Sunday, October 28, 2012

How to Be Green and Great: Learning About Business Transformation with a New Simulation Game

Last week I had the great pleasure to play a trial of the new Green & Great Game with Piotr Magnuszewski.

(In case you want to know more about the kind of interesting people who develop useful learning games like this - based on computer models -  you can look up Piotr who is a faculty member of the Centre for Systems Solutions,  a Senior Associate of the AtKisson Group (as I am), and a Balaton Group Member  - a network of systems dynamicists and modellers, systems thinkers and sustainability advocates. )

Green & Great is a new simulation game that helps players explore the "business transition to sustainability". The game can played online or preferably in a room with multiple teams, face-to-face, with computer assistance. Up to 6 teams, with 1-5 members each, can play simultaneously and the game takes around 2 hours to play the five 1-year cycles of company strategy and decision-making.

In the simulation, the teams run consulting companies that are advising businesses working in the energy and finance sector (currently, more sectors are being added). The teams go through the decision making cycle of bidding on projects, hiring people with specific competencies, developing internal projects and making staff assignments (and other HR decisions such as training).

The results of these decisions are reported using the Compass (N=Nature, E=Economy, S= Society, and W=Wellbeing) which gives you progress indicators for your company as well as information on your competitors. Teams also get market information annually, about how the sectors are changing, upcoming legislation, what is being expected by consumers regarding environmental reporting, etc.

Teams run their companies for 5 years, and all the usual things happen: people may quit (but of course you can do something about job satisfaction - training or green benefits anyone?), reputation is important (and again the choices on external and internal projects can affect that - what about that CSR reporting project?), sectors change as certain consumer and government demands around transparency change), companies make money (or don't) based on the decisions they make and the impacts of their projects on those compass points (some projects may not be available to you, as in the real world, if your reputation in that area is below a certain accepted level). There's a lot to manage and monitor, but then that is the nature of successful businesses and including those moving in and around the sustainable development space.

My two hours with the game flew by and I really enjoyed playing Green & Great. I found the game very thought-provoking, complex but not overwhelming, and fun! (Which is one of my top criteria for games!)

I played my company team on my own, which is always going to be easier, as I only had myself to convince for decision-making. Because we were trialing it, we talked quite a lot with Piotr and among the competing teams, which might be less in a real game. I can imagine however playing it with a team and the rich conversations which would surround our choices about what kind of projects to take, how to build up a committed workforce, to take our sustainability values seriously and still make a good income. I was delighted that I ended up with high scores around Nature, Society and Wellbeing and towards the top for Economy (not the highest, but a satisfying result - we didn't go broke keeping our other three compass indicators high - not even close!)

The game is great for consulting company teams, or for businesses who are working towards and trading in the sustainable development field. It is also an excellent way for people in the NGO or public sector to learn more about their private sector partners and the environment in which they are working. The game gives good opportunities for insight into how business is transforming and can help enrich the dialogue with business that you find in public-private partnerships.

It's available now to play, and you can either play it with your own teams internally, with mixed sector teams if you have a joint project, or if you are a game administrator/facilitator/trainer you can play the game with your clients. They are continuing to enhance Green&Great and are happy to have feedback (which I was also happy to give - it is nice when a game is constantly evolving.)

Curious? If you want to try it out for yourself you can sign up for a demo and free trial on the website: Green & Great

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lights, Camera, Action! Tips for Speaking and Facilitating on Big Stages

Last week I had the great honour to join Women's Forum for the Economy and Society as a main stage facilitator and moderator. My session, one of the opening plenaries, was set as a brainstorming session with 600+ participants on Women's Visions for 360 degree Growth. My role was to moderate and facilitate meaningful interactivity with the participants, and to moderate a panel of interesting women leaders working in this field. 

