct correlation to how people can work together and associate.

Chris:                    

That actually reminds me, we’ve got a meeting at four o’clock on Friday with my dog [crosstalk 00:16:53].

Simon:                 

We talk about animals and you think about it, we had my dog and Annie’s dog in here yesterday who are in love with each other and you run a muck.

Simon:                 

But even that, right? Even mine going to the researcher and mental health and et cetera and what having a pet around can do in the workplace. At a very simple level what it does is it disrupts the norm. And so having a dog come around and just come up and lick you on the hand as you’re trying to… If you’re going through a really crappy time in the day there that disrupts it, maybe brings a smile to your face, right? Maybe you see the dog sitting there looking at you so you get up and give it a pat. Right? Just simple things like that. I think we often overthink this. Real simple changes in dynamic are incredibly powerful and that’s what I would say rolls up into this idea of playfulness. It’s not just about playing a game, playing table tennis, running a certain type of activity.

Simon:                 

It’s actually just having a sense that it’s okay to have fun and to be playful.

Chris:                    

Yep.

Simon:                 

If you can do that and achieve that, I think you reap the benefits long term.

Chris:                    

Yeah no doubt. So do you have any tips for other business leaders looking to create a space such as ours and maybe looking to harness the power of play in the workplace?

Simon:                 

Yeah. Look, I’m by no means an architect or interior designer. But if you think about just basic use of physical space, I think flexibility is critical. Simple things like if suddenly a group of people are trying to struggle through a problem, right, is it best they all sit around a computer screen or should they get up and just start writing it up on a whiteboard or on a window, et cetera. So do you have enough areas that can be used for that?

Simon:                 

The worst thing I see is I walk into companies who have spent a fortune on a fit out, right? I remember going to one, I won’t mention who this organization was, but they had this amazing room with 360 degree walls, white boards everywhere, the latest audio visual stuff. And I was there to run a design thinking workshop and it took 30 minutes to find a dry erase marker for the whiteboards. Just simple things about… So one of the things we’ve had here is I’ve now located a company that’s building them so I don’t have to do them myself, but we have two massive, as you know, the massive boxes that are painted in whiteboard paint. I built them at home and I did it because I wanted these wheel able big boxes. They’re three sided ride able spaces and I wanted to have pens, erasers, wipes, whatever, paper, sticky notes all in that box.

Simon:                 

So there was never any excuse for why you couldn’t start writing something out.

Chris:                    

Yep.

Simon:                 

Right. And I see too many companies fail to think about the simple because they think that having beautiful color choices, the latest Norwegian furniture, whatever, is actually the trick and it’s not. So flexibility, thinking about the practicalities of how space is used, trying to have serendipitous moments where your space is used so are the couches just there for couch time or can they be used for that moment of interaction that suddenly gets people talking about an issue and how to address it. All of those types of things. Setting an example’s a big one, how many times do you see organizations and they come out with, we’re going to be more open, we’re going to collaborate, and then the executives still sits behind closed doors.

Simon:                 

Now I get, there’s a reason for often that but if you are a leader and you’re preaching this, show it. Get out and about participate in these things rather than holding another meeting where you’re the chair. No I suggest maybe, Hey, why don’t we get around the couch area, grab a whiteboard and just think through this for the next 30 minutes, things like that.

Simon:                 

Making it clear in your hiring process about this is the way you want to work. It’s really hard if you don’t have the same mindset and people don’t feel safe in particular for things like this to even best laid plans to go pear shaped pretty quick. So I think that’s critical and then not just making it about work. One of the best things we’ve done recently is the corporate fun day you did last year, which was out in the park and it was sort of like a survivor.

Simon:                 

I must say, my team won but that really brought a whole bunch of different personalities together at the time. Some personalities who weren’t getting along. And once again leveled the playing field. Everyone was, looked like a bit of an idiot trying to do these activities, but it didn’t need to be a big thing. It didn’t need to be months of preparation planning. It didn’t need to be a huge cost. It was just a bit of fun outside the office. Took what, an hour, one afternoon and there was this really good buzz around the team for weeks after that. So once again, not just making it all about work, but I’d also say making sure that the way you tackle some things at work takes into account that sort of feeling of fun and playfulness.

