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Game shows at work

As a product manager, I spend a lot of my time coordinating efforts between different teams. Often, this requires me to help people appreciate what people are doing in other parts of the company. This includes giving them a sense of the challenges that others are facing and to share ways that we can all help each other to achieve our goals.

One of the biggest hurdles is that people in different roles use different vocabularies. For example, when engineers start talking about potential obstacles they may encounter when implementing a feature request from the sales team, a lot of what they’re saying may as well be a foreign language. Similarly, when talking about quotas or other key metrics that the sales team is tracking, there isn’t a good point of comparison.

To help bridge this gap, I’ve started using popular TV game shows as a model to make learning about key terms and metrics a fun, slightly competitive, and hopefully good bonding experience. Here are two examples that have worked pretty well for me.

1. Jeopardy

Goal: Expose the company to vocabulary and facts that they all should know.

Putting terms into a game format makes it easy for people to learn phrases that they may be too bashful to ask about since they seem relatively basic. Using a game allows me to remind people of basic information without being condescending. For example, if there’s an acronym that people use all of the time, ideally people will know what the acronym stands for. But once it’s used frequently in conversation, it’s undestandable how it quickly becomes awkward for someone to ask for clarification about what it means.

I was surprised by how often people exclaimed things like:

Each time I heard one of these statements, I knew that the game was helping our team to work more effectively together. I imagine that this will help to reduce miscommunication.

I also used these questions as an opportunity to share interesting factoids about our team members (e.g. nicknames or favorite bands). Especially for people who don’t get a chance to work together very often, this has been good fodder for people to talk about over lunch.

Game Play: Typically, Jeopardy is game played by individuals, but I wanted everyone to be able to participate. To make it a team game, I split the company into teams based on where they sit (i.e. upstairs and downstairs). I randomly picked two people to start the game. When players provided the right question for the answer (apologies if the Jeopardy nomenclature is confusing), they would tag in another person from their team. In the future, I do want to be cognizant of people feeling uncomfortable if they get stuck with the buzzer for too long. For this first iteration, I had people buzz in by slapping the table in front of them. This worked pretty well, but there were a couple instances where I would have liked to have a more automated buzzer system so that I could have avoided having to make close calls.

Questions: I came up with 60 questions - half about things related to people in technical roles and half about things related to people in business roles. The technical questions ranged from knowing what API stands for, to the names of third party services and frameworks we rely on, to the names of internal services in our architecture. The business questions ranged from knowing what ACV stands for, to knowing what each step or our sales process entails, to knowing our company values. Then, I split questions up in to categories and sorted them by difficulty, so we could have Jeopardy and Double Jeopardy.

2. The Price is Right

Goal: Expose the team to metrics that are important to the business. Some of these were focused on operational objectives and others were more to raise awareness of how much we spend on third party services. My hope is that this would help everyone have a better perspective when deciding what may be worth outsourcing. To keep things light-hearted, I also sprinkled in things like co-worker caffeine consumption and number of countries that team members have lived in.

Like with Jeopardy, this was a good way to be sure that people are aware of key metrics that each team is tracking. One added benefit with The Price is Right is that I could see the range of answers that people were submitting, giving me insight into areas I need to do a better job explaining in the future.

Game Play: The Price is Right is a game where people try to guess the value of the product without going over. In our case, I gave a clue and asked people to submit their guesses to the chat bot I made that they could interact with on Slack. To simulate the flow from The Price is Right, I divided the game into two sections:

1) Open game

During this portion of the game, I asked questions that involved larger numbers so there would be lots of variation in people’s answers. The chat bot I wrote made it easy to point out the extremes of the answers that people offered, while not singling people out.

I scored each round by offering 10 points to the person with the closest guess without going over, 5 points to the person who was 2nd closest without going over, and 1 point to everyone else who did not go over. And then I imposed a 1 point penalty for people who went over and a 5 point penalty for the person with the highest guess that went over the actual number.

The people with the best scores from each team then moved on to the showcase showdown. I was surprised by how often people were checking the leaderboard that I incorporated into the chat bot. I thought that we might just check it at the end of the game, but many people seemed to enjoy seeing how they were stacking up. Since the bot only identified people by nicknames that they chose, people who wanted to fly under the radar were able to do that and people who wanted to just be themselves were also able to do that. Based on my experience, about half of players used a name that was clearly traceable to them and half used innocuous names that were harder to trace back to them.

2) Showcase showdown

Since this was a team event, I wanted to rally everyone together. I took the top player from each team and had them advance to the showcase showdown. I first explained the rules of what was going to happen and then offered the player with the highest score the choice of whether to go first or to let the other team go first.

At the beginning, the teams alternated answering questions. First, each team was presented with bundles of items and asked to identify which one when added together was a multiple of 10. Next, they were asked to identify which of three items’ values did not include a particular digit. For example, which of three clues does not contain a 1 in it.

At this point, I explained that there were two remaining sets of questions. The first would require a team to fill in the blank with a set of digits. For example, they’d be shown:

Place the [1,3,7]
Number of commits in a particular repository: 5_14
Number of phone calls connects in the last week: _63
Number of leads collected at the last meetup: 1_2

The team in the lead was given the option to answer this set of questions or defer and wait to find out what the next set of questions would entail.

And for the last set of questions, I asked the team to determine which of two clues was larger. At first, they thought this would be easier, but in the end found it to be pretty hard.

Questions: I came up with 60 numbers - roughly a third about data quality and engineering, a third about sales, marketing, and customer success, and a third about people or things around the office. For example, I asked how many square feet our office is and how many calls one of our sales reps had made in his first year with the company. I used about half of the numbers I wanted people to know about in the open game and then used the remaining half in the showcase showdown.

I was careful to be sure that teams were aware that I’d be sharing their metrics. I didn’t want anyone to be caught off guard or to feel embarrassed. I’m glad I asked for sign off because there were a couple numbers that I thought would probably be fine, but turned out to be a little sensitive. My goal was to raise awareness, not to shine a spotlight on areas that I or anyone else feels need improvement.


Overall, I think these games have been a huge success. If your company culture is open to these kinds of games, I’d highly recommend it. I’m trying to figure out which game I’d like to try next. Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

Shameless plug: I’d appreciate it if you could give my chat bot a star on Github.

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