Welcome Back, Workshop

Hello ClassWorkshops, when done well, have the potential to bring about the sort of giddy feelings in presenter and attendee alike that one feels after a successful first date. Nothing, it seems, can pluck us from cloud nine. But when they miss the mark, they send us crashing down to terra squirma faster than a singer stumbling on, say, a national anthem. (By the way, further proof that Canadians are nice.)

For us Baxters, we relish the chance to test our design and development principles in a truly participatory, emergent fashion. Understanding that not everyone is keen on corporate theater and ego trips, we attempt to strike that pitch-perfect harmony between doing, showing, and listening. Which is why we owe bucket loads of huzzahs to all who organized and attended our applied gaming mini-workshop in New York City, including hosts Engine Yard and Amazon AWS.

A couple years ago, before the 2010 Game Developers Conference, we made up a game with the aim of helping people make more meaningful connections. We worked from the mantra that doing well in business is about who you know as much as it is what you know, and named the thing Shmoozl.

Having reflected on that experience, and believing that hosting a great workshop is about how we learn as much as it is about what we learn, we set out to share our applied gaming insight by playing and improving it with our workshop attendees. We patterned our two-hour long event after competitive free-divers, going deep on substance and surfacing for context (and snacks) to reinforce the connections we would make between experience and example.

The gist of the game was to list a “Me Word,” a single word that each attendee felt best described their profession or personality, on the back of their lanyard and draw a visual representation of that word on the front. (Pictionary rules applied.) A series of brief interactions among attendees encouraged them to ask insightful questions of each other and avoid spilling the beans outright to their guesser. (Password rules applied.)

Those who correctly guessed the most “Me Words” were top dogs and had their scorecard entered into a drawing for Engine Yard and Natron Baxter products. Attendees had permission to not participate, which several said they appreciated, and all were encouraged to give it their best shot. Everyone neglected the bar, even at our urging.

Overall, the results were positive and promising. There are kinks we need to work out before we play again, as beasts of this nature tend to have, but nothing so severe to warrant tossing this game to the back of the cabinet. What has been your favorite workshop experience or moment? And if you were with us March 1, what was a “miss” in your book? We would love to hear from you.

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