Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Tag: workplace motivation Page 1 of 2

We CANNOT expect involvement and engagement if we play the Blame Frame Game

How can we motivate people when we make them defensive? How can we expect innovation and process improvement if we are not actually encouraging people to share their thoughts and try new things?

Attack creates defensiveness; and appraisal and constructive criticism can certainly represent an attack in the perception of the workers:

Defense with © Square Wheels Image

If we ask managers how they manage, they tend to give all the right answers. But is that really their tendency to act and perform in reality?

Maybe. In the “Keeping Things Simple – Involving and Engaging” blog, I shared this cartoon that we call, “Trial and Error”.

square wheels image of Trial and Error

When we ask them to comment on the illustration, they tend to focus on what is wrong, rather than what else might be done, The ratio of negative to positive is about 8 : 1 and, if anything, the peer support appears more clearly in reactions to the different negative themes.

In other words, eight comments focused on the negative and what they did wrong for every one good thing the managers might spot, such as they are stepping back and looking for more improvements and that the horse, will in reality push a wagon.

Mothers usually call this “constructive criticism,” but I am not sure what good purpose it serves to continually point out what people are doing wrong, “even if it is for your own good.” as we so often hear as kids and teenagers (and workers, in so many instances!).

What the managers tend to do looks like this:

and this will not serve to improve motivation or make things better. If anything, this blame frame will make innovation harder and decrease the likelihood of people trying to be involved and engaged.

Note they this work team added a horse to the situation — more horsepower, as it were — and a definite paradigm shift. And YOU probably have not considered whether this might actually work. What if the next step simply looked like this:

ALL of us need to focus more on the innovative steps to improvement and the reality that change is a requirement in the workplace. So is support and encouragement — every book on leadership will comment on that but that is not congruent with the behavior of many managers.

Improvement is a continuous process, one that requires celebration of what is accomplished and continued reflection on possibilities and potential shifts in resource utilization. One might think that there is a train in their future?

Note – clicking on the images will take you to some different, related posts.

For the FUN of It!

Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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Positive Possibilities – Square Wheels for Performance Improvement

A few people have recently written that the Square Wheels One image is a negative view of how organizations really work and that it portrays the leadership in a negative way. And they seem to say that my haiku posts are also somewhat negative about how things work, too.

I guess that this reinforces my key concept that it is all about perspective — the fact that people see things differently and only through discussion can then better understand each other. That this perfectly illustrates the power of the tool is actually most wonderful. It generates different perceptions about things and allows for discussion!

As a “possibilities sorter” and a “future-focused sorter” of information and a performance improvement consultant starting back in 1978, I would simply suggest that my purpose of using the Square Wheels cartoons (back in 1993) was much more about looking for ideas for improvement than a focus on any negatives. What we do can always be improved.

The basic cartoon that started this all was framed up like this:

Square Wheels One imageand we asked, “How might this illustration represent how organizations really work?

We then allow people to talk about what they see and that is projective, it works much like an inkblot or Rorschach Test where people look at an image and then share their thoughts about what it represents. These are “projective instruments” in that people project their perceptions and beliefs onto the tool. And the use of the cartoon helps us get LOTS of ideas. What also happens is that the general thinking about the cartoon often becomes attached to how they see their organizations. They see real issues and opportunities in their own workplaces.

(you can see a post about just how many ideas result from such brainstorming and open discussion by clicking on this link and going to another post.)

Sometimes, if they are management, they see themselves in the front. More often, they feel that they are pushing someone else’s wagon, based on their responses. They also think that the ideas for improvement already exist but that communications between front and back are tough to accomplish.

Negative? Well, maybe.

Maybe if the phrase,
continuous continuous improvement”
is negative… I personally think it represents

I do frame things up with poetry and similar, sometimes taking managers to task for not fixing things that need fixing, those improvements that would make things better for all those involved… I see organizations doing more to generate intrinsic motivation and engagement.

Square Wheels Brainstorming Haiku Tomorrow is today

I think all we are doing through the illustration is anchoring to the existing reality and with the hopes that things can improve, be that about systems and processes, ideas for improvement, leadership involvement, communications or some other aspect of people and performance.

We sell tools for involving, engaging and motivating people and for leading all sorts of organizational involvement initiatives.

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

Have FUN out there, for sure!

square wheels author

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

Slideshare Overview of Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine, a team building game

In the past few weeks, people have been asking me for a fast overview of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, something more than what is on the PMC website and a fast and clean overview that they could share with their prospects who are interested in teamwork and building collaboration or integrating an exercise into their leadership development materials. They wanted a descriptive overview and not a sales piece, which they would do independently.

The result was a Slideshare program that has just been uploaded, one that covers the basic setup and framework, and includes the key goals and desired outcomes, and goes through a solid overview of some of the key debriefing themes and tabletop questions we use.

Slideshare Dutchman icon

The play of the Lost Dutchman game is really designed as, “an excuse to do a debriefing.” By design, we put metaphors in the game that would easily link to issues within organizations in any debriefing of the behaviors and outcomes resulting from playing the simulation:

  • Turbochargers represent Best Practices, better ways to do things than what are in general use now.
  • Mud represents the organizational glop, the bureaucratic goo, the cultural practices that tend to take more energy to deal with.
  • The Goal is to Mine as much gold as We can,” with the “we” referring to the entire group led by the game’s Expedition Leader and not the more competitive “My Team, My Team, My Team” approach for a tabletop.
  • The Role of the Expedition Leader is to Help Teams Be Successful, so that the game leadership can act to help and encourage, with the reality that teams generally do not ask for help.

Overall, we designed the exercise so that players can make mistakes but continue in their play until the end. All teams are successful, but some are more successful than the others. We show the results randomly instead of ranking tops down, simply because ALL the results contribute to the overall total ROI — and we also task the top performing teams with questions about why they chose to not assist or support the lower performing teams.

We’ve got tons of testimonials about the effectiveness of Lost Dutchman in a wide variety of organizational settings on a global basis. Feedback from our many users supports our belief that Dutchman works elegantly as a most powerful and easy-to-deliver team building game that addresses the issues of strategic planning and collaboration  within and between teams. Below is one of many testimonials and others are also, here, on our website:

Stamm LD testimonial

Thanks for taking the time to read through this. You will find dozens of other Dutchman articles in my blog  around the general themes of improving teamwork, working with large groups, ideas for debriefing and similar.

