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Context and Purpose of the FlowgameThe Flowgame was developed by eight friends and colleagues in Denmark. The process of creating the Flowgame started when the group came together in 1997-98 to explore the question, ”What would a good process, for people who wish to develop both their personal and professional leadership and entrepreneurship, look like?”
The group met for a period of several months discussing and dialoguing around this question. They were clear that the process they were looking for would be different from the entrepreneurial trainings they had seen before and they also knew that awakening the “inner entrepreneur” was as important as gaining the skills. They discovered that what was needed was not just a tool and training but a clearly personal leadership development process. The group also discovered that this was both an individual as well as a group process fueled by dialogue and reflection.
During the game development process one of the pivotal moments was when one member of the group brought to a meeting a visualization of the results from a previous group meeting. Seeing the visualization they unanimously saw that this was a game. The result was a prototype of the “Flowgame” which was ready in 1998. The prototype consisted of the game board, cards with questions and pictures, rivers and boats, and some rules of how you move through the game. They were inspired by the American Indian Medicine Wheel to give the game a structure. They also realized that the game needed a Flow host – a person to host and guide the players through the game.
The first Flowgame, in this version, took place in San Francisco in the fall of 1999. Since then it has been played in many different contexts, for individuals, in smaller or bigger groups or tailor made to boards or groups of leaders in companies. In one bank in Denmark the game is being used with groups of employees to explore and support “work-life balance”.
During the past 10 years a number of people have been trained as Flow hosts thus gradually spreading the practice and use of the Flowgame by word of mouth.
The FlowgameThe Flowgame is a process designed as a board game that creates the space for individual and collective consciousness and intelligence to emerge through reflection, dialogue and interactive learning. The game is played around a game board in groups of between 4-6 players and is hosted by a flow-host. The Flowgame is usually played over two days.
The Flowgame is ideal for work teams that wish to explore a collective as well as a personal intention and for individuals who wish to call a game and invite others to play with them.
The Purpose of the Flow gameThe purpose and intent of the Flow game is to strengthen and bring flow to the life affirming leadership and actions of the participant. Its aim is to strengthen and bring focus and flow into an important area or question in ones life – be it a project, a future direction of your work or relationships or as part of your personal growth.
Each participant chooses what his or her individual focus of the game should be. The focus or intention is formulated as a question, and together we explore each intention from four key perspectives: leadership, vision, community and action.
The four perspectives of the FlowgameThe Flow game is designed to focus on the following four aspects of our personal leadership:
This is an ancient pattern of wisdom touching all aspects of life. The Medicine Wheel varied slightly in different parts of the landscape and in different tribes.
The general idea behind the Medicine Wheel is a comprehensive view of all the forces forming human life. The wheel symbolizes the circle of life that we travel through in order to become well rounded people.
The game’s version of the Medicine Wheel is simplified, universal version that is easy to understand and use.
In the Flowgame the four directions stand for the following aspects of leadership:
North - stands for Leadership in terms of having the courage to walk new paths, break new ground etc. - but also to return to the flock and share (stag view) - Symbolized by the color red.
East - stands for Vision - the creative and visionary parts of leadership and seeing the bigger context - it also stands for creativity more generally. - Symbolized by the color blue.
South - stands for Community - the ability to empathize, connect, inspire, engage, align and attune - it also stands for warmth, closeness, the connection to earth. - Symbolized by the color yellow.
West - stands for Action and drive - the ability to bring vision into meaningful action. - Symbolized by the color green.
The Game BoardOne central “prop” in the game is the board. This underlines the playful aspect of the Flowgame, which usually helps us breach even difficult issues in a “safe” way.
The board creates a safe or neutral center that helps us focus on the issue or question rather than the person.
The board is depicted as a landscape. Four rivers circle the landscape. Each river starts in one direction of the compass and circles through all other directions, finally running into the sea or ocean.
The Medicine WheelIn structuring the game its creators were inspired by the Medicine Wheel, practiced by the American Indians. There is a creative tension between the leadership in the North - and the community in the South just as there is a creative tension between the vision in the East and action in the West. In good leadership the wheel is in balance.
