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    Failure Memory Game

    February 20th, 2017

    The Failure Memory Game is is a game for learning from failures and experiencing how a team or an organisation can benefit from an open failure culture.
    Participants reflect on their own way, or the team’s culture to handle failures, and directly experience the consequences in a safe space for experimenting and learning.

    Who plays, and when?

    This game is usually played by a group of people, preferably a team.
    It can be used in training or coaching context (retrospectives!) for generating insights and improvements to openly handle failures in a respectful and clever way.


    Print and cut out the attached failure memory cards twice: once on red, once on blue paper. Put the blue cards on one side, the red cards on the other side of the table, nicely shuffled.
    Alternatively you might use a standard Memory Game / Pairs Game. Adjust the rules accordingly.
    Print out the failure memory results sheet for writing down your results.

    General idea, how to play

    This game picks up the concept of a Memory Card Game, aka. Pairs Game: turn cards and find the pairs.

    And we play several modes in several rounds in these steps:

    • Turn 1 blue card.
    • Until the pair is found: turn a red card and behave according to the playing mode
    • Play until you find 3 pairs and sum up the number of red cards needed.
    • Before the next mode: shuffle the red cards.

    Different “Failure culture modes”

    We play the Game in different modes according to the dysfunctions you see in a team:

    • hiding: hide which card you turn (the others close their eyes) and hide picture
    • hiding + frustration: as in mode “hiding”, but tell about the picture (frustration occurs when participants hear that the do the same failure all over again)
    • not telling: show which card you turn, but not the picture
    • sharing: show the card you turn and the picture, turn around again
    • documentation: document the results of the cards on a sheet of paper
    • collaboration: discuss which card to turn next
    • transparency: leave the cards turned open

    Recommendation is to focus on 3 playing (and working) modes to make the learning more focused.  No need to stick to the given order.

    Round 1

    Round 2

    Round 3


    Mode 1
    Mode 2
    Mode 3
    Mode 4
    Mode 5


    After each step discuss these (or similar) questions for debriefing:

    • What just happened?
    • How was it, how did it feel?
    • What did we learn?
    • How could we transfer this to our working environment?
    • . . .

    Download, Play and Learn!

    Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

    I’ve released this game under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License: you are free to use it at a workshop in your company or in a course you are teaching, even if you are charging money for it.

    I’d love to hear from you any feedback about how you use the game or ideas how to extend or alter the game. Feel free to contact me.

    Thank you!

    Many thanks to
    Fabio, Kitty, Davide, Chris, Ferran, Petra, Marjoke, and Chris again
    for your feedback and help to improve this game
    and all the fun we had playing it at Play4Agile2017!

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