Energize and positively impact future performance of your own teams, organization or clients with this worthwhile game.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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Square Peg, Round Holes and Motivating and Engaging for Performance Improvement

This is a little ditty that Joan cooked up for an email to our customers and prospects and I thought it was really cute and well done. So, I thought to share it on Columbus Day, but it took us an extra day. Let me start with our Columbus Award, something which can be given posthumously (grin):

Christopher Columbus Award color

Know anyone who we need to send this to?

Okay. Back to business…

The title of the mailing is,


A “Square” Peg becomes a Round Peg!

Introducing Peg:

Square Peg Yellow

Peg is a workplace manager who thought she was managing well but usually came up short from her employees’ view. Many called her “Square” Peg because she always did what she’s always done. Prospects for change were bleak given as Peg did not communicate well and had no vehicle in place for others’ input and discussion.  

Her staff felt unmotivated and disengaged!

Peg’s View:

View Front color bPeg was pleased with and fully committed to her company’s vision of the future. However she felt that her staff didn’t have the same commitment and she had no clue as to how to get them on board sharing in her enthusiasm.

All was good from Peg’s view BUT it was only her view!

The Employees’ View: 

Square Wheels Image - View Back color redPeg’s staff described their view more like this. It was based on their not being keyed in on what was taking place. They were given no opportunity to give input about what improvements could be made and how they could be involved.

They were typical disengaged employees!

Square Wheels to the Rescue:  

Peg decided to set aside her square ways by using the Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit as a means of reaching out to her employees. It sets up an interactive discussion of issues and ideas for improvement that really gets energy rolling.

Square Wheels Image simple thoughts

Everyone shares their perspective!

The New, Better View:

After their first Square Wheels session, the employees felt a change had occurred that left them feeling part of the vision, therefore, making them more motivated and part of the plan. They were given an opportunity to express their thoughts and realities about what was happening with their jobs and what could be improved.

Square Wheels Image with Mission

They became involved and engaged!

From a Square Wheel (Peg) to a Round Wheel (Peg):  

Round Peg blue donut yellowPeg was excited about the positive changes and feelings that stemmed from her going beyond her “square old way” of doing things and giving Square Wheels a try.

Staff morale was at a new high and even Peg enjoyed the result of being better connected with everyone, especially when she heard herself being called a “Round” Peg. A good thing!

Communication and motivation was filling the workplace!


If you feel your employees or your workplace could use some “Stepping back from the wagon” to get new ideas and inspiration in place, give one of our many Square Wheels Toolkits a try. Square Wheels is a simple, unique way to motivate and engage everyone in the workplace around organizational issues of communications, change, leadership, planning, performance improvement and other topics.


 square wheels authorFor the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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 I came in contact with Square Wheels 13 years ago and since then I still have not found anything else quite like it. Being a trainer and facilitator in Singapore and regional countries, I’ve found that people of any culture would be able to identify with it. The Square Wheels One picture often helped to surface many organization and people issues and moved the session to a deeper level of open discussion and sharing. I highly recommend this very useful facilitation tool 🙂
Jason Ho, Singapore

Motivating People and Performance – Three Simple Ideas

A lot has been written about generating higher levels of performance to produce better results. And a lot has been written about improving engagement and involvement to improve innovation and employee retention. A further lot has been written about improving teamwork among employees and management.

None of this is rocket science and none of this actually requires much of a budget or the involvement of the training department or human resources. None of this even really requires any support of senior management, although that should be an expected occurrence in organizations trying to implement improvements. What it does clearly involve is the active engagement of line managers.

Here are actually Three Big Simple Ideas.

  1. Build involvement and engagement by facilitating a series of meetings on visions, missions, goals, expectations and feedback. (also known as Alignment.)
  2. Create some teams and allow them to accomplish things related to that alignment.
  3. Improve facilitation skills and use involvement to generate participation.

Let me briefly expand and explain how you can take your people to a higher level of performance. And this will not cost anything. If you email me by clicking on this link, I will send you the free Square Wheels tool that you can try, with no obligation. But remind me of the offer from your reading this blog!

square wheels image

1 – Build involvement and engagement by facilitating a series of meetings on visions, missions, goals, expectations and feedback.

The statistics are clear: Some or most people in many or most organizations do NOT really understand the overall goals and objectives of the organization – at best, this is 4 of 5 people but it is generally not that high. Data are clear on this, even though most managers would say that it is not likely in their organization. Your people might know their jobs, but they often do not understand how what they do fits into the bigger picture. Thus, we often see departmental squabbles when the customer is the one who is really impacted, which indicates an alignment issue.

Let’s say that your company is implementing a new strategy and your group is part of that process of making some changes to better align with these new goals. What are reasonable expectations? My friend Robin Speculand at Bridges Consultancy in Singapore has some global statistics that are numbing:

  • 90% of strategies fail to deliver even 50% of their objectives.
  • Only 5% of employees have a basic understanding of the company strategy
  • Only 2% of managers are confident that they will achieve 80% or more of their strategy’s defined objectives.

So much about the success of such initiatives are simply about facilitation and communications of visions, missions, goals, and expectations and changes in feedback and measurement systems.

This alignment process is not a difficult one, but it is something that really needs to be accomplished. And, you should do this through questions and tabletop discussions and not

2 – Create some teams and allow them to accomplish things related to the above.

You’ve got to have a problem that you want to solve;
a wrong that you want to right.

Steve Jobs

It has got to be something that you’re passionate about because otherwise you won’t have the perseverance to see it through.
Steve Jobs

There are dozens of ways to build teams. Basically, they need to have some kind of challenge that they want to address and some kind of organizational support that they feel will allow them to address the issue. We use the simple process of facilitating Square Wheels One to both involve them creatively as well as get them to share and agree on some specific Square Wheels that are operating.

This produces cognitive dissonance, a motivation to close the gap between the Square Wheel and some possible Round Wheels. One of the keys is their perceived likelihood of getting the support needed to address that implementation. Cultural and company cultural differences will lead to different strategies and tactics to address this opportunity. And I have written extensively around issues of implementation throughout the nearly 300 posts in this blog.

Teams will form naturally in most workplaces if they are allowed. And there are all sorts of models that can be overlaid for the long-term, like Kaizen or Lean. Find one that works already in your organization — no sense reinventing that particular wheel!