The center of the wheel is us - or the intent or question with which players enter the game.
There are two additional directions in the game. - One which we call “Heaven” - symbolized by the color white - and it stands for our “higher” or spiritual aspirations, that which is bigger or more than us. The other we call “Earth” - symbolized by the color black - and it stands for the “down to earth” aspects, sometimes seen as Jester cards.
During the game each participant’s intent or question will be mirrored through all the six aspects or directions.
The CardsThere is a set of cards for each of the six aspects of the wheel. The cards contain either a question, a picture, statement or a suggestion for a process that relates, in one way or another, to that direction. The cards act as fuses or triggers for the players’ conversations or reflections.
The DiceA dice has six sides and six colors - one color for each of the directions. The dice bring chance or serendipity into the game. This element of chance or serendipity adds a non-linear aspect to the game. Players cannot figure out what is going to show up. This helps sustain curiosity and keeps the game full of surprises. Players cannot figure out what is going to show up. This helps sustain curiosity and keeps the game full of surprises.
The Boats or Playing PiecesBefore we enter the game each participant will create four boats or playing pieces, one boat for each of the four directions (N, E, S, W). Each player names his or her boats. The names are usually reflecting both the intent and the direction the boats are going to explore. The boats are an “artifact” symbolizing our intent as it travels through the game.
The reason for four boats is to have a boat in each river. One boat is exploring the North river and aspects of our inquiry, another the East river, and so forth. The boats also visually indicate how each player’s intent and inquiry travels through the game.
The process of actually creating the boats using clay, pipe cleaners, or whatever is available helps to internalize both our intent and the four directions of the game and what they stand for. Players may bring ‘boats’ to the game that are personal representation from their life that represent their intent and connect to each of the four directions.
A Player’s IntentEach player’s intent is central to the game. The game only works its magic if the intent is clear and sincere. The clarity of the intent helps the other players contribute in a meaningful way. The sincerity of the intent means that the player has something at stake, something that really matters, which invites everybody’s best contribution. The intent is usually formatted as an open “burning” question.
Further preparation is to come rested and open - without stress or unrealistic expectations of a particular outcome - but as open as possible, ready to learn.
The Co-playersAs a player or co-player one’s first objective is to gain some personal insight, clarity or readiness for action. At the same time each player is a resource of inspiration, knowledge, insights, and experiences for the other players.
Everyone can benefit from the sum of wisdom, insights and experiences in the group. “One for all - and all for one” is a quote that fits well for the Flowgame.
All players are active throughout the game. When a player is not dealing with their own intent or question, they are contributing to or reflecting on someone else’s question. This is one of the true gifts and resources of the game - that 3-5 other experienced people are willing to share their insights with each other around each player’s question.
The Flow-hostThe role of the Flow-host is to “hold space” and host the game. It requires presence and an ability to engage in the game and each participant’s journey without losing the overall sense of the game. The Flow-host guides the participants through the process - from clarifying the intent throughout the game until the final reflection, wrap up and/or harvest.
Every game is different. It has its own flow and energy that the host needs to pay attention to. The Flow-host can influence the “flow” of the game by speeding up, slowing down, or generally by their way of hosting.
Asking open questions is a good way to nudge the game and the Medicine wheel perspective is a particular gift that the Flow-host can remind everyone when needed, such as “I notice that your North boat is in the west - where leadership meets action - How could that relate?
Dialogue and ReflectionTwo of the key processes in the game are dialogue and reflection.
Dialogue means that the players are open, willing to listen, willing to suspend their assumptions (at least for a while) and explore together without trying to convince anyone of their own truths.
Reflection allows players to stop and notice their feelings and reactions - both individually and together.
Jerry Nagel and the Meadowlark Project Lab Team members, Christine Hamilton and Diana Vander Woude have been trained to serve as Flowgame hosts. They join Sera Thompson, Tim Merry, Bob Wing, Ru Wing and Carla Kimball as certified Flow-hosts in North America.
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