This blog post is not so much about the content of the session, which was fascinating (challenging GDP as the growth indicator, especially when growth is being more expansively defined in terms of well-being,  equity and more; looking at the opportunities (and challenges) to international cooperation towards developing a new paradigm for growth, and the role of social media like Facebook in new forms of governance and democracy - fascinating stuff!) If you have the patience to watch a 90 minute video, or part of it, you can watch the session and the panelists here: Video of 360 Degree Growth Session

What I wanted to write about here was a list of the best tips I received from a number of great speaking coaches while I was writing and preparing for this session. As I am devoted to reusable learning,  I wanted to document them so that I don't forget them, can use them next time, and who knows, they might be useful t others too! I have broken these tips down into three areas:

Tips for TV Interviews, Public Speaking and Panel Moderating

Giving Great TV Interviews
  • Don't take an impromptu interview - never! Ask for the question(s) or topic, and re-schedule even if it is only 15 or 30 minutes later. Then prepare your answers. According to a French coach, interviews are like a "seduction", they want you so they will wait.
  • Give short answers. The interviewer wants to ask you questions and move the conversation along in some direction. TV interviews are not speeches, they are a back and forth with the interviewer. This is also much more dynamic for the viewers.
  • Be concrete. Say something concrete in every answer ( include data, a number, a short case example.)
  • Be prepared to give an example for everything. A favourite question for interviewers is, "can you give an example of that?" This always makes the story more interesting and concrete.
  • Pause. For thinking and/or effect - silence is your friend.
  • Smile! It makes you appear more comfortable and connects with the interviewer and audience more easily.

Speaking in Public - Part I: Preparation
  • Practice for HOURS not minutes
  • Memorize your overall sequence, or arc of the session - where is it going, and what are the main parts. If you can, repeat this to the audience before you start.  
  • Prepare your notes in three parts (this is my own advice): 1) Create a detailed agenda (I have a template for this, which includes timing, transitions, and all the information on how to run interactive components);  2) Based on this write our a verbatim script; 3) Then write memory prompts on cards. For the cards I cut small rectangles out of black paper and write on them with a white pen. The cards need to be the right size to hold in palm of your hand. Number them, because at some point you will be shuffling them and will lose your place if you don't do that! In the end you might not use them, but you will have them just in case.
Speaking in Public - Part II: Delivery
  • Use short sentences at beginning. This makes it easier to remember those opening lines and helps to manage nerves and breathing.
  • Emphasize one word in every sentence. This may sound strange but try it (don't overdo this though). It can be any word. This helps to vary the cadence. You can also experiment with having sentences end high or low (as in pitch - I am probably butchering the musical references here, but I know what I mean!)
  • Speak more slowly than you think is normal. Pause in between sentences so people can follow. This is especially important with an international audience. People need to get used to your accent. As someone from the Midwest of US, I always think that I don't have an accent, but I am assured that this is not true!
  • Use the physical space on stage. Walk up down, side to side, back and front - I even walked up and down the steps into the audience several times. (But don't PACE obviously.)
  • Use your hands, use your face, use everything. This will be much more interesting. Of course, use them for emphasis so it is not weirdly distracting.
  • Don't wear anything too busy by your face (e.g .necklace or scarf) if there is simultaneous video (e.g. if there is a big screen behind you, and for web streaming) it looks overwhelming.
  • Boost your confidence. Get your hair styled and make up done professionally, wear something that makes you feel fabulous, talk to a good friend right before, or any other thing you can think of!

Moderating a Panel Discussion on Stage

Note: For moderation, the difference between good and bad is mostly about preparation - I had so many audience members note that most moderators did not seem to know their speakers, so could not really draw out the most relevant facts for the audience.
  • Make a notebook with a divider for each of the panelists. In each section, create a collection of their CV and narrative bio, a photo, their writing, articles on the web when they have been interviewed. Notice what they have been asked and how they answered. Ask them what they recommend you read that is iconic of their work. Read all of these inputs across the different speakers to spot patterns that can provide you with some red threads that can help knit together their inputs into a coherent discussion.
  • Google the speakers. See if they are on Twitter, watch their videos on YouTube, read their comments on other people's work.  Make notes of most interesting parts and some interesting facts or  good quotes you might want to use.
  • Memorise their names, titles, places of work so you can say them without hesitation (or notes )
  • Draft and memorise a leading question for each of them that reminds the audience who they are = even if they were introduced before (e.g. Marilyn, you are a Professor of Economics and...)
My session at the Women's Forum combined quite a few of these different methodologies as it was interactive and had several distinct parts that I needed to weave together into a coherent whole for the audience that gave them an interesting, interactive and meaningful experience. I tried to take my own advice! If you have the patience to watch a 90 minute video, or part of it, you can watch the session ( Video of 360 Degree Growth Session ) and judge for yourself - you might have some other great tips that I can add to the list.