3 – Improve facilitation skills and use involvement to generate participation.

The issue is generally not one of compensation or similar cultural roadblocks to performance. The Kelly Global Workforce Index from in June, 2013 said:

  • 45% of workers in The Americas agreed that they receive equitable compensation for their work.
  • 44% say they would perform at a higher level if compensation were tied to performance / productivity.
  • Reframing that, 55% of the workers feel that they do not receive equitable compensation (one can assume most feel undercompensated) and 56% of them are saying that they could accomplish more if they were better motivated.

If you are interested in more statistics on these kinds of issues, Part IV of my post on managing and leading change summarizes a lot of data about people and performance. You can find Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly – Part 4 here.

The issue is relatively simple. You have to stop TELLING them things and begin to ASK them more about their understandings and their ideas. You can save time by lecturing, but you lose all the energy that arises from involvement and ownership.

Lastly, remember that a transfer of ownership involvement is a key step in getting the people involved and the momentum for change. Make this improvement opportunity theirs, since:

Nobody ever washes a rental car!

I’ve said it a zillion times: People do not take care of things when they feel no ownership involvement. If it is their idea, they own it. If they talk in defense of a position, they own it. If you can get them sharing ideas and deciding to do things differently, they own it. And all you need to do is provide the support and resources to help them get things done.

square wheels author


Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.


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Team Building and Poems on Performance – Cute Visuals on Collaboration and Goal Setting

Teambuilding is about generating alignment to shared goals and visions and also about involving and engaging people in collaborating for optimized results. The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is our tool to teach along the lines of competition and collaboration as well as planning and doing. Basic to its unique design is that sharing information and resources helps tabletops to optimize overall results for the group.

To set the stage, understand that the goal is to mine as much as WE can and optimize the Expedition Leader’s Return on Investment (ROI). The role of the Expedition Leader is to help teams be successful. We feel that these two factors model the desired outcomes of most leaders operating in most organizations. The reality is that teams more often choose to compete rather than collaborate and that they seldom ask the leadership for help, advice or even resources to generate maximum results.

LD 2 slides - We Can and Help teams

So, with this as a basic entry point, here are some poems and illustrations that help to illustrate the issues and opportunities. Teams can make better choices in a variety of different ways. So, here goes…


expedition leaders lead expeditions

collaboration is a key to decision making

So, the planning now completed, teams begin to play the game and see the results of their planning and their choices. The goal is to mine as much gold as we can.

strategic planning lends itself to performance

teamwork is essential to optimized results

teamwork policies and procedures

Now, the play is almost done and teams are looking about and making comparisons about their performance to the performance of other tabletops. Some chose to collaborate, some chose to get advice from that Expedition Leader and some might have even asked for some resources to help optimize ROI for the table and for the group.

intrinsic motivation is about succeeding

my team, my team, my team

LD Celebration is key poem

So, now we can take the time to reflect on things and turn the game into a powerful learning event where we discuss past choices for the game and future choices for the organization. It lends itself to reflect on things that are done well and things that need to be improved. It is a chance to reaffirm the goals and directions, share the visions and to pull things together.

reflection on choices

challenge is to mine gold

what did you learn from your experience

Have FUN out There!

celebrating success and results

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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Top Performers Least Engaged Workers? Low Performers Most Involved?

In 4 of 10 companies, low performers were more engaged than the high performers, a paradox that has some big implications for your organization’s long term results. The people who are bringing you the least impact are more engaged than your best performers, who need involvement and engagement for you to retain them. Yeah, motivation is a funny thing!

John Baldoni shared some survey data from LeadershipIQ on the HBR Blog Network, which has a nice pdf analysis of the data. It IS thought provoking. John wrote this up well and gave me permission to repost, so I will keep this whole post short and link to it with some other blog posts on my thinking. I will retain his links and add my cartoons! Here is what John wrote:

Some of the most engaged employees in your organization are your worst performers. And some of the least engaged are your highest performers.

This conclusion comes from new research by the consulting firm, Leadership IQ. The study “matched engagement survey and performance appraisal data for 207 organizations.” According to CEO Mark Murphy (who I interviewed via email), “We had long suspected that high performers might not be as engaged as has traditionally been assumed. But seeing that, in 42% of cases, high performers were even less engaged than low performers was a bit of a shock.”

This conclusion runs contrary to conventional wisdom as well as many studies (including this one from Gallup) that show high engagement — that is, how much employees are committed to their work — correlates with better bottom line results, including productivity and profitability.

You could think of these low performers as hamsters on a wheel, spinning fast but actually going nowhere.

Rat Cage Making Progress Yet yellow

Conversely, high performers may be coasting like swans on a pond, just gliding by. You don’t see their effort because it’s below the water. As Murphy says, “in our study, high performers gave very low marks when asked if employees all live up to the same standards.”

Overlay - duck color

While low performers may be more engaged, their efforts may not be as productive, especially since it’s the higher performers — disengaged though they may be — who are doing all the work. The underperformance of the former undermines the effort of the latter. This is especially true, according to the study, when low performers are not held accountable for poor performance. These employees may not even know they are doing a poor job.

Naturally when poor performers are allowed to slide by, it erodes the morale of high performers who feel, again according to the study, “helpless about the trajectory of their careers.”

 (Read Scott’s blog about “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…”)

“We had seen plenty of cases where managers avoid dealing with low performers (because they believe the conversation will be difficult), and instead assign work to the employees they enjoy — i.e. high performers.,” says Murphy. “And as a result, they end up ‘burning out’ those same high performers they enjoy so much.”

While I find Leadership IQ’s findings linking high engagement to poor performers to be contrarian, it is not usual for good performers to feel lost in the system. This is a comment I hear not infrequently in my coaching work.

So what to do about it? Murphy offers two suggestions. “First, leaders need to set very explicit, and behaviorally-specific, expectations for performance. These expectations need to define and delineate good, great, and even poor performance so employees and managers can clearly define and differentiate best practices, teach those practices to others, and then hold people accountable accordingly.”

Doing this, according to Murphy, “gives high performers confidence that their manager understands the meaning of ‘high performer’ and it holds the manager accountable to actually differentiate employees on the basis of their performance.”

