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How to use dice to facilitate good discussions and find collaborative solutions.

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Dice with bryce
Picture of Poker Dice alongside BIG PICTURE dice

Once upon a time I used to play Poker Dice. The yellowed set here is the one I used. We played it in university residence over a few beers back in another, more carefree, world. Today I have two new sets of BIG PICTURE dice to try out. My eldest granddaughter brought them to me from the UK in her recent visit home.

So - how can we use a set of dice? People with long memories may remember the book The Dice Man? Wikipedia reminds me it " is a 1971 novel by career English professor George Cockroft writing under the pen name, "Luke Rhinehart" which tells the story of a psychiatrist who makes daily decisions based on the casting of a dice. Cockcroft describes the origin of the title idea variously in interviews, once recalling a college "quirk" he and friends used to decide "what they were going to do that night" based on a die-roll, or sometimes to decide between mildly mischievous pranks."

The book - and a subsequent film - achieved cult status. Today the opening scene - as well as subsequent ones - would certainly see it doomed to approbation, obscurity and the cutting room floor.

I also remember exercises - both undergraduate and postgraduate - where we used random number generation to iterate through models - generally financial ones - to generate statistical distributions. A step up from throwing dice perhaps but still mirroring the uncertainties of the real world. These gave us some sense of the probabilistic range of profit outcomes in an uncertain setting.

So, how would we use the new generation of dice today? The BIG PICTURE dice feature eight core symbols:









Choose a current challenge you and your team face. Set it out succinctly and reach agreement on it. With everyone in the room get a representative of each team (function, branch, region, etc) to throw the dice. If they come up with a dice featuring a role they ordinarily play get them to throw it again. Then work through the challenge with each team member filling an unfamiliar hat. make sure all eight hats have heads under them. Work through the challenge - ideally facilitated by a skilled facilitator.

This form of forced thinking outside the box achieves at least two things - it forces people to think as if they are in someone else's shoes (ancient native America saying "before you criticise a (wo)man walk in his/her moccasins for one week". Secondly it frees people up to apply thinking from a different domain.

In exercises like this that I have done with people from different divisions of a business a range of practical ideas that can be implemented immediately to save time and money have been identified. For example:

Instead of shutting conveyor belts down and going through lock-outs and sending people under them to clear trash out use high pressure hoses to clean under the belts while they are still running;

Instead of waiting for boilers to cool down before going in to check on the status of the lining use cold water hoses to cool them down rapidly and make access much quicker;

Instead of removing the housing of large filters to access them inside the housing so you can clean them rather wrap filter fabric around the entire housing several times. Then only clean the internal filters at shutdown. In between just replace the external filter fabric when it gets clogged up. Cheaper and much quicker.

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