What happens when you push people out of their comfort zone yet put them a creative space and atmosphere? Amazing results!
I couldn’t quite pin down a description of what Step Away was about, but I knew that I would learn skills that would help me in my career. Little did I know, that my mind would be blown! That I would spend 4 days on the edge of an experience that kept me literally on my toes, thinking hard about learning and games, doing pushups and jumping jacks, creating a game of my own design, playing with Lego in a purposeful way, all while being coached and supported through a process that could have been intimidating without our hosts.” – Janet Chafey
A couple of years ago I had an idea. What if we mashed design thinking, visual thinking, and game design into one multi-day event? And what if the venue for this event supported creativity and play? With the help of Karl Kapp and Deborah Thomas we founded Step Away – a professional development learning experience design retreat.
Step Away is not a conference. It’s not really an un-conference either. Perhaps it’s a camp. A learning design camp. It’s kind of a retreat but also a place to learn and unlock knowledge. Well, like any great experience it is often difficult to sum it up in a single explanation.
“We achieved our goal and so much more. When you bring smart, focused people together, you share, bond and learn from one another.” – Karl Kapp
Let’s try this explanation…
Step Away is a loosely structured learning experience where we explore the process of creativity, play is paramount, and game design is the vehicle used to solve complex business problems in an atmosphere of hard fun.
The venue is the Great Escape Parkside, a 15k sq. ft. game-themed resort just outside of Orlando, FL on 10 private acres. The entire house and property are themed after dozens of our favorite games! Each room is themed after a classic game with some rooms as games, and the entire space invites a relaxed and fun environment. You can attend any design thinking workshop at a typical conference and get the same instruction, or you can attend Step Away where it is a full discovery and immersive learning experience!
This event is unlike any other! The program is a mashup of game design, visual thinking, design thinking, and LEGO Serious Play to help dive deeper into your creative self.
Step Away was purposefully designed as a boutique professional development experience to be a free, safe learning space, with the flexibility to explore your creativity in solving problems using game design as the vehicle. Boutique in this context is defined as a program limited to a small group of participants where they receive one-on-one coaching and guidance throughout the experience.
The first day began with the fundamentals of game design led by Karl Kapp, followed by deconstructing a game – using games in and around the resort as the classroom. We then discuss the various games and their core dynamics and what the game objectives are. After that brief primer, we reassemble for a LEGO Serious Play (LSP) activity. A question is posed to participants that will drive the rest of their program – “What problem are you trying to solve?”
The answer, however, is in the form of building a metaphorical LEGO model. Participants are given a random small inventory of LEGO brick and must answer the question by telling a story through the model they built.
The LSP methodology is rooted in research with a core process that invokes deeper thinking through play. Several theories are at work during LSP activities including the theory of Play, theory of Flow, and theory of Constructivism, and the theory of Constructionism. This hands-on way of thinking invokes powerful results!
For the remainder of the first day, participants are guided and coached by Karl Kapp and Deborah Thomas as they begin working to design a 24-card game that solves the problem they described in their LEGO model.
The constraints of only 24 cards doesn’t limit creativity, rather creates the conditions to foster creativity by thinking differently about solving the problem and the design. This process aids in developing a valuable skill when faced with complex problems.
Through the creative process, visual thinking concepts are introduced as a way for participants to visualize what their card game will look like. Participants are taught the fundamentals of visual communication and how to reduce ambiguity for clear and concise messaging.
By the end of the week, the inaugural Step Away event produced five games designed from scratch, prototyped, play tested, and ready for production.
The games included: 1) how to spark innovation in the workplace, 2) preparing college graduates for job interviews, 3) networking challenge game for attendees at industry conferences, 4) how to have difficult conversations about aging parents with family members, and 5) neuropsychology in servant leadership. Truly amazing results! Part of the Step Away registration for those who attend include a production version of their card deck in a custom-designed box to be sent after the event.
Step Away is more than designing a card game. It’s about the process of creativity when faced with complex learning problems. It’s about “stepping away” from the digital noise and distractions that prevent clarity in the creative process.
“There are board games mounted on the walls, and chess boards on the floors. Even escape rooms integrated into the bedrooms, and so much more. There truly is no better location I can think of to learn about game design, innovation and creativity.” – Brent Schlenker
The inaugural event was a huge success and we are excited and looking forward to Step Away 2020!
Whether you are involved in solving learning problems or strategic solutions, Step Away might be the boost in creative innovation you or your team needs. Learn more about Step Away by visiting stepaway.design and subscribe to stay up to date.
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