Second, Murphy suggests regularly monthly leadership meetings (perhaps lasting no more than 20 minutes) that ask managers about what’s going on in their workplaces and how motivated they feel. As Murphy says, “If a company CEO were told that their best customers were unhappy, it’s a safe bet that CEO would be on a plane within hours. If we truly believe that people are our most important asset, shouldn’t we pay a bit more attention to the engagement of the best of those people?”

Senior management needs to communicate more clearly, hold people at every level accountable for results, and actively invest time and resources in the talents of high performers.

All too often companies do not know their employees are unhappy until they leave. Exit interviews reveal that they leave because they did not believe anyone cared. Research has confirmed the old saw that people leave bosses, not companies. That makes holding bosses accountable for employee engagement critical.

Senior leaders need to do a better job of teaching managers how to be better managers. And they also need to apply such standards to themselves.


I trust that you find this data and John’s framing of it to be of interest and use, as I did. If we expect workplace performance to improve, engagement and involvement are an easy way to address these opportunities. Doing another survey is not going to help us. Focusing on Dis-Un-Engagement is much more likely to pay dividends.

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Square Wheels – Going Viral on People and Performance

Jonah Berger’s recent book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, is about why things go viral in today’s social media world. He is a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of Business and in 2009, his team conducted a study of the most-emailed articles in the New York Times over a 6-month period. Berger compiled those findings, along with other information research on building brand popularity, to generate 6 key principles for going viral.

So, the challenge is to figure how to roll out the Square Wheels. (Do I need to put Obama pulling with The Clintons pushing or what? Do I need to do some little graphic images that everyone can share around? Do we do a Square Wheels video game like Angry Birds, where workers can shoot down Square Wheels and bad bosses? Do I need a One-Minute-Manager book on motivation? How can we move this forward?)

Berger’s 6 principles are:

  • social currency (peer popularity of the idea);
  • triggers (daily reminders of the idea or product);
  • emotional resonance (how much the idea or product inspires a deep emotional reaction);
  • observability (high visibility of a product essentially sells itself);
  • usefulness (we want to share useful information); and
  • storytelling (a narrative surrounding the idea or product provides stickiness.) 

Sounds like we have a pretty solid anchor point with something like this:

Perception of how things work SWs One

And the theme certainly sets the stage for usefulness and observability. After all,

  • The Square Wheels really ARE Everywhere! and 
  • The Round Wheels are already IN the wagon!

We also have a good storyline around the perception that the above is like most workplaces, as shown by the lack of engagement by a majority of workers, along with their feelings that no one is listening to their ideas. Involvement is a key motivator, for sure!

RWs Sig File icon

or maybe a Haiku of some kind:

Discover the Road haiku

This IS a storyline around people and motivation, around involvement and engagement, and around continuous improvement of the workplace. It is about involvement and engagement and about intrinsic motivation and performance feedback. But it raises a question of reality:

Intrinsic Improvement Haiku

The cartoons are sold in simple-to-use toolkits at our website, complete with ideas for facilitation, handouts, powerpoints and all that stuff. You can also buy coffee cups and refrigerator magnets with the the message about possibilities for improvement.

After all, managers should see lots of performance coaching opportunities as they work to develop their people. They should be looking at potential as well as dealing with issues and opportunities for improvement, something that looks like this:

Mentoring Color Icon

We all can support, coach, mentor and try to support the caterpillars as they struggle to become the butterflies of the future.

Like this. Share this. Help me make these Square Wheels more visible so that we can try to put more Round Wheels into play around the world,

For the FUN of It!

Elegant Solutions

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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Rewarding High Performance in The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding game

Managers do not often deal with good performers in effective ways. Relying on extrinsic rewards is often a formula for completely missing the real underlying motivation of many high performers. Extrinsic reward systems are often problematic and cause more problems amongst the bottom 70% (who never win and are thus losers) or generate behaviors that are not congruent with missions and visions of the organization. I chat about that in a lot of my blog posts, most recently this one. There are a lot of posts on extrinsic motivation here.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a team building exercise that is a bit unusual in that it focuses on the collaboration between tabletops to optimize the measured results. It is only partly about winning — it is more about what the higher-performing teams could have done differently to support the lower performing teams to optimize overall results. The goal is, “To Mine as Much Gold as We Can” and to optimize the Expedition Leader’s return on investment. Obviously, the more ALL the teams perform, the better the overall results.

It also tends to generate a My Team, My Team, My Team kind of response in so many cultures that tend to reinforce competitiveness as a basic operational strategy — something that tends to make the words “Interdepartmental Collaboration” an oxymoron in so many companies. The reality is that more collaboration will most certainly improve organizational results, engagement, service, cost reduction, innovation, etc.

"My Team, My Team, My Team" focus can cause more competition than collaboration

A “My Team, My Team, My Team” focus can cause more competition than collaboration. The goal is to optimize organizational results, not win!

In Dutchman, teams can spend an extra day gaining information that enables them to optimize their results. One metaphor is a strategic planning one that allows them to re-allocate resources to have a better likelihood of success. The other is a Best Practice, one that enables them to move faster. It also gives them things to share with other teams – Turbochargers that double the speed of movement.

We’ve been supporting a network of consultant users and trainers since 1993 and have received most excellent feedback. As I note in another blog, we recently had the first Perfect Play that I have heard of. Some groups or triads within larger groups come close, but none got it perfect until David Simpson’s group of three teams with the retailer Coach. Now, the issue is optimizing post-game impacts and generating increased collaboration among the store managers now back at work.

Perfect Play has its own results summary powerpoint show.

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz005

We first show what ONE team could do to optimize their results — it is about planning and using information and resources properly. Their path would look like this, with the 20 days numbered in the circles:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz007

They reach the Mine on Day 8, using up all their resources and returning on the last day possible, Day 20. The summary of results and resource use looks as follows and they had a surplus of $50 worth of stuff as well as two Turbochargers that they could have shared with two other teams (if they chose to). That sharing would have generated six more days of mining if all things were good.

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz008

But the real Perfect Play occurs when two teams decide to collaborate with each other on the planning and then involve another group into their collective. That looks like this:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz009Instead of one team mining 9 gold, this framework allows for two teams to mine 10 and that extra team to mine ELEVEN. This has only occurred in David’s game. And it makes for a great debriefing, in that a lot of the right organizational optimization behaviors have occurred in play, the teams managed things in a relatively stress-free mode (with no fear of real failure) and it carries over very neatly into the discussions of what they could choose to do differently.

