‘Pick a card – any one’, said the facilitator of the workshop I was in the other day. They were all face down on the table so you couldn’t see what they said on them. I picked mine and turned it over. It said ‘Take your time. Slow down and take your time. There’s no rush now to make decisions. You can’t feel your vibes, let alone trust them, if you’re overbooked, juggling too many things at one time, constantly playing catch up, or racing around like crazy. … Assume a more leisurely rhythm, and trust and actually stretch time.’
Good advice for me, I thought, but more difficult to act on and keep on practicing. Others were equally pleased with their cards, from the Trust Your Vibes card deck which we were using as a closing exercise for the workshop. Each of us went away with a bit of ‘guidance’ from our ‘innate sixth senses’.
Facilitators often work with card decks and when I got home, I took time to take a look at the ones I have. I was surprised to find that I have 11 different packs – some of which I use a lot, some less frequently and a couple waiting for the right moment to be used even once. Here’s what I’ve got.
Qualities of Practice Cards® from Engendering Balance. I can’t remember how/when I got these, but I think I participated in one of the leadership programmes that they link to, and I’ve used them occasionally. Each of the 50 or so cards has a word or phrase on it e.g. enabling, conscious of consequences, expressive. Sue, Rosie and Mary – the card developers – say ‘A process called ‘mapping’ is used to identify a set of core qualities that define how you or your team live your leadership in general and in different situations. … they can provide a powerful window into the way that you work, where learning is through live issues, situations and challenges.
Go ask anyone is a pack of cards each with a question on, e.g. ‘If you could relive one moment of your life, what would it be?’, ‘What song makes you want to dance everytime you hear it?’ I used these again the other day as an icebreaker. They work really well for that and people enjoy the activity of walking round the room introducing themselves and asking the question on their card. I’ve found they work in any culture.
A similar pack is Sussed which my daughter told me about a few years ago. Again, I use the cards as an icebreaker – and they work well for this. They’re billed as promoting ‘the health benefits of face-to-face conversation’, to support positive mental well-being’. I have the showcase pack. Each card has 5 multiple-choice questions on it e.g. ‘Which frustrates me most about myself a) I say things I don’t mean b) I jump to conclusions c) I think the worst of people’. ‘I’d get the most use out of … a) a professional camera b) a state of the art DIY kit c) a top of the range coffee machine.
Absolutely years ago, I got a pack of Barrie Hopson and Mike Scally’s Transferable Skills cards and I still have the original pack, but don’t have the accompanying workbook and I don’t know if I ever did, but I see it dates from 1986. Anyway, the same cards have transmogrified and are now Value My Skills cards, available from Union Learn. I use them in career and development conversations. They’re very worthwhile.
Playing cards – I have a deck of normal playing cards and use them in two activities to illustrate power and influence in organisations. I first learned them from Jo Ellen Gryzyb of The Impact Factory when I went on one of her influencing skills courses. They generate much discussion, and I still carry in my purse the laminated 10 of spades that I got on the course. At times, I surreptitiously get out and look at in situations where I’m feeling low or disadvantaged. (It reminds me that I too can influence and have some powers I can choose to use in a situation).
Oblique strategies: This is a pack that I haven’t used yet. Although I bought them about a year ago, I haven’t found a situation/workshop for them. They’re ‘a set of over 100 cards, each of which is a suggestion of a course of action or thinking to assist in creative situations.’ For example ‘only one element of each kind’, ‘Do we need holes?’ They’re to break a deadlock or solve a dilemma or lead towards a solution and act as a creative direction. There’s a good 4 minute video intro to their use here.
Trends cards – This is a downloadable pack of postcard sized cards. Each considers area-specific trends, for example transport, environment, agriculture as well as wider changes in society. I use them when we’re doing an assessment of the environment – they’re a form of PESTLE activity to discuss and examine the way the world and society is changing. ‘They encourage thinking about how issues are interconnected and how changes in one area will impact on others.’
Creative whack pack – this I got when I lived in the US and have used many times in organisation design and culture workshops. They are on the lines of 6 thinking hats. The 64 cards are designed to ‘whack you out of habitual thought patterns and allow you to look at what you’re doing in a fresh way. Each card, ‘features a different strategy. Some highlight places to find new information. Others provide techniques to generate new ideas. Some lend decision-making advice. And many give you the “kick” you need to get your ideas into action’.
Kindness cards – these I got at the start of 2018 when my new year’s resolution was to be kinder. They’re 60 cards in a box from the School of Life. They’re ‘designed to bring out our better natures. They present us with a series of thoughts that nurture our sympathy, our powers of compassion, and our appetite for forgiveness. They return us to who we always want to be and deep down already are: kind people.‘ Each day I take one card from the front of the pack and reflect on what it says at moments during the day. I put it to the back of the pack as I take the next day’s front card. Today’s reads ‘The kind person is a warm and gentle teaser … they latch onto our distinctive quirks and … try to change us for the better, not by delivering a stern lesson, but by helping us to notice our excesses and laugh at them.’ I haven’t used them in workshops but I think I could try them out in a resilience one that I’m running shortly.
Post cards – I buy masses of postcards of all types/artists from art galleries and have a big collection that I use as an icebreaker. In a workshop of 15 people I may put out 50 – 100 postcards and ask people to pick one that appeals to them and then introduce themselves by showing which postcard they’ve picked and why. (They can keep the postcard they pick). I always remember a youngish man who joined a workshop dressed in an intimidating Goth outfit with the haircut, nose/other body piercings, and scowl to match. I was a little nervous about how he would take the activity. He picked a picture of an ancient, wrinkled woman and told the most lovely and tender story about his grandmother who’d died and whom he desperately missed. It was a great lesson for me in not stereotyping on looks. (See Experiential Tools for other ideas for postcard activities).
Process mapping cards from Orgvue – I don’t know if these are commercially available, but I use them in every organisation design workshop I run, in conjunction with a case study I have. The activity immediately illustrates the method and value of process mapping as participants have to put seven processes in an agreed activity order and then work to cluster activity appropriately, bearing in mind the requirements of the case. As Rupert Morrison, Concentra says: ‘This approach to process mapping leads to activity based costing, proper role definitions and job specs, the construction of proper roles… and visualising all of it through an experiential exercise’.
Do you use packs of cards in your organisation design work? Which are your ‘go-to’ ones? Let me know.