Culturallye is a brilliant game that begins very simply. On each table, the delegates warm up to the game by practising how to play with specifically developed dice and also get to grips with the rules of the game. After a while, they are no longer allowed to speak and the game starts. After a brief period, some of the participants change tables. But what they don't know is that each table has different rules on how to play the game. Unable to speak, they have to come to terms with the strange situation, i.e. either learn the new rules or 'import' their own. This 'culture shock' is a real eye-opener. The delegates tangibly experience what it feels like to be in a new environment and what is needed to find your way around.
The thing that I find particularly interesting about the game is how, rules aside, tables very quickly develop their own culture. For example, there is no rule about what happens if an individual runs out of chips, and different tables have different approaches to this problem. One table might decide that those who run out can no longer play, another may decide to continue and use IOU's, another may decide that those with no chips recieve 2 chips from each player and so on. These cultural 'norms' develop surprisingly quickly and are surprisingly permanent. As people come and go from the different tables, the vast majority of the time, the culture of the table remains. This reminds me of the famous experiments of G.R Stephenson, found in "Culutural acquisition of a specific learned response among rhesus monkeys" when 5 monkeys in a room containing a stepladder with a bunch of bananas at the top. Each time a monkey set off up the ladder to reach the bananas, all the monkeys were sprayed with ice-cold water. This soon resulted in any monkey setting off up the ladder being beaten up. After a while a monkey that knew the culture was replaced with a new monkey who promptly headed for the bananas and got beaten up. Eventually all the monkeys that had experienced being sprayed with ice-cold water were replaced and yet the phenomena remained. Any monkeys heading for the bananas were beaten up. If monkeys could speak and you asked one of them why they were beating each other up, the only thing they'd be able to say would be, 'I don't know, it's just the way we do things around here'.
Anyway, time to explain 5 situations in which you should get out the Culturallye.
1. Working with a new team when you want to create a team charter (ways of working).
Culturallye provides a really good introduction into the idea of team culture and of the use of rules to drive that. Following the game and a targeted review, the team can work together to establish how they want to communicate, meet, work etc. For example, the team might decide that e-mails should be responded to within 48 hours and voice messages within 4 hours for example. An agreed list can be signed up to and the team can be tasked with holding each other accountable.
2. When your organisation is reorganising or merging in departments or you are preparing people to go and work abroad or in a different subdivision or even to live in prison(!).
The game can trigger a really useful discussion about the differences between the departments and how the new order should be. Also how new team members can be welcomed and taken care of. A physical understanding of how things are done differently in different parts of an organisation and the best way to adapt to that and learn quickly can be really useful.
3. When you want to look at how disagreements might be handled.
When team membership changes, the game creates a situation where there are different people who believe the rules to be different. Reviewing how this was handled, and could best be handled can lead into a great decision about posii
4. When you want to talk to people about the importance of good company induction.
I've used the game with large groups of HR managers interested in developing induction or 'onboarding' programmes. It's a great starting point for discussions about how induction can be done better to make it easier for the new starters.
5. When you want to look at emotional responses to change or to starting work in a new organisation.
The game works as a brilliant introduction to how it feels to experience chaneg or to start work in a new organisation. The obvious next step on from a reveiw focused on how it felt to experience the change and how long it took to get used to it, is a look at the change curve and how people can be supported at different stages of it. I've also used it with new starters in an organisation to help them understand their emotinal repsonse to the situation and also to impress upon them the importance of them feeding back to the new organisation their 'fresh perspective' on the 'way things are done around here.'