A high level of information sharing is needed. The resources are tight to generate this perfect result:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz010

And that very last part needs special mention.

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz011

To get a Perfect Play, the three teams need to ask for $50 from the Expedition Leader! I mean, is that a perfect design or what?!!

From among 100 or so debriefing slides, we might emphasize these six:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz005

LD Debrief Triad 2


Our goal is to get successes among the players and among the teams, show the direct advantages of inter-team collaboration in the game, and bridge to the special advantages of inter-team collaboration back at work. The opportunities to share resources, collaborate, share best practices and help each other be successful in operations has huge leverage within the workplace as well as between departments. So, we use these kinds of handouts to generate ideas for improvement and discussions about choices we are making:

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And, my new game will focus even more attention on post-game collaboration and organizational improvement. You can see a few of the game design ideas here.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief


Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

Spring into Innovation – Some Thoughts about Involvement and Motivation

There are a lot of blogs and groups focused on the themes of innovation, and so many know so much that it continues to be mind boggling.

There appear to be two main camps, one that says that Innovation Occurs in Big Leaps and one that focuses more on what I have been calling Continuous Continuous Improvement for many years (that label from the Department of Redundancy Department!).

The Big Leaps People tend to use a specific set of creativity and structured innovation tools and an “outsider’s approach” and look for huge quantum jumps in things. These kinds of innovators get most of the attention from Fast Company and Wired and the venture capitalists and represent the Heros of the Universe. For people with this viewpoint, creativity is a learned skill and one that often takes on a very structured approach to opportunity identification. Think of the creative meetings at advertising agencies that push for the Big Idea on TV and reward those extravagantly.

Sometimes, that One Big Idea just appears out of nowhere and is so enticing that people can raise millions of dollars from others who see the potential. That is why some of the big software companies spend bazillions on some new idea from some small company long before it shows that it generates a cent of profits or is worth even a tiny portion of a bazillion dollars.

Celebration plane color green

Sometimes, we can be focused on our wagons while only the horse sees the idea of the cargo plane. (So, the solution is to hire the horse?)

But there is another kind of innovation that gets my interests, since it has so many impacts on people, performance and the workplace. It has links to leadership and motivation and organizational development.

Me, I like the writings of people like Sidney D’Mello, my new professor friend who focuses on confusion as a key to learning and retention. People learn more when they are placed in a situation where some problem solving is required. I like the literature on facilitation and collaboration that enable people from different viewpoints and backgrounds to get together to consider possibilities of doing things differently. In those kinds of workshop sessions, we get an occasional Big Leap, but more often, it is framed around the improvement of existing work processes.

Intrinsic Motivation color green

Improving existing work processes can have BIG impacts on motivation, performance results and innovation, however. That one small, implemented improvement can make a BIG positive impact on one person who has been frustrated in dealing with that issue, and it can be the first step forward of many more. Seeing that idea implemented by one person can help reassure the other people that the organization is willing to consider doing things differently, which can then involve and engage the others in rolling forward.

So, now that Spring has Sprung here in South Carolina, we are enthused by a new addition to our games and toolkits.


This interesting new development is the completion of our team building and creativity game, Innovate & Implement. This is a fun, fast-playing board game designed to enable innovation and get ideas implemented into the workplace. We get players into a problem-solving framework whereby they need to work together and deal with different kinds of common organizational roadblocks.

Take a narrative pictorial tour of Innovate & Implement by clicking on the link. It is a fully-packaged organizational intervention designed to involve and engage people in generating new ideas for doing things better and faster.

Good ideas exist but to implement them, people need motivation to overcome barriers and issues. This is why I&I is more than just a game–it works to engage and enlist people and teams in improvement initiatives.

Open a window for innovation and implementation in order to impact your employees and organization with positive, refreshing improvements. And have more FUN out there!

Scott small pic

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Managers – Biggest Contributors or Biggest Problem?

An outstanding article got published today by Jim Clifton, the CEO of Gallup. If you have not noticed the transition of this company over the years, it has moved from its stereotyped base as a “polling organization” to one that is tightly focused on issues of workplace improvement. This article by Mr. Clifton appeared in LinkedIn and is mindblowing.

Jim CliftonYou can find the article here:

The data — 1,390,941 workers compiled into one database — says that of the 100,000,000 or so full time workers in the US, 30,000,000  (30%) are engaged and inspired at work and 20,000,000 (20%) employees  are actively disengaged. It’s that old Henny Youngman line, “…Take my wife. Please!” reframed to, “…Take my boss… Please!” in the case of the 20 million who – again – are ACTIVELY dis-engaged, un-involved and un-inspired.

Henny Youngman( See Henny Youngman perform on Ed Sullivan (1966). )

The point that Youngman makes is that he wishes things could be different (he is actually joking, and it is funny!). The point Jim Clifton makes is that leadership in management is a critical factor in employee motivation and performance, and that good managers are a lot different than bad bosses in how they impact the workplace and the US economy. He is not joking and nothing is funny about allowing things to simply continue the way things are…

As Clifton says,

Here is my big conclusion: A workforce of 100 million employees in America requires a 10-1 ratio of managers to teams. So, for the U.S. to be perfectly managed, it requires 10 million great supervisors and then 1 million great managers of those supervisors. Pick the right people for these roles, the ones who know best how to engage their people, and the country will rise up economically like never before.

But the problem is, given my 10-1 ratio, there are, in my estimate, only about 3 million great managers inspiring and motivating those 30 million engaged employees. That’s just not enough great leadership.

 We do NOT need 3 million great managers leading people; what we need are a few million fewer Bad Bosses un-leading them! In other posts in my blog, I discuss dis-un-engagement and the issues surrounding the unmotivated middle of the workforce. We can impact them in many ways. In my post about the seemingly unmotivated, I discuss my thinking on what we can do differently to make improvements. It is not rocket science. In my post about Pogo, it is about this simple concept:

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Like  Mr. Clifton, I believe that we must make changes in how people are managed. His approach is focused on engagement, and so is mine. He takes the position that the three key issues of importance, based on their survey results are:

1.     At work,  I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. This is the single-best survey item you can ask an employee. If they score high on this, it means they have been assigned a job for which they have the talent to excel. Mastering this begins with companies identifying employees’ strengths and putting them in the right roles.

