At the recent MPI World Education Congress in Minneapolis I had the pleasure of being a participant in a very interesting activity. By saying participant, I meant that I was one of a couple thousand other players. The game was “Pong” and it took place in the form of a soccer field.
How do thousands of people play Pong at once? Using technology powered by SwarmWorks, the conference hall was evenly divided into two teams along the center of the auditorium. Each attendee was given a reflector called a “SwarmPad” which served as the paddle. By changing sides of his or her SwarmPad each participant can work with their team to alter the position of the goalie’s glove on a central big screen and, hopefully, lead their team to victory. Needless to say the game was a big hit with the attendees.
The platform for the Pong game is called “SwarmGaming” and is just one of several products by SwarmWorks, a hi-tech company originating in Germany and based in North Carolina. As I experienced, SwarmGaming is particularly effective at conferences for that mid-morning or afternoon energy boost that attendees need. In addition, the gaming part of the product is excellent for building team camaraderie as well as generating an emotional attachment for the event itself.
Another SwarmWorks product called “SwarmCreating” is for more intimate teams. In this case, the teams sit around tables of six to eight people. There is an all-in-one workstation at each table and this in turn is networked to the entire room. In short, each table brainstorms or discuss ideas and their results go to everyone in the room. The top ideas can be propagated and displayed on the big screen. This allows organizations to work through major problems in a more rapid fashion while at the same time involving as many participants as possible.
The Chief Operation Officer of SwarmWorks, Inc. is Ed Manning. Ed had been involved in leadership development for 15 years, working with SwarmWorks as a facilitator for the last seven. The company’s product fit perfectly with his own philosophy of leadership. When they asked him to open up headquarters in United States and, Ed jumped at the opportunity. Ed says of the role of technology in leadership, “problems are bigger and more complex and need collaborative solutions and this technology is perfect for just that.”
His favorite story is a meeting of 4,500 employees of two newly merged companies that came together to select the core values of the new entity. Using SwarmWorks technology , the group was able to decide on the core values in record time. Ed thinks of this collaborative approach via technology as a change for change management. The buy-in created in the process greatly reduces implementation time.
A number of other SwarmWorks products round out their offerings. SwarmMission is a tablet based scavenger hunt with the goal of giving a small team tasks to solve while discovering their surroundings. SwarmPolling is an audience response system, often used in conjunction with SwarmGaming. SwarmTouch is a smaller, mobile version of SwarmCreating.
According to Ed, SwarmWorks is very much taking hold in the US. The biggest hurdle is for organizations and speakers to be open to increased engagement with their participants. Consequently, there is a bit of a learning curve for adapters. However, the big reward for taking on this new experience is a way to undergo change management that involves all participants and is faster and more efficient than traditional approaches.