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Hesburgh Libraries employees and guests collaborate in playing the Diffusion Simulation Game


Every spring since 2005, Hesburgh Libraries conducts its May Institute, an “… intensive opportunity for all library employees to meet and work together in collaborative and enjoyable ways, across the traditional boundaries and hierarchies.”  Hesburgh Libraries is currently undergoing radical reorganization so this year’s theme was focused on the guiding precept of “Excellence in Service” and on issues related to managing change.

The term “change agent” is used frequently in reorganization parlance but its characteristics are rarely defined.  In order to demonstrate the relationship between directed, intentional communication and effective change management, a colleague and I led a workshop that incorporated Indiana University’s Diffusion Simulation Game.  The game is based on principles from Diffusion of Innovations (Rogers, 1995) and a guest version is open to all.  We had limited time and we knew that it would be impossible to complete the game within the allotted hour.  Nevertheless, we set up 4 teams, each with a laptop, and said we would determine a winner by the greatest number of adopters at the end of the session.  Team members had to collaborate to choose the best course of action for advancing an innovation.  The teams were diverse groups of librarians, staff, and a few visitors.  We had a brief introduction and a handout but it was clear from the start that everybody wanted to begin playing the game as quickly as possible.  All of the groups were very engaged with the objectives of the game and with their teammates.  It was gratifying to see the intense discussions that led to decisions as well as healthy combinations of competition, teamwork, deference, and leadership.  One group’s laptop did not work so we sent them to the classroom workstation.  My colleague and I just wandered around, making a few suggestions, answering questions, and encouraging risk-taking.  Most seemed disappointed when our time was up.

We had positive feedback from several participants stating that they learned a lot about being a change agent and they also had a lot of fun with their new teammates.  We followed up by email after the class with the url of the game and we also set up a Titanpad site for additional discussion of strategy, comments, etc.  Some participants had already played the game several more times within the course of the day and posted notes and questions.  Ultimately, it provided a great picture of what empowered, self-directed, collaborative learning looks like.

Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of innovations. New York: Free Press.

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