Kathryn Britton, MAPP '06, former software engineer, is a coach working with professionals to increase well-being, energy, and meaning in their work lives (Theano Coaching LLC). She is also a writing coach, facilitator of writing workshops, and teacher of positive workplace concepts at the University of Maryland. Her own books include Smarts and Stamina on using positive psychology principles to build strong health habits and Character Strengths Matter: How to Live a Full Life. Full bio. Kathryn's articles are here.
Today is the day that one of our authors, Scott Crabtree, announces the release of his new card game, Choose Happiness@Work, aimed to stimulate group exploration about ways to become happier at work. If you decide after reading this article that this business building tool is right for your organization, Scott is offering a 20% discount to PPND readers who use the PPND20 code when they make the purchase.After working in technology including videogame creation, Scott ventured forth to carry the message that people can become happier at work and by doing so, they contribute more to organizational success. He has spoken to many audiences about actions that are within the power of anyone to become happier at work.
I know Scott is a very engaging speaker, going way beyond the abstractions of positive psychology to make ideas come alive with stories. But even with clear explanations and great stories, there’s only so much that people carry away from a talk. My guess is that Scott wanted audiences to get more actively involved in designing their own ways to be happy at work. Trust a gamer to come up with the Choose Happiness@Work card game as his answer.
I received a pre-publication version of the card game. To see it in action, I got together with my husband and 3 other friends to play. Collectively, we represented experience in a wide range of work environments from public schools to universities to multi-national companies to startups to government organizations. That’s to say, we had seen a lot of work situations in our collective history.
A Card Game About Work?
I got to be the first executive when we played. That meant I drew a card from the deck of over 50 Scenario cards. The scenario I drew was one I’d faced at least twice in my work career, so I was happy to read it out loud for the others to address. Just to give you an idea about what I mean by scenario cards, here are examples from the deck.
|Situation||Why it’s an issue
|I am working on a project with a colleague who has always been a solid worker. But lately, both the quality and quantity of her results are suffering.
||It’s an issue because I really need her to step it up in order for the project to finish successfully and on time.
|A group of colleagues is ostracizing me.||It’s an issue because social rejection and physical pain both trigger similar brain responses. It feels terrible!
|People rarely show appreciation for my work well done.||It’s an issue because the vast majority of us need recognition for the good work we are doing. Most of us report we don’t get enough of it at work.
|I consistently work alone.||It’s an issue because working in isolation often leads to less happiness and a less effective brain.
When it was my husband’s turn to be executive, he drew the “working alone” situation card. Since he prefers working alone, this didn’t seem worth discussing to him. Fortunately the rules of the game allowed him to draw again.
Now for the round of play. Each player had drawn 7 cards from the deck of over 100 solution cards. Solution cards describe actions that can contribute to greater well-being. Five examples are shown below. Solutions fall into 4 categories: Practice Positivity, Soothe Stress, Flow to Goals, and Prioritize People. There are also wild cards included because people often have their own ideas about what could make things better.
||Description||Contribution to happiness at work|
|Sure Thing (Practice Positivity)||In uncertain situations, get as much certainty as you can. If you don’t know the what, focus on what you do know, like where, when, or how.
||Because brains crave certainty. When the world behaves as the brain expects it to, we feel better. Surprises often cause stress.
|Courageous Conversation (Prioritize People)||Have a difficult conversation that needs to be had. Calm yourself and your fears, then be respectful, assertive, and flexible.||Because the quality of our relationship has a huge effect on the experience of our working lives.
(Flow to Goals)
|Make goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound, Educational, Significant, and Toward.||Because SMARTEST goals are even more motivating than SMART goals. Make goals Educational to identify what you can learn, Significant so you care about them, and Toward to align with the future you want.
|Take a Day Off (Soothe Stress)||Take a day truly off from work: no email, no meetings, no tasks. Do it before you start burning out!||Because all of us — especially those most engaged at work — need true down time to be more effective.
|Create your own solution!
||[A wild card]||Because this time, the solution comes from between your ears!
Taking turns, each player selected one card from the hand of 7 cards drawn from the Solutions deck. Generally we picked the card that seemed like the best fit to the situation, though sometimes it took some creativity to make the connection. To play a card, we’d read what was said on the card and then explain briefly why we thought it matched. From the 4 we played, the current executive selected the Solution card that seemed the best match (2 points) and the one that seemed funniest or most creative (1 point). Then each of the players drew another card to make sure they had 7 cards for the next round, and the executive role moved clockwise.We played 3 full rounds, which meant that we explored 15 different situations and heard 60 different discussions of ways to apply positive psychology ideas at work. The one with the most points at the end of 3 rounds won, though I honestly can’t remember who that was. Each player actively engaged with the game, making choices and telling stories. Even the cards we didn’t play stimulated thinking about other possible solutions.
What’s the Appeal?
First, it is not abstract. The situations are ones that most people who’ve been going to work can recognize. The solution cards sketch over 100 pathways to well-being that are easy to understand, and in some cases, may surprise some players (e.g., Take a 20 minute Power Nap at Work). The explanations that players in our game gave made the proposed solutions very real and specific, bringing out stories of the way the ideas could make a difference at work.
Playing together is a safe way to talk about some really tricky work challenges and explore together ways to deal with them effectively. How many people have never faced the challenge of feeling underappreciated? How would we open a discussion to get ideas for handling this workplace challenge without feeling like whiners?
The game brings an element of playfulness to the consideration of well-being at work. What could be tried? I think that’s why the rules say that the executive gets to award a point for funny and/or creative. Unless we could find cards that fit the solution exactly, it took a bit of stretching to make the case, and some of that stretching was really entertaining. One of the players wished that there were a few really whacky ideas in the Solution cards to bring out completely left-field thinking, but perhaps that will come in version 2.Another player said that she’d want to come up with tailored Situation cards to use this game in her organization. She could see having a preparation call of meeting organizers to capture the challenges faced in her particular environment. Turns out, DIY Scenarios is #4 of the 16 ways described in the instructions to extend the game. I also liked #16: Solitaire: Play by yourself. “Choose a real scenario you’re facing in your work life. Randomly deal ten Solution cards to yourself. Pick the one that is most likely to help with your problem, and act on it.”
How could you use the game? Perhaps as mid-morning change of pace in a large group strategy meeting. Perhaps as a fun way to close out a large-group get-together. Perhaps as an activity in management training. Perhaps as a monthly lunch-time event in a small department. Watch the video below to see how one group used it.
Scott has been asked, “When are you going to make a computer game out of this?” Who knows, that might be on the horizon.
One player summed it up: Playing the game broadened my thinking about possible pathways to well-being at work.
If you decide this is a match for your organization, don’t forget that you get a 20% discount with the code PPND20 when you order Choose Happiness@Work.
Editor’s Note: This is a sponsored link: Positive Psychology News will get an affiliate fee for any orders that are made with the discount code PPND20. I am proud to sponsor this link because Scott knows his stuff. If you are curious about the research behind his Solution cards, check out the web page that details the science behind each card.
Crabtree, S. (2016). Scientific Sources behind Choose Happiness@Work.
Crabtree, S. (2015). Go beyond SMART goals to SMARTEST goals. Positive Psychology News.
Images used with permission from Happy Brain Science.