2.     There is someone at work who encourages my development.

3.     At work, my opinions seem to count.

I take the position that most people are un-engaged and un-involved and that every manager and supervisor needs to focus in DIS-un-engagement and the implementation of ideas — Engagimentation. It is a simple concept of facilitating ideas in the workplace and then working to implement those ideas by better managing perceived and actual roadblocks. The tools are simple and the approach is straightforward.

Reality of how things work SWs One

and the possibilities that exist for making the workplace a better place:

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For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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Thoughts on Hiring the Right Presenter for a large event

I have posted up ideas for improving large events and generating more participation and engagement in other posts in my blog. One of these builds on Ideas for Success for Off-site Meetings as well as others on speeding up team building events such as The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and others that compare icebreakers to effective learning frameworks. There is one on using games versus exercises, for example. I also focus on using purposeful icebreakers in training and events in this post, looking to stimulate better or different ideas for getting more done in less time.

This present post was stimulated by reading an email in Promotional Consultant Today that shared some ideas of Joe Heaps and Dave Reed. the owners of I have no relationship with them, but thought some of their ideas and frameworks made a good place on which to build some thoughts. Their ideas were proposed as follows:

1. Outline the content and goals for the event.
2. Know your budget.
3. Cast a large net.
4. Start the narrowing process.
5. Make your selection.

My thoughts are somewhat broader than that of simply selecting a presenter, that your senior management involved in a large event need to know and clarify the precise purpose of holding that meeting.  This helps determine what you are trying to generate as desired outcomes and what results can be expected. The simple transfer of information or the generating of a spark of awareness are no longer good reasons for holding a meeting.

These days, so many things can be done through social media and webcasting that the thought of pulling together a large group of people for an off-site or even a within-the-building kind of event can be costly as well as time consuming. Even when it is on-site, it is hard to shut down a department and do an all hands meeting unless there can be backup for those attending. Also recognize that many people are fearful for their job security and do not want to do anything that would affect their performance results (like attend a training session or even take a vacation — click here for an article discussing that).

You need to have a solid case for why you are getting people together. Usually, that would have to include some interactive and engaging activity to help formally build teams or improve collaboration. You can do powerpoints right on their computers if you simply want to share information! But teaching some group skills and generating alignment and collaboration among the key players is hard to do with email; sometimes, engaging activities are more practical and effective. When we plan and help others to plan, we try to generate an interactive program that links directly to some desired group outcome, such as improving the planning process and leaving some impact:

Assistant LD testim 100

On the budget issues, you will have the costs of all the “loaded labor rates” of the participants plus the cost of the venue plus meals and maybe some overtime for some. If you hire a speaker, those costs can go off the roof. How some of these “professional presenters” can claim fees of $30,000 or more for standing there talking at your audience with little knowledge of how things work — something that everyone will surely forget a couple of days later — is way beyond my comprehension. But that is a reality.

(Big Name Speakers want first class travel and accommodations, in addition to Big Time Fees. And the speakers’ bureaus get a nice profit from the booking, also — they want commissions higher than the fees that we charge!)

One question you should ask is simple: Will they leave behind anything tangible that actually changes anything, or is the Big Name simply to appeal to the egos of the senior managers so they can share the, “Oh, we had XYZ at our annual retreat and I hit golf balls with him the next day!” with their buddies at the country club. Sure, that might be a neat thing to do, but at the cost of having everyone else’s salaries sitting there for the comments? (Years ago, I saw Joe Theisman present on customer service at a client’s Big Annual Meeting with Customers. Great. I not sure any of them chose to go to that meeting because Joe was presenting (he owned a restaurant) nor do I think anyone could remember anything an hour afterwards. And, I am not sure he hung around for golf the next day, either. I think he is still out there speaking…)

Heaps and Reed talk about casting a wide net for speakers and selecting 6 to 10 that might appear to be good matches. This makes sense since they run a speakers bureau kind of service with plenty of speakers from which to choose. I would suggest casting a wider net, looking for alternatives to simply having a talking head. There are many presenters and facilitators out there who can do interactive and activity-based things that actually generate involvement. I think that is a far different kind of activity than sitting on one’s seat and listening to some well-rehearsed joke.

moose color

You can get my Moose Joke, my best session closing story, by clicking here.

If you are going to hire a speaker, be sure to ask a lot of pointed questions to insure that his presentation is memorable and that it aligns greatly to your desired goals and outcomes. And remember that if you don’t know where you are going, any path will get you there. You MUST have a pretty tight grip on your framework in order to best evaluate a presenter or an approach that will work for your organization and people.

Checking for references is also a must, and you should ask for ones that were presentations years ago to see if there really was any stick. The CEO may remember the golf a lot more than the work that he paid for.

My approach these days is to talk people out of hiring me for presentations and workshops — they should do things themselves and keep it internal to save money and keep things really relevant.

A large insurance company had their Senior VP of IT go around delivering Lost Dutchman and to focus on interdepartmental collaboration. His role in delivery was Expedition Leader and the expressed goal of the game, “To mine as much gold as we can” explained his role in managing IT to support the operational groups. Who better to do this? And, he was also an engaging presenter, which helps even more. Being a real organizational leader, that kind of event leaves a lasting positive impression on everyone involved.

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I think our materials work just great on their own without outside facilitation — they are designed for that — and we often will chat about who in their organization would be the best presenter for a session on Square Wheels or who could be the Expedition Leader for a Lost Dutchman game. Because I use cartoons and ask tabletops for their thoughts and ideas, the metaphors presented have a lot of “stick.” And even when I do wind up presenting, I will generally involve and engage the most senior managers to help me lead the debriefing and discussions of things to be done differently. After all, they can do that so much better than me.

Bala is the senior HR guy for a billion dollar retail conglomerate in India and he shared with me that we met at a conference in 1994 when I presented Square Wheels to an ISPI conference — I asked him what he remembered and he went through my course outline and key points of my presentation. (People tend to remember me a lot less than they remember the cartoons, which is perfect!)

We sell inexpensive Square Wheels toolkits containing speaker notes, powerpoint presentation files, worksheets and the like. We will rent our Lost Dutchman game for large groups, too. It is easy to deliver and bombproof and is designed for people to facilitate themselves. (We also sell the game for repeated usage).

