Happiness Door – How we doin?

Often when we meet people, we ask the common question of How are you; and while many don’t care about the answer, sometimes the answer defines the following conversation. Like if someone says that I’m doing not good, terrible headache. You might then ask, was last night drinks night?

Same way we often want to know the other person mood before we start a conversation. How many of us have been the victim of a bad mood; where we have gone to a person thinking of negotiation and based on the other person mood, we’ve returned thinking; now’s not the right time.

The Happiness Door is another practice I use at times to sense the mood of the room either during start or beginning of an activity/event or both at start and end.

I’ve used this many time, and I get surprised every time hearing people, but makes it so useful for me because I know where I am starting from, or how my event/activity went and where I’m ending at.

I start this activity with giving each person a Post-it (could be a normal 3*3 post-it, or a shape post it, or a cloud post-it (like you see in the image) ) and a Pen ( again could be colors/sketch pen/normal ball pen). I then tell them to either draw a face / figure / cartoon which tells their current mood.

Sometimes I define the three states (putting post-in of a happy smiley, a average smiley and a sad smiley), or in some cases I don’t define any state and leave the door empty(mostly I do this).

People are confused at first generally, if they are doing this for the first time, so with groups who are doing this the first time, I usually start with myself.

Using the smiley face drawn I describe how I’m feeling. For example, a person might say “I have a curious smiley because I am curious what Sumit is going to do in this event”. If it’s a new team I ask them to tell their names as well, and then tell about mood. Some people like to choose just some words like I’m curious or I’m happy, whereas some people like to tell stories like they were feeling hungry and the event is stopping them to have an early lunch.

The insights coming from doing this is valuable. If you see the image, this is from a big leadership meeting I had. I was introducing 4 major changes in the way we function, and I knew that people will be looking to oppose/challenge me. This activity in the start gave me a good idea, who was excited, who was not, who was willing to commit, who had confusions, who needed the push. At times getting this in the starting is so good as a facilitator as it tells you the mood, and often it makes us feel that the change we are about to bring is easy or tough for audience to accept; or does it need a little more explanation for some area.

While doing a culture-based event, from Happiness Door I came to know how people were really interested in the session because they saw the Lego boxes on their seats. In one of the Retro, I came to know how people Hated the session because last 2 Retro action items were not honored. You also come to know when people were forced to come to a session using the happiness door.

Now let’s switch gears on using this practice towards the end of the event/activity. At the end of the activity/event, it is more useful. It tells me how the people brought the idea. It tells me how people perceived the ideas that were shared. Often more than the smiley their body language tells me that they got excited or bored. As a facilitator it’s the perfect way to get instant feedback, it’s literally live feedback from audience.

I’ve seen people say that the culture Lego piece they build made them emotional, I’ve heard people say that they got very involved in the activity. Often people tell that they came thinking a very different thing, and they are leaving with something else. I’ve got people speak their mind like what they thought was their aha moment.

Again, just re-iterating the fact that feedback for any session/change is critical, and the Happiness Door not only gives the feedback, it gives the emotion, the mood, the change the event brought, the emotions people came with and much more, making it super effective and very useful.

I recommend any Change Agent to effectively use this and they will surely see amazing results!

If you want If you want to learn more about Happiness Door, you can look at the management 3.0 page here on the same.

Update: So, one of my friends reminded me of another implementation of happiness door I had done some time back. A Lego Human consists of 4 pieces (head, legs, body, head gear (could be just hair or a cap or helmet). I kept these at different places in the room. So, like 1 bunch of all legs at one place, and so on. I told people coming to the meeting to pick 1 piece from each pile and make a human. People were surprised/amazed, but Lego is interesting for all ages (trust me on this one). Now once they assembled their human, I told them to move the hands of the human or legs and tell what’s their mood while starting the session. I got people to make the Lego sit down and say we are relaxed and looking forward, someone made the person curious (again Lego can’t do that action, you need to speak). But with Lego in their hands I could see the excitement, and the legs and hands were used a lot. We did the same during checkout which was so awesome. The little experiment worked nice and I could see people interpret so much just by using the hands and legs of Lego. I remember one checkout Lego was walking person, where the person said, “We got a lot of inputs, time to walk and act”. Super interesting.

