Experience report: Starting to apply Innovation Games® Facilitation for successful meetings

Written by , in category Engaging Workshops & Meetings

27 July 2017

After having followed the session Innovation Games for Successful Meetings, I didn’t really have the opportunity to start applying, until we had a gathering with our swimming club. In this article I’ll take you step-by-step through a full session start to finish.

The Flow

Monday evening 19:20.

After a heavy day at work, a meeting was planned to discuss how we would organise our “new” swimming club. The “old” one exploded after what now appears to have been a period of non-communication between some key players – what a surprise this is the reason… We would start at 19:30, so I was perfectly on time.

19:30 Not a lot of people for the moment… Hmmm… So we won’t be able to start on time. No problem so far. There were enough people to talk with. They also had a work day behind them, so no need to stress. And I remembered something I just read in the morning: “Remote teams need some space to talk about more things than just work.”. I guessed this was a good moment to try the Chit-Chat. (from Run a Daily Cafe with a Remote Team).

20:00 All people we really needed were present, and had their Chit-Chat. I asked the current president of the club to start the session.

Start – Setting the Stage

We briefly discussed a few days earlier what the goal of the meeting should be. She did it perfectly: “We are here together to find out how we can best organise ourselves for the next season and the future. Everything can be discussed. No secrets. Everything is open to change. We want to allow for maximum collaboration in our club from all stakeholders.”.

Someone jumped in stating there is a minimum to comply with – legal stuff for a recognized swimming club for both the Flemish Federation and for receiving subsidiaries from the city.

The goal was clear, as was the agenda: minimum requirements, followed by “go wild”.

All 21 attendees agreed.

(writing this blog makes me think I should have used the Visual Agenda… Lesson learned for next time)

20:05 Agenda topic 1 – minimum requirements.


Someone explained what the minimum requirements are we had to adhere to.


To be sure everyone understood, I rephrased: “Did I understood it correctly that…”

Continuing with “So if we draw this on the flip, the minimum structure option looks like…”

And after discussing a bit, all agreed that we needed 4 persons in the “Board of Directors” of which 3 had to be from that specific city.

With one very important note: this is only for the paperwork. These 4 persons will receive heavy support from all of us – see next agenda topic.

People from the city and interested in one of the Board of Directors role raised their hand.

Next one additional person was needed that could live outside the city.

And in a blink of an eye there was agreement on how the minimal requirements would be filled in.


I summarized: we all agreed that this is the minimal structure, and that these persons will be put on the papers. In that way we are legally compliant and all the rest of the organisation is fully free to choose.

20:20 A first iteration of Open-Explore-Close finished. Went smoothly…

Up to agenda topic 2. I expect this will be a bit tougher.


I reminded everyone at this point that everything is open for discussion. No doors that should stay closed. We want an organisation to involve all our stakeholders to the max.


Given it is not straightforward to come up out of the blue with a list of everything that a swimming club should take care of during a season, we split up in groups of 4 and did a Brain Writing. Everything that jumping to mind was dropped on a sticky note; one item per sticky note; 10 minutes timebox. Clearly there were still ideas after 10 minutes, and the group decided to add another 5.

20:40 Next: all topics needed to be grouped. Team after team they explained their sticky notes in front of everyone and added them to a paper. In this way a first natural grouping took place while explaining.

Some people came closer to the board and started grouping; some stepped a bit back and others joined in. The teams themselves came up with a number of groups, some interlinked, some pretty stand-alone: competition organisation, training materials and clothing, communication, link with partners, fundraising, etc.

Hey, they did Affinity Mapping (http://gamestorming.com/affinity-map/)! In about 40 minutes. We are just 21:20…

Spontaneously, there was a man taking a blank sheet and throwing the idea on it to start up workgroups –  he drew a number of boxes while explaining their meaning. And made the link to the Affinity Map. Sticky notes moved to the boxes, new boxes were drawn, boxes were linked, …

When seeing how this progressed, some people started saying they wanted to take up responsibilities in certain boxes, names were added, ..

And this continued until all sticky notes of the Affinity Map were moved to the new organisation chart.

Did they now really started using a number of patterns from Sociocracy 3.0…??!! Nested Domains, Circles (well, boxes for us), Linking, Double Linking, Representatives… 


It was summarized by explaining what the team came up with: the different workgroups identified with the different responsibilities, and the people who volunteered for each of the workgroup.


22:10 The president thanked everybody for what they have achieved and we were done.

Someone came to me and said he was astonished. In just about 2 hours we had a great result, “where during other meetings it takes 4 hours for not finishing something not even half as difficult.” He would be home 1u30 earlier than he promised his wife!

The Chit-Chat started again.

23:45 I drove home. The man who said he would be earlier was still there… The club has its own beer brewn, Gold beer. I suspect the fundraising Circle was already at work…


When evaluating the next morning what happened, I concluded that regardless the experiments we used (of which the team isn’t even aware of), there are 2 key points making it a success:

1/ Have a common goal

2/ Have a motivated team that truly collaborates and respects each other


Will all tasks for an entire season be listed – for sure not.
Will all circles (workgroups) be identified – for sure not.
Is it good enough to launch us into the new swimming season – it sure is!

But first let’s cheer our swimmers on to their best results in the upcoming Belgian Championships and close the current season!

Successful meetings!

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