2 minute read

The joy of tactility: helping organisations to play

Inspired by creative genuis Brian Eno to trigger a course of action or thinking to assist in creative situations, cards that use play and tactility can have an impact no traditional classroom learning achieves. But will what worked well with David Bowie work for CHROs? Evidence suggests yes

Matt Ballantine CHRO Priorities Cards

There’s something about touch that changes the way that people interact. If you have ever run workshops with strangers, you’ll possibly have experienced the positive difference that a handshake with participants at the beginning of the session will make to the way in which it runs.

There’s also something about situation that makes a huge difference to how people interact. A room laid out in a classroom style, rows of chairs and desks facing the front, will create a passive audience, set to ‘receive mode’. The same group arranged around a board table will become passive-aggressive. Lay out a room with no desks or tables to hide behind and the air of therapy session will permeate through to behaviours (if people haven’t turned around and walked out straight away).

It’s in this space of subconscious triggers and behaviours that I have been playing with games and toys to help clients to explore strategies and priorities in the past 12 months. The result is sets of playing cards and some games to play with them – and in conjunction with The People Space I’m delighted to be able to launch the CHRO Priorities set.

A room laid out in a classroom style, rows of chairs and desks facing the front, will create a passive audience, set to ‘receive mode’. Lay out a room with no desks or tables to hide behind and the air of therapy session will permeate through to behaviours

The original inspiration came from the creative tool Oblique Strategies that was created by musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt in the 1970s. I’ve had a box of these cards sitting on my desk for a couple of years, and have attempted to use them in a business context now and again. But what worked for David Bowie in Berlin doesn’t land so well for a director in a boardroom. They are just a little bit too oblique.

But the principle, cards with pithy prompts, seemed hugely valuable, and so I merged it with five years of experience as a judge on the UK’s CIO100 awards to create the first Priorities set, for CIOs, in the summer of 2018.

I’ve used them in two contexts: first of all working with technology leaders to help them explore and stress-test their strategies, structures and approaches both individually and with their leadership teams, and also with technology vendors to help them get better at focusing on the things about which a CIO might actually care.

Having seen the value that they gave in my client work, in the autumn of 2018 I contacted Siân at The People Space to explore how we might create a similar set for the HR community. The result was an exercise in mass collaborative creativity, where around 40 HR professionals were involved in a co-creation session in October. Since then we have refined and honed the cards until ready for release.

The cards aren’t comprehensive. Nor do they provide you with an off-the-shelf HR strategy. They are there to prompt questions and help discussion whether within the HR team or with your stakeholders across your organisation. Games described in the User Guide look at understanding priorities in progress, ownership across your organisation, skills and capabilities needed and required, and the business benefit of different approaches.

But most fundamentally they provoke conversation in an environment that is both tactile and collaborative. It's about discussions about your people strategies without recourse to slide decks or spreadsheets that give a different set of valuable perspectives.

Click to download your Free CHRO Priorities cards

Published 29 May 2019. Matt Ballantine (pictured at The People Space's event) is a CIO and CTO advisor who helps organisations to play

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