The past six months I’ve been delivering training in Agile Methods and Frameworks.  During this training I’ve discovered the power of games to simulate real life like the Lego4Scrum game and the BallPoint game.  Games are also useful in energizing a group and there are a few good websites that list games you can use to energize groups.

Playing these games gave me an idea to energize our annual Christmas family gathering which admittedly can seem more like a chore than what it really should be about.  It’s a simple game which I’m sure can be fine tuned a little bit more – but not too much more I think. It’s called the Christmas Lucky Dip and it goes like this.

1. Assemble a bunch of cheap presents that you find in your $2 store or anywhere you can find interesting and debate generating items.  Actually what you buy is really up to your budget but the main point is to generate the fun aspect.  I assembled over 40 items.  It did take a day of scouring the stores for the right items so you may want to gather items up over the year.  Examples of items are MatchBox cars for the kids (between and $1 and $2.50), cheap jewelry for teenagers ($2 – $5), jars of coffee for grownups, a pedometer I found at kMart ($3), CDs from the bargain bin (up to $5), fun pens, candles etc.  I also threw in some stuff I didn’t want like a band tshirt from a band I didn’t like and other bits and bobs.

2. No need to wrap the items, but you should put them in a box or two with a large enough opening to pull something out but small enough so as not to see the contents of the box.  I used empty beer cartons.

3. On the day make a surprise announcement after Christmas lunch or maybe before to pick things up a bit.  Say you are going to play a game.  The rules of the game are like this.

a. Each person is to pull an item out from the box.

b. Once someone has an item they now have the opportunity to negotiate with anyone else for a swap.  This gives everyone a chance to swap that undesirable present with something more desirable.

c.  Negotiations can take place anytime for any item.  Keep going around the group until there are no more gifts left to pull.  There are no other rules (at this stage)

It doesn’t take long for everyone to understand what’s going on and before long an exchange of gifts are negotiated.  It’s interesting to see how people self organize during the game.

For instance – some gifts are more valuable than others and we observed some self policing in the group for appropriate swaps (including multiple items for one item).  Some will try and game the system by sticking their hand in the box for a good feel around.  Again the group self policed on this one and those people were caught out pretty early.  It’s a cacophony of activity and your role is just to ensure that the game operates smoothly – mainly ensuring the pace is maintained.  There is not much policing for bad behaviour but you should step in when necessary.

It was great fun and I’m still getting compliments for how good and fun it was and perhaps it will become a tradition.  My sister-in-law was so chuffed that she’s going to try it herself for other parties and it would be interesting to see how it goes for her.

Be interested in your comments – maybe you’ve got some ideas for improvements.

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