Emoji Retrospectives

Thursday, 26 November, 2015

Amidst some controversy, Oxford Dictionaries, as owned by the Oxford University Press (OUP) has announced its “word” of the year is not actually a word at all – it’s an emoji.

Officially named ‘Face with Tears of Joy’, this emoji was chosen as the word that ‘best reflects the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015. The use of emojis has surged in recent years, but according to data gathered by Oxford Dictionaries, our use of this emoticons has tripled this year.

This news came to mind this week during a Certified Scrum Product Owner class I was running for a client. So at the end of the class, I decided to run a short retrospective on the event, using ‘emojis’ as the theme.

Firstly, I asked each table to look on their phones and find two of their favourite emojis, and then to draw them on a single post-its. As I had two tables of attendees, the four emojis they drew headed up four quadrants of a piece of flipchart paper. I then asked each table to name the emotion that their drawing represents, as I wrote that next to the respective pictures.

This gave me the ideas for four simple questions to ask the team in the retrospective:

  1.  What happened in this event that STARTLED you?
  2.  What happened in this event that EMBARRASSED you?
  3.  What happened in this event that made you stop and THINK?
  4.  What happened in this event that FRUSTRATED you?

Being in tune with the emotions of others, as well as ourselves is an fundamental building block for the growth of an agile team. I include a few other emotion-based improv games in my book “Improv-ing Agile Teams: Using Constraints to Unlock Creativity", as a way to enhance the emotional intelligence of the members of an agile team. I found here that using emojis can be a safe and humorous way to introduce a potentially delicate (and human) aspect of our personalities.

If you are looking for some other ways to introduce or stimulate you emotions in a retrospective, check out my new online training course The THEMED Retropspective Handbook. The course includes 10 unique templates to run a retrospective based on a specific theme. Check them out.