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  • Writer's pictureKaylie Dugan

A Timed Game to Boost Group Energy

Boost Group Energy

Today I want to tell you about one of my all-time favorite brainstorming tools: Don’t Sell Me. It comes from the wonderful Doug Hall who kindly granted me permission to use it many years ago. I like to use Don’t Sell Me after lunch or any time energy is flagging and participants need a boost to their creativity.

SET UP: Be sure every dyad (a group of two people who are related to each other, for example, coworker/coworker, manager/employee, teacher/student, mother/child) has a fresh sheet of large paper and a pen. Have them select one of the pairs to be the scribe.

EXPLANATION: You might use a script something like this:

“The game is called Don’t Sell Me and we’re going to use [FILLIN THE CATEGORY] as the subject. Let’s say we are playing Don’t Sell Me for shampoo.

Don’t Sell Me clean hair, manageability, rich suds, low cost.

Sell Me smelling sexy, admiration, romance, a new partner, looking younger.

On your piece of paper, write in as many Sell Me answers for [CATEGORY] as you can come up with in two minutes. The winner is the dyad with the most answers. Ready, set, go.”

PROCESS: Keep track of the time and give warnings at one minute and ten seconds. Then have each dyad count the number of responses. I like to have everyone stand up at this point. Then ask everyone with 10 or fewer answers to sit down (start with a low number on purpose so everyone feels successful). Then keep increasing the number and have people sit down until the winner remains standing.

I like the reward for the winner to be a standing ovation from the other participants.

The process continues by creating an unduplicated list of responses. Start by getting one response from each dyad at the table. Remind people not to repeat an answer or even a kissing cousin of an earlier answer. Go around as many times as necessary to get a complete list. The list is usually quite juicy as the team uncovers the higher-level benefits end-users are really looking for in a product or service.

HOT DOT VOTING: If you choose to, you can do Hot Dot voting to determine the best answers. Give all participants a strip of colored dots (4-5 dots per strip). Tell people they are voting for the items on the list they think are the most important higher-level benefits. The color of the dot doesn’t mean anything. They can express the intensity of their opinion by putting multiple dots on a single item.

OTHER USES: You can modify the tool into a Don’t Give Me one. For employees, it could be Don’t Give Me a Raise. Or for clients Don’t Give Me Advice. For students, it could be Don’t Give Me a Grade. Or for mothers Don't Give Me an Excuse. The possibilities are endless.


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