Why We Play

We want players to understand concepts that increase their chance to be successful in agile transitions, and to learn methods that help their teams

22 February 2013
Agile with a Purpose, StrategicPlay, Training
games, kanbanpizzagame, play, scrum lego city game

As agile coaches, we regularly want to create a learning environment for people. We use concepts like Training from the Back of the Room to step aside and let them learn. We facilitate and regularly use games. Playing is an integral and very effective part of learning, as it opens people's minds and hearts and creates the emotional connections that makes experiences stick.

What makes learning agile challenging?

We want participants to understand concepts that in our experience increase their chance to be successful in agile transitions, and to learn practical methods that may help their teams as well. This learning is challenging for the following reasons:

  • Most concepts in agile and lean are simple to understand, yet hard to implement.
  • They contain many elements that may look impossible based on former experience. Or, framed by our past experience we might think they are already more or less implemented, because we read them that way.
  • Trying something new, something we find challenging or hardly possible, requires a safe to fail container so that we dare try something we don't (yet) expect to actually work.

How do Games Help?

Games like the Ball Point Game, Lego City, Kanban Pizza, and others create these safe to fail containers so that

  • Players can build experience with unfamiliar concepts, methods and practices, and learn how to use them right.
  • Discover many common pitfalls in the simulation, where "failure" is much cheaper and more fun than later in your real project.

We have experienced that the right games help people to discover, experience, and greatly accelerate learning.

Long Term Effects

This weekend, some of us are participating in Play4Agile, an unconference about agile games, where we intend to invent, design and play games and simulations to improve our training and coaching practice. 


Quite often people reflect their current situation at work based on their experience in the games they've played with us. Sometimes we reference the games ourselves in coaching and point out similarities to increase awareness. Learning with play tends to be deeper and stick much longer than learning without play.

These are our experiences. What are yours? Did you make good (or bad) experiences playing games to teach or to learn? Please share them with us!

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