Kyla LD testim 100

PMC is one of a gazillion companies offering solid programs for organizational improvement that can be self-delivered without a great deal of cost. Plus, you are presenting it with internal people and saving large “presenter fees.” Few presenters really care if anything happens as a result of their work. I find many quite polished and entertaining, but I cannot personally think of anything that I have gotten (other than some positive as well as negative teaching approaches) from any of those people.


Just Do it.

Don’t hire some famous basketball coach who thinks he can tell you how to run a large operation of adults when he supervises a small staff of people plus some athletes. Do you think a football coach and commentator can really give you or your people (or your senior executives) any ideas that are really useful and actionable? Don’t think that climbing Everest gives one any real insight into the motivations of a Gen X’er in your workplace. I did a 130 meter bungee jump, but I don’t think I actually learned anything from that! Does anyone think that my talking about that would have any impact, whatsoever?

Find a program that matches to your desired outcomes and look to see how you can do this yourself,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Illusions and Management – Some thoughts about Reality

I posted up what I thought was a pretty fun blog last week, one that used illusions as the tool for communication. My initial intent on writing it was to use the illustrations as a metaphor for organizational innovation and creativity, but as I wrote, I poked a bit at management and leadership and perspectives. What bounced back were a lot of comments about the management themes that were mentioned. So, what the heck, go with the flow and all that…

Perception of how things work SWs One

In the cartoon above, which I use like an inkblot test, I can generate a lot of involvement and engagement with people seeing how their organization tends to work. Not so much that they see it that way  but more as how they perceive things to work. It’s useful, though, because it allows people to play and it gives them a language for how things work.

Okay, maybe things are different in Asia… Things there might look more like this:

Perception of how things work Asian SWs One

Square Wheels become “The things that don’t work smoothly” while round wheels become ideas for improvement and possibilities. The key is how to implement change and improvement and the workshop session stops the pushing and pulling for a period of time. Stepping back from the wagon is useful perspective, for sure. Perspective is good because it changes how we view things.

The reality is that many people in the workplace, as demonstrated by countless surveys and other research, actually see their time flowing something like this:

Reality of how things work SWs One

But I kid. Let’s move along to talk about how we think and how we see things and how our perceptions can influence our thinking. Take a look at this:

Moving hole in cube

Consider the circle

In the above, it you actually take a few moments and look at it, the circle should remain in the center of the box for a while and then move to the back surface as the image shifts from right to left. Or, it might start left to right for you. I actually have trouble keeping it in the same place the more I look at it — it shifts regardless of how I want to see it look. My brain makes it change. I think the same thing occurs when one views performance from different perspectives.

The person who takes a lot of time with customers may not complete as many transactions per hour but they may contribute more money to the organization, over time, because their average sale might be higher or they have fewer customer complaints that take up the time of others. The perception of performance will shift depending on what you look at. It gets more complicated when one considers the contribution to the development of other people or the willingness to train or innovate or help solve problems.

There are lots of examples of these shifting circumstances. And for some people, this illustration shifts around more easily to demonstrate the same effect.

reversing cubes 2

Then, we have the issue of how we perceive things in the workplace/

half full

Is that glass half full or half empty? And the answer to that may depend on whether you like to drink what is in there or not! It’s only half full of that cool, fresh water but it is half empty of that vinegary stuff the Nurse wants you to drink.

And performance can be influenced by perceptions. The Pygmalion Effect is one example. Basically, it suggests that people will perform as they are expected to perform. What you expect is what you get. Wikipedia does a nice job of detailing the early research on this but it is a commonly seen phenomenon in the workplace. If you expect someone to do well, that is what you will commonly find. Wikipedia says it this way: “The Pygmalion effect is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy and, in this respect, people will internalize their positive labels and those with positive labels succeed accordingly.”

Look at it this way:

Only 3 colors

Those of you with red-green color blindness (mostly us males — about 10% as opposed to 0.4% of females) will certainly see this differently than others. But take a look. How many colors are used to create it? (Answer embedded below.)

Observing and rating performance is often a difficult job, and that observance will spill over to how we motivate and reinforce. Some people we will invariably see as good performers and others as less so, simply because that is how we perceive them. May the heavens help us if our measurement systems do not really manage to track behavior in perfect alignment to company objectives.

So, what are those? Well, those might look like this to many observers:

parallel lines

You know, the funny thing is that all the lines are actually parallel to each other in the above. Yeah, LOOK AGAIN.

And I notice that it helps if you view the one above that as a smaller illustration, since the illusion seems to disappear. Funny how that works, eh? And it is caused by perceptions and how we look at things.

Only 3 colors

Yeah, there are only three colors in the X above. Your brain does crazy things, right? So who is your top performer? Who is the most engaged and involved in generating ideas for workplace improvement? Who is more motivated? Who gives the best customer service? Who has the most leadership skills and should be sent to a training program? Might be the same person as one of the people below? Which one of these is obviously bigger than the others.


Well, they are all actually just the same, and I would love to do this so that the “little one” is actually bigger than the biggest one — that would make it funner! It is the context of the positioning of the figures in the environment that gives the appearance of them being different. This same kind of illusion can appear everywhere in the workplace and it does get almost impossible to measure or observe everything that you want.

Some people are quite good at doing the design work to make things appear as they do. For example, we have:

Street hole tower

I mean, really? Or fabulous street art below:

Painted Wine Optical Illusion

These artists weave their illusions into their art intentionally to make amazingly spectacular art. These things look real. Yet some things, although they seem real enough, just aren’t going to happen. I think maybe a lot of people think that their organizations work something like this:


It all looks good until you try to actually build one. Or you can be challenged to simply count the squares…


(I can count 35 squares in this — there might be more)

Somehow, I had to simply work the following one in, not because it says that much about people and performance but just because the illusion seems to work so well. Not much square about this one, I guess… Do read the text at the bottom of the black border, though.


I will admit that it took me a long time to get that one…

Back to work!

Yep, there are a lot of issues of perception in the workplace and in the forest around us. We have to pay attention to performance results and we need to measure the right things and have solid performance feedback systems in place to make things operate smoothly.

I hope you liked the basic ideas included within as to how what we think and how we think about things does influence what we see.

