Playing the Fearless Journey Game

| by Ben Linders Follow 13 Followers on Feb 04, 2015. Estimated reading time: 3 minutes |

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The Fearless Journey game builds upon the patterns described in the book Fearless Change by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising. It is a game that teams can play to learn how to address obstacles over which they have no authority. The game can also be used to practice decisions taking in teams and to learn how to give appreciation.

Martin Heider and Holger Koschek facilitated the workshop Fearless Journey – up to new horizons at the OOP 2015 conference. In the workshop they talked about using patterns in change and played the Fearless Journey game with the attendants.

The concept for the Fearless Journey game was developed with guidance from Antti Kirjavainen in an open space workshop at Play4Agile 2011 in Germany. Deborah Hartmann Preuss added the Fearless Change strategies to it and designed the game with help from Ilja Preuß. The game, which is crowd-translated into six languages, can be downloaded free of charge under a CreativeCommons 3.0 license at

The game helps teams collaboratively brainstorm new approaches to real impediments that hinder a team from reaching an important goal. The impediments are contributed by the players, and must lie outside their direct area of authority. To play the game teams are formed of 4-7 persons. With larger groups, people play in pairs, as the game is designed for up to 6 players.

First the teams had to agree on an important and valuable goal. The goal had to be difficult to reach due to important factors outside the team's control. It had to be a really outstanding goal which would be worthwhile to pursue. One team formulated the goal to significantly reduce waste of groceries, while another team wanted to reach a situation where employees could work together and effectively collaborate.

Next the teams described the starting situation by explaining where they are now. The team that focused on reducing waste of groceries explained that in the current situation much food was thrown away, while the team aiming for collaboration stated that currently there is hardly any collaboration between employees.

The teams had to come up with at least 20 impediments and write them down on index cards. When they were finished they added 1/5 of empty cards and shuffled all impediment cards. The starting point and the goal were put on the table with 40-80 cm in between.

Playing the game starts with a first player taking a path card and an impediment card. The path card is added at the start towards the goal, and the impediment card is placed on the path card to visualize that the team is blocked. The team discusses how the impediment can be solved with one or more pattern cards from the game, these are patterns from the Fearless Change book. Players are advised to use the pattern cards wisely because they can be used only once. If the patterns will be sufficient to solve the impediment, the impediment card is removed and the next player takes a path card and an impediment card.

For debriefing the game Heider and Koschek asked the teams to discuss these questions:

  • What were your highlights?
  • What did you find difficult and what went easy?
  • What surprised you?
  • How do you feel about your original goal now?

The teams mentioned that they were surprised how constructive the discussion were. Feedback that the teams gave was:

  • It was good to see what you can and cannot solve.
  • The patterns inspired the teams, they are clear and easy to understand.
  • Along the way teams became more confident that the goal can be reached.
  • Progress can be made by lots of small improvements towards the goal.

One team found out that the goal was too ambiguous, which made it difficult to agree what to do. What they learned is that the game can help you to better understand the goal and adjust it when it is unclear or too big to be reached.

Fearless Journey could be played in agile retrospectives to help teams explore their impediments and decide upon actions needed to reach the team's goal - keeping in mind that obstacles must lie outside the team's control.

A real-time visual note of this and other OOP sessions was made by Kata Máthé and Márti Frigyik from

(Click on the image to enlarge it)

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