I recently attended an atmospheric and unusual game-based event, run by the Applied Improvisation Network. In the dimly-lit environs of the Nursery Theatre, located in a brick arch beneath the railway line somewhere between London Bridge and Southwark, a group of about 14 or 15 people – none of whom I’d met before – sat in a circle and were initiated in the game of Werewolf.
The game is all about communication, influencing, team-work, leadership, and imagination. The rules are simple and yet it’s fiendishly difficult to play well. Why? Because it requires quick thinking, great observational and listening skills, and some raw cunning. These are all things frequent game players will immediately recognise as great assets, and they are just as valuable at work.
It’s hard to use these skills effectively on the spur of the moment, for two reasons. First, because we are taught to value ‘planned’ over ‘spontaneous’ activity at work; and second, because they are high on my list for the quintessential relationship management skill-set.
As the cliché goes, healthy relationships require good communication. But as George Bernard Shaw famously pointed out, the problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place. My IABC colleague Amanda Hamilton-Attwell wrote recently that the first of her 20 ‘keys to effective communication’ is to create understanding. Again, a deceptively simple proposition.
Playing Werewolf is a great way to hone the listening and influencing skills that make up a significant part of the business communications remit. It’s also a lot of fun. I survived to the last round on my first game, more by luck than judgement, and left with a strong feeling that there are surely games of Werewolf going on in corporate training sessions somewhere in the world right now…