If you want to see my thinking about performance results, consider looking at my Feedback Analysis Checklist. You can find it here: Analysis of Feedback

Square Wheels are an excellent metaphor for how things work in most organizations because they get people thinking about and talking about the things that do not work smoothly, with the understanding that people are better problem solvers than problem identifiers and that the ideas for improvement already exist. The metaphor also allows people to focus on the things that don’t work smoothly and the reality that we need to address systems and processes a lot more than people and performance.

We sell a variety of simple toolkits, complete with worksheets at

Things that get in the way are a lot more demotivating over time than most people realize. When things do not get addressed, people become de-moralized, dis-engaged and un-empowered.

The Square Wheels are Everywhere
and the Round Wheels are already in the wagon,


2 For the FUN of It!     Round Wheel for CJ gamesRound Wheel for CJ gamesRound Wheel for CJ games

Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Ideas and Engagement – Building a Culture and Engagimentation

A LinkedIn discussion thread started with:

What do you think are the main barriers for an employee to come up with a new idea?

Some of the comments were spot on, I thought:

“Great question! My answer: Layers and layers of management from C-Level to Micro-managers, more layers and layers of processes intended to create productivity but actually reducing it, politically – the ever present need for everyone to include their thumbprint of ownership of an idea and finally, FEAR: “if it was such a good idea, someone would have done it already”.” (Jerry Braccia)

“Context and clarity would be the main two. Context in terms of employees understanding and being encouraged to participate in creative and innovative thinking in something more than just the ‘suggestion box’. Clarity in terms of understanding the ‘where to from here process’ for new ideas, and knowing each idea simply needs to benefit the organisation, and not necessarily be an industry changing world first!” (Brad Kerwin)

But then some leaned toward putting the blame on the employees and the workplace climate of not sharing and the wasting of time focused on rumors and money or trying to get the favor or the boss. Blame was even focused on the issues of perceived respect or the lack of training.

Me, I have a different approach when it comes to gaining the ideas of employees so I posted up this response:

Don’t think about an elephant!

That work?

The premise seems to be that people are somehow choosing not to come up with an idea in some of the posts. If YOU are working at a job and some aspect of it does not seem to work smoothly, how can you NOT come up with a better idea as to how to make things work more smoothly? The elephants are all around the workplace.

But it is NOT the issue of there being no ideas, the issue is that no one seems to want to listen to them. People will “rumor” about good ideas just as much as they will rumor about workplace crapiola.

I use one of our tools and show them a wooden wagon rolling on Square Wheels. The cargo are round rubber tires. And nearly everyone (including most senior managers) seem to agree that it is how things really work in most organizations.

The Square Wheels represent “things” so the discussion tends to lean far from the issues of personality. The round wheels simply represent “ideas”. Not all of them are good (the wheels do not have rims or there is no air in the tire). But there are LOTS of ideas when one uses group processes to involve and engage people.

The issue is that everyone is too busy doing things like they have always done them and there seems to be no time nor resources to do anything differently. Or, the issue is an interdepartmental one and we know how well interdepartmental collaboration works (an oxymoron, for sure, in many organizations.

It is NOT a dearth of ideas (even for new product development), but an issue of engagement and implementation of those ideas. I call it Engagimentation and it involves generating a vision / goal, managing resources and expectations, and allowing the people to try the new ideas in a low-risk, high support kind of context.

That is just how I see things, and that view has held up over 20+ years and 38 countries and counting…

For the FUN of It!

My thinking is that the supervisor can work with the people to design case studies around problems and value and help people focus on roadblock management and collaboration. We accomplish this with the use of our Square Wheels illustrations along with our team building tools.

SWs One - How Things Work

Generating a culture of collaboration and innovation and defining the best approaches to implementing ideas in the workplace is pretty straightforward, in my thinking. People want to be involved and be asked to participate. Peer support can be a powerful motivator of collaboration and engagement. Engagimentation is a pretty simple thing, really, but you have to stop pulling and pushing to allow people time to see what is happening and talk about alternatives. You can read more about it here in my blog.

But if we keep doing the same things the same way, you can pretty much expect the same results.

Addendum – I came across a good infographic with a nice way of showing a lot of data and ideas and information. Check it out at:

Here is a small part of the graphic:

Google ChromeScreenSnapz001

Check it out! Engagement is not rocket science — it is actually quite straightforward and can be accomplished if the culture is supportive of these kinds of initiatives. It MUST be seen as VALUABLE.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Innovate & Implement – an exercise linked to getting things done

We’ve been playing with the design of a package focused on innovation for a couple of years. Since creativity and innovation are not primary focuses of mine, this game languishes a bit in my development of it, even though it works really great. It is a full, developed, and effective program that I simply need to play more often with my workshop groups.

It is a board game playable by 3 or better 4 people. Each table is separate from the others in that there is no collaboration or that kind of framework, other than what the players at the table do. I tried to model the issues around common problems that teams face when they try to solve problems and implement ideas and, like most of my other games, it is loaded up with metaphors.

I&I Check it out words

We give each team the instructions and they have to pull together to develop a plan of action and coordinate efforts. As the game progresses, they get more and more efficient with their actions, and make more and more progress.

The goal is to move about the board and enter rooms and solve problems. Once they find the Round Wheels, they can then return home and end the game. Some measure of luck is involved, but it is more about efficiency and effectiveness. And while they can ask for help and find additional information “from a Training Class,” the work harder to avoid that than they do on learning anything!

You, as facilitator, can keep the players “tight to the rules and policies” or allow them to bend them a little to play better and faster. You, in a real sense, influence the Innovate & Implement game culture.

The debriefing of the game is excellent, and we package the exercise complete with our other Square Wheels tools to allow you to either integrate the game with your existing innovation or implementation processes or to build a complete program around the exercise with our other outstanding tools.

I&I Bundle Contents

And you always have Scott to assist. He freely offers his consulting and coaching time to insure that you have the product you need integrated with the learning that you want.

Scott and I&I w title

The simplicity of this exercise would allow your supervisors to play it with their people to involve and engage them and generate the intrinsic motivation and teamwork to go forward and identify and solve their workplace issues and then develop an effective plan of action for implementation.

This package is a great value at $495 and you can see more information about the exercise at our website. Click here or on the game board icon below:

I&I gameboard 20

This is a fully developed, completely supported package of excellent tools!

I&I Game Folder image

For the FUN of It!

Muscles slide in background

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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