12 low-tech tools to animate a collective intelligence session

  • December 20, 2018
  • Maxime
  • Articles

Last summer: we presented our second key-rule for a successful digital facilitation: Combining the power of digital tools with physical and low-tech instruments. As the year end approaches, we decided to go one step further: giving you directly a complete set of tools that you could use for your animation and that we particularly enjoy mixing up with the Stormz app.

We tested all of these tools during our Stormz workshops, and many of them are what we could call our signature moves: they represent, simply put, our secret ingredients for a successful facilitation. Instead of merely relying on a tablet, they allow you to diversify the experience of a Stormz workshop. We're very happy to present them today, grouped in 5 different categories. And feel free to send us other ones you might like, we'd love to test them as well!

1 - Inspiration cards

The Stormz Agency often uses inspiration cards to build on the momentum of fruitful conversations, either for Ice-Breaking activities or divergence phases. The main advantage is that cards are able to easily adapt to the size of your group, even with several hundreds of people, and doesn't significantly increase the costs. Inspiration cards are essential to bolster the evocative and suggestive power of your events. However, it's important to choose them carefully, by picking cards either directly linked to your main theme or open to many interpretations.

  • Dixit is a competitive and highly imaginative tool, based on an 84-card game to which we can add multiple extensions. Every card in only made up of a beautiful illustration, filled with numerous symbols and hidden meanings. The wide range of situations and the dreamlike atmosphere leave a lot of space open for imagination and multiple interpretations. That's why they're incredibly useful for activities based on creativity and forced connections.
  • Method Kit is a series of thematic cards games particularly well adapted to forced connection within creativity workshops on professional issues. You can find Kits on startups, human needs, gender equality or even Service Design for hotels.

What Stormz facilitators think about it: Although inspirational images and illustrations can be directly imported within your workshops, we prefer to hand them out in print so that participants can touch them, play with them, or even take pictures of them before uploading them on Stormz. We usually spread them on a table so that participants may choose the ones they like. Sometimes, we also distribute them little by little depending on the progress made by each group. In any case, the distribution method has to be agreed upon in advance to avoid losing too much time during the workshop.

2 - Speech management

Discussions are a key part of any collaborative activity, as it enables spontaneity and remains the most common way to get your ideas across. But when there are over 20 people, holding a structured debate can only be achieved by encouraging introverts to take the floor and restraining the chatterboxes. Using speech management tools, like the famous talking stick, allows you to give structure to your animation and facilitate how people take part to the discussion.

  • The Catch Box is a microphone shaped like a big soft cube that can be thrown - without any danger - all across the room to add a bit of fun in the discussion. There are two different models, both of which have quickly proved extremely reliable: the Lite is ideal for simple setups, and the Pro is perfect if there's a sound control room equipped with transmitters and receivers. But watch out if you have glasses, drinks or iPads on the tables!
  • The Datexx Cube is a timer designed to manage speaking time on the go, whether it's for 1, 3, 5 or 15 minutes. You only need to put this little plastic cube on the right side in order to launch the count-down. It's a perfect tool for brainstorming sessions or pitch contests, as it effectively adds a creative constraint while managing the speaking time of everyone in an entertaining way.

What Stormz facilitators think about it: For a collaboration to be successful, participants have to feel that they will be able to contribute and participate in good conditions, and this can only be achieved with reliable tools. It's also important that they don't perceive the timing as a technical constraint, and this can only be achieved with entertaining and dependable tools.

3 - Narrative framework

In order to find a solution, a new idea or groundbreaking approach, you need a great deal of imagination and often have to rely on purely narrative skills. Telling the story of the user is a striking way to describe the use itself. By improvising improbable stories, we improve our adaptation abilities. Tools allow you to structure the narrative process in a collaborative way and urge the participants to put themselves in the shoes of characters and adopt other own points of views and behaviors.

  • The Story Cubes are dice with one small drawing on each side. You throw the 9 dice all at once and have to invent a story with all the illustrations. This is a great way to train our improvisation skills, and also implements a narrative constraint to come up with a use story-line for instance.
  • The Virtual Consultants, developed by Iris, are a card game representing known celebrities and historical figures, ranging from Lady Gaga to Jules Cesar and Frida Kahlo. With a photo portrait, a biography or a quote, the Virtual Consultants cards allow you to immerse yourself in the mind of the character, whether to picture him as a persona or as a virtual consultant.

What Stormz facilitators think about it: To build and illustrate a pitch, those two entertaining tools rely on pictures and story-telling to bolster participants' creative skills and support an idea generation activity. We use them to facilitate problem solving, kick-start a discussion on a sensitive topic or create ideas for new products. The results and outcome of the participants' imaginative prowess can then be directly imported into a workshop.

4 - Conversation Starters

When designing the Socializer, Stormz' latest Networking activity, we tested several Conversation Starters/triggers and quickly came to the conclusion that the quality of both the entertaining setups and the writing was highly irregular. It other words, it was hard to find a Conversation Starter that would fit in any context. The Thumball and Hypothetically Fun are the two best solutions we found.

  • Le Thumball is a ball with one challenge on each side. When a participant receives the ball, he reads what's written on the area where his thumb is placed. We use one or several Thumballs to break the ice between participants of a same table or group. Its main strengths? It's easy to explain, physical and fun. No wonder this activity is always very popular!
  • Hypothetically Fun is a Conversation Starter-type card game that stands out due to the quality of the written text and well-crafted questions. Although it's in English, it always sparks interesting debates, with the perfect balance of pertinence... and impertinence. It's an informal and universal Conversation Starter, and might therefore not be that relevant in some more serious and professional contexts, where networking might gravitate much more around skills, ambitions or ongoing projects.

What Stormz facilitators think about it: Faced with the impossibility of customizing the experience as we saw fit, we realized how useful the Socializer could be: a tool able to produce cards adapted to the challenges of the participants interacting in an entertaining atmosphere. The goal is, of course, to kick-start discussions, but also to urge participants to have new encounters and widen their comfort zone.

5 - Prototyping tools

During a seminar or collective intelligence event, it's important to appeal to the participants' many senses in order not to restrict yourself to reading and listening. Giving our participants the chance to create and handle physical objects is the perfect opportunity to express themselves in an original way and bring discussions to a whole new level.

  • Paperboards allow participants to draw freely and collectively to create a poster. If they're sitting around small tables, the sheet can even become a tablecloth where we'll just put down the felt pens, the iPad, and that's it! We really like this setup which truly boosts the group's creativity.
  • The Product Box goes one step further and asks participants to create the packaging of their idea and sell it to the audience, not unlike a teleshopping program. They'll only have a white cardboard box, felt pens, stickers and magazines. In other words, everything they might need to let their imagination go wild to turn their idea into a tangible item.

What Stormz facilitators think about it: The main advantage of our Stormz workshops is that participants usually have an iPad per group and are therefore completely free to take pictures and document their solution. Once the prototype has been created, they only need to add it on a card before pursuing the collaborative process with an evaluation, a pitch or comments. This way, we're also able to display it on a widescreen or send it to remote groups and participants.

That's all for now! This page will undoubtedly grow over time. Don't hesitate to add it to your bookmarks and come back to it on a regular basis. Do you have a tool you'd like to submit? You can send it to us so we can test it. We'll send it back if you wish and if you add a return envelope.

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