Chris:                    

Let me play devil’s advocate here and there’d be some people listening that would certainly think that plays a waste of time. It’s all great fun. But what about the real results, the bottom line, are you getting extra productivity are employees working harder? Are they happier? Is it doing that?

Simon:                 

Look I think if you took the time, not to criticize, but to go and read up on some research you’d find it is, right. But I just think if that’s the attitude you have, you’re probably dead in the future enough. And the reason is everyone talks about we want to be more innovative. We want to be like Apple, right? We need to be more agile, we need to be more creative thinking, and it’s happened to design thinking. Design thinking is not new. It’s been around for over 30 years. It’s the latest fad that everyone is screwing up because they think it’s a shortcut.

Simon:                 

They think I’ll just follow this process and it’ll just happen. And it’s not. It’s a mindset and it’s a way of doing things right. It’s a big shift in most organizations go about things and I think as the same with this. Is the results will be that you will have happier people who get along better because they will have a better connection than just work and just meeting the metrics. If you truly as an organization want to be more in inverted commas ‘innovative’ or more agile in your thinking or approach, injecting the concept of play, exercises and techniques that do that will ultimately mean you will be, because innovation ultimately, if you want to think of it as that classic, hey, let’s come up with something that we’re not doing that suddenly changes the game for the company or whatever it might be.

Simon:                 

Then you need creative thinking. If all you’re doing is critical computational processing of that, you’re just going to be looking at improvements to the existing status quo. Now someone argue that can be innovative, but it’s not game changing generally. So you just have to realize that unlocking that other part of the brain, getting back to that essence of childlike look on the world will have benefits to your bottom line. Right? And so many companies who have done this well, you’d argue the way Steve Jobs looked at the world was very much in this line. Curiosity at the center of it, right? I think you will see the benefits flow through pretty quickly, both on team wellbeing, employee wellbeing, productivity, and ultimately uncovering and unlocking those things that you could be doing that might completely reinvigorate, reinvent, or pivot your organization for success.

Chris:                    

And we could do a whole another episode on this next point, but mental health is a big issue in our industry. And I’m assuming that this has got to be doing good for that.

Simon:                 

Yeah. It’s by no means a solution in itself. But yeah, as I said before, I think it’s about too often you see workers just in the grind. You know how many people, how many times do you hear people talking about the grinding at work? Right? And that’s not enjoyable.

Chris:                    

No.

Simon:                 

That’s not fun. And it’s like anything in life, if it becomes a chore, then you’re not going to be engaged with it. And as we know from all the research about what drives employee happiness, it’s the feeling of making a difference, right? It’s a feeling of contributing to the success of your team, of your company, whatever it may be.

Simon:                 

It’s not necessarily getting more money or the big star. It’s actually that sense of fulfillment. Right? And I think a key part to that is feeling like you’re part of it and being able to engage in this sort of playfulness and creativity and fun aspect of work means that hopefully it’s not as much a chore to be there. Hopefully, once again, you’re activating those parts of your brain that you basically think or told to switch off, which as I say, just cannot be good for you.

Simon:                 

Maybe it’s bringing in a hobby in, for example, I think one of the best team building exercises you can do is trying to build our Ikea furniture with our Lego bar, what that showed, it’s a complex puzzle so little things like that where you might have an interest. Being able to bring that to work and apply it to a work thing I think is a really, really powerful way of engaging in the workplace beyond just turning up 9 to 5 doing your job, going home and yeah as I said, it’s by no means a shortcut solution to all the issues and mental health in the workplace, particularly in our industry.

Simon:                 

But I think by changing the nature of work and its relationship to fun and playfulness and creativity is a step in the right direction.

Chris:                    

Yeah. You mentioned a bit earlier about design thinking. You know, we use it here at LiveTiles quite a lot. And there’s a real element of playing now that goes about and that kind of led into this idea that you had which we’ll talk about now, which was, taking that play mindset and putting it to good use in creating a corporate game that looks to assist businesses with implementing a piece of software that is on a lot of CIO’s to do this right now. I’m of course talking about Microsoft teams, it’s very hot right now, but there may be people that are listening who aren’t maybe so aware of what Microsoft teams is doing and how it’s changing the way we work in the modern workplace. Do you want to give us a bit of an overview of what it does?

