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Innovation Games® Applied: Effective Retrospectives with Speed Boat

Innovation Games are a set of techniques created by Luke Hohmann. They are excellent tools to have in your facilitation toolbox. You can use them for many project activities and to create project artefacts too. This is the fourth in a series of posts about how I have used and adapted some of these techniques with projects and teams. Let’s take a look at how to boost your retrospectives with Speed Boat.

The original use of Speed Boat was to identify what your customers disliked about your product or service. It is now a popular tool for running retrospectives. This is another game which you can play online using Weave or in-person. The online version lends itself well to distributed teams.

The Speed Boat is a visual metaphor for the team or the project – whichever you are focussing on. I’ve also used hot air balloons, and I’ve seen airplanes used. I usually get this printed out on a sheet of A2, but you can draw one on a white board or flip chart if that is easier. There are 2 other metaphors: Anchors and Propellers. Anchors are impediments or things which are not going well. We’ll get to propellers in a moment…

The team spends a few minutes on their own coming up with anchors which are holding the boat back. I get the team to imagine that the bigger problems are heavier anchors. They place these with the boat and a discussion about each ensues. This can lead to a re-estimation of how much effect the anchor is having. I tend to place the heavier anchors lower down on the poster to back up the visual metaphor. A spot of 20/20 Vision here can help with prioritising too!

A tweak I have used is to get the team as individuals to come up with actions to counter the anchors. These are propellers. Get them to estimate how much faster the propeller would make the boat go¹. As there are usually many anchors, it is best to focus on the ones which are having greatest slowing effect for this part of the exercise. This should give you most bang for your buck. The team place their propellers on the boat and have a discussion about the relative merits and effect of each. Now you can generate a list of action points (propellers) with expected outcomes (removal of anchors). It’s a powerful and effective way to run a retrospective and come up with some action points for the team.

¹ This is different to the traditional Speed Boat with Propellers and Anchors. In that version the propellers are positives or the things which went/are going well.

There are more Innovation Games out there – which do you use? How do you use them? What hacks have you made to the original games, and how did that work for you?

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