The Power of Improv and Story Telling

While we do a lot of things in our lives daily, the interesting fact is that our life is nothing but a combination of various stories. Some might be good, some might be bad. Some we realize later, some sooner and while all the stories revolve around us, we tend to keep moving on. On a reflection these stories are important to connect the dots. If you heard the famous speech by Steve Jobs, it tells how connect the dots backwards it all makes sense, and how important that it.

Story telling started in my life early in various forms, but with improv from m3.0 it was another flavor. I’ve tried the m3.0 improv cards with teams for retrospective, and then with leaders for their views, and lately with kids to take their feedback.

Let me start with the most common way I’ve done this which is in the sprint retrospective. Like any other retrospective, the main purpose is to collect what went well and what could be improved. Only that this time I lay down a pack of cards. In one variation I hide the images, so that it can be a random image which the person gets whereas sometimes I just lay down all the cards (like you see in image) and seeing the image the person tells 1 thing which he/she thinks went well or can be improved.

One Interesting aspect is where I feel that each image has a different perception amongst everyone, and so I never let them help each other. I just tell them to use their own imagination and think what it is. Because the image is not that important, as the story linked to the image. While some people have a story in mind and just link the image to the story, others create the story with the image (which is the interesting one).

Often when you do storytelling, you remove the persona’s out of the picture, and you just narrate the whole incident as a story, which makes it valuable, non-offensive and very open like a fact. The facilitator often notes the output of the story, and then we discuss on the story if needed.

The images are cool, so you see people smiling and thinking at times. Other times, they complain that they don’t understand the image, but again I tell them to use their creative minds.

While we go along the room, we suddenly see people being more energetic and active. The improv cards have that effect on people who start realizing that they can tell a story with the good/bad without it looking like a blame or a cry which is brilliant. It’s like a superpower at times which is funny but true.

So, we go across the room and the facilitator takes public notes, hence discussing actions.

Another way I did once was the team to lead the activity, and they themselves making the notes, hence self-organizing on what was important.

Another variation I tried was “A day in the sprint” way, where I tell people to tell a story of a day in the sprint where 1 thing good or 1 thing bad or a combination happened. It could 1 good from one day and 1 bad from one day, but it should be 1 story.

I tell them at times to pick multiple cards too, if it helps them. Again, the power lies in the story.

With the leadership team, when I use the cards, it’s mainly for their views/feedback/observation, like let’s discuss about this team, and while people like to keep silent, the improv gives them voice and suddenly we see stories.

A small number of people have problem seeing the cards and telling stories, but I give them time. I feel a kid inside a person always lives who knows how to stich a story which is so important.

Leaders often are vocal, but the story again makes it more factual, and it’s to draw points from stories in my experience.

Another variation I did recently was with bunch of kids. Here is how I went about with them:

I distributed six improv cards to each kid. All of them were wondering what the heck was this? They were thoroughly amused looking at the strange images. The idea was for them to use the images and tell things about their life looking at what has happened.

I emphasized on the fact that sometimes in life, we need to seriously reflect on what all we are doing, what is done and where are we headed. The emotions and facts that surface during self-reflection is a powerful thing. I’ve sat with people talking about this and seen them sometimes ending in tears, but always emerging with a clearer sense of where they may want to go from there. So, we started the activity with instruction to use a minimum of three out of six cards and narrate a story from their lives. In parallel we created a word cloud from what came as stories (you can see in the images).

With something as simple as this, the topics which emerged like gender, society, aspirations, dreams, parents were quite powerful, and I felt the session went way beyond what I had initially thought of. While some reflections were tough for me as a person to digest, others were good to hear. We don’t realize in life that when we keep the problem or state the problem, we are in a way seeing the problem in absolute starkness. We see it from a different perspective, and again this is necessary. The word cloud was simply illuminating compared to some of the other sessions I’ve done before.

Lastly, I’ve also done improv using Story Cubes. You can read about them here.

Again, for me all the 3 set of people (Scrum Teams/Leaders/Kids) had unique experiences with Improv, but I can always see the kid stitching the story and I feel very good when I listen to through insightful stories. I think this art of storytelling makes this practice of m3.0 very powerful.

If you want to learn more about improv cards, you can look at the management 3.0 page here on the same.