Simon:                 

Yeah, so Microsoft teams itself is one of the fastest business applications in history, right? Its growth has been quite phenomenal and it’s very much a kin to what [Slacks] been doing with their tools as well. And it’s really an application around trying to get very rapid collaboration happening across teams, within teams, et cetera. So you’re talking messaging, file sharing, meetings, all that sort of stuff. But a lot of organizations struggle with the role of this type of technology in their organization. And are they creating more silos? Are they breaking down silos? What about sensitive information? All those sort of fundamental questions. And we started to see a lot of our customers going down this path and sort of struggling to know where to start.

Simon:                 

And once again, because we sort of encourage people to think about things a bit differently, we sort of settled on this idea of why don’t we make a card game? It’s crazy we’re not game designers, never made a card game in our lives, but we have a lot of people in the office here in Hobart who do play board games and card games. A couple of them play competitively. So it was sort of like, well why don’t we think about how we gamify what could be a very dry, boring topic. So it’s more approachable to people. So you can run more sort of sessions within an organization to uncover potential use cases. And so that’s how we landed on Euro. It’s literally a card game for planning out how you might deploy teams or reviewing how you’ve already deployed it. And we’ve found a lot of success thus far.

Chris:                    

And because in case it isn’t completely obvious installing Microsoft teams is not just like a set and forget.

Simon:                 

, it’s unfortunately some organizations have taken that approach, but no, there’s a lot of functionality and you need to really think about its application, the use cases, how are you going to get people to understand it and use it and what benefits you’re looking to drive? So it’s no different to any piece of technology ever implemented into an organization right.

Simon:                 

But all of those features and potential benefits come with complexity. And so what we’re really trying to do is just distill it down to its basics right. One of the key things with teams is how you structure it. You have teams. In teams, you have things called channels, which are like groups, sections and then within those channels you can have things like apps which might be integrated systems. Really simple structure that can get out of hand really quick and you can get common thing is channel sprawl when you might have 50 channels in a team all notifying you at different times and you’re not sure what the purpose is.

Simon:                 

Within those channels you might have duplicated file storage. All this stuff that can happen when there’s no plan for it. There’s other things like-

Chris:                    

You throw the security layer over the top of that and then-

Simon:                 

Yeah well a classic right is and we capture it in the game is a real simple tick-box to say within this team that we think we need, would we need to collaborate with people outside of our organization a thing called external guests. Really simple except that that setting can be turned off globally essentially with one tick, right? So once again, we’re not saying it’s right or wrong to have that on or off, but if you can very quickly determine, well 60% of the teams we think we may need that, you’ve got an argument for why you need to turn it on. But if also another thing we capture is 60% of those teams also say they need to manage highly sensitive information in those teams.

Simon:                 

Well do we have an issue here? Right. So it once again we’re not trying to… The game’s not there to say this is how you should do it. It’s just trying to get you to think about the questions. Then we have some… We have an event system, got some fun events as well, like rats infesting your office and people not being able to turn up to work anymore. Just to try and disrupt the thinking. Once again, get you laughing a bit, get you having a bit of fun, joke with each other. And we’ve just found, we’ve run this now multiple times with customers, with people at Microsoft. We just find that just opens up conversation more than a workshop facilitator asking you “so Chris what are your requirements for the whole marketing department?” You go, “I didn’t even know what teams bloody is, why am I here?”

Simon:                 

We also used design thinking approaches and at this playfulness approach to how we did this, right? So it started out as an idea. We didn’t wait for permission, we didn’t wait it to run it through a project. We just started using sticky notes-

Chris:                    

Did you actually contact Microsoft to say “hey, we’re doing this.”

Simon:                 

No.

Chris:                    

Okay, that’s how we roll here.

Simon:                 

We stuck sticky notes to poker cards because they were easy to get. And we started playing it over lunch. So we got people, you were called in numerous times. We had other staff members where we just said, “hey, we want to try this thing out.” We had no idea what the mechanics were, right? So we just made it up around first iteration, made it up, worked out that didn’t work. So then we did another one the next day, changed the rules slightly.

Simon:                 

And if you remember, we had a real complex rule set and we just kept distilling it down to some bare essentials and five or six play throughs in we thought, yeah, we’re onto something here. And the beauty of having the post it notes on cards where it felt like you were playing cards, but we could say “Oh that didn’t work, let’s change the deck.” And we just rip off the sticky note and we really applied that whole approach to designing a new thing, which is pretty unique in its particular focus area. No one else is doing it, but allowed us to do it really quick. We had that thing from idea to sort of ready for first print run within weeks.

Chris:                     

eah. And I mentioned there you didn’t get permission from Microsoft, not that you needed it, but there was no permission granted from Microsoft, but now they’ve seen it being played in workshops and those sorts of things. What’s the feedback from them being like?

Simon:                 

They love it because their customer success teams are really up for new ideas from how they engage their customers, how they can get their customers understanding, leveled up if you will, if you want to use the game terms. Yeah they’ve seen it, we’ve run it private organizations, we’ve run it with Microsoft people. We’ve run it with big groups, I know we had 60 customers in our first session where we publicly ran it. I was crapping myself, I was nervous right because I didn’t know how it would go and we were doing it at Microsoft in Melbourne and it went really well, right. And so they’ve seen the evidence, they’ve had feedback from customers. Like we ran one late last year where the customer had already deployed teams pretty big and was quite successful in their adoption and use of it.

Simon:                 

But after Microsoft ran through this game, just a couple of quick rounds, nothing to-

Chris:                    

It’s like 20 minutes, half an hour.

Simon:                 

Yeah I think they ran two rounds and about 45 minutes or something. Yeah. And the customers changed the way they were thinking. Said geeze we need to rethink a few things here. So they went back to their organization and by all accounts have started putting in some changes that they think will mean teams is even better utilized. So once again, Microsoft is going to be happy about that. But even at a personal level, can you imagine having to be a Microsoft person every day? You’re going in talking about teams and running workshops, right? Once again, being able to engage your customers with fun, with some play is good for everyone.

Chris:                    

So yeah and look let’s be honest, if you are operating within the Microsoft ecosystem, you’ve got to get on board with teams because this is their really big push.

Simon:                 

Yeah it’s a massive push Look, it’s a very, very powerful application with a lot of features. It’s only going to get more powerful with some of the things that roadmap were aware of. And so being ours as an organization determine its role what use cases you want it to be applied to, and then how you’ll determine whether it’s being successful or not is going to be critical in the next 12 to 18 months. No doubt about that. Our role in that. Yeah, we have a bunch of tech, but we think our role is also to help organizations just get on the right path to success as well.

Chris:                    

At the risk of sounding like a TV announcer, how much you would you expect to pay for this great game?

Simon:                 

We’ve been making it available for free.

Chris:                    

Wow.

Simon:                 

Yeah. Once again we want to get it out there. So yeah, people if they’re interested can can hit us up and expect to see more.

Chris:                    

Jump on the LiveTiles website and check it out.

Simon:                 

Yeah it’ll be on the LiveTiles website when we do the big sort of launch of it all.

Chris:                    

Yep.

Simon:                 

But I guess it’s relevance to today’s discussion is really about the fact that once again it’s trying to change the way of thinking and approaching through play. And I encourage your organizations, if you want to look at process redesign or organizational design or product design or anything, think about how, could you turn it into a game? Could you turn it into a board game, for example? You know, you don’t just repurpose things you’re already have. Could you do something with Lego? Could play dough be used? Role playing. Role playing is a fantastic way to sanity check a process change, right?

Simon:                 

And put people into roles, give them scripts that they have to play along with. So you have your objectionist who’s just going to disagree with everything and it can be a really good way to very quickly check yourself on are we doing the right thing? Versus what I see, we could have taken the team’s idea and spent the next six months working on product to help solve this, instead we took a different approach that today is proving to be very, very exciting and very successful.

Chris:                    

Yeah, mate look, it’s been an interesting chat with you today. I’m 100% on board with this. I’ve seen the results from implementing play in the workplace. It’s been fantastic. I’ve got to go out for a skateboard right now. You’re heading off to the mountain bike parks?

Simon:                 

You’re going to kill yourself.

Chris:                    

Thanks for joining me today and sharing your thoughts on play in the workplace.

Simon:                 

Yeah, no problem at all.

Chris:                    

Cheers.

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