The Gibberish Game

I figured I would drop up a quick post on a game I like to play with domain experts. Very often when getting into a context or discovering new concepts we have a tendency to just take the first word that comes to mind.

This is quite an unfortunate scenario though as often the word really sucks. What is worse is that often the word carries mental baggage with it because it is used in another context or has some definitional qualities that carry more or less information than you want to be using in the context that is being discussed. In other words

Selecting an existing word early in the process shapes our thinking.

We as creatures are easily biased. So here is the game:

Holy gibberish

The Gibberish Game

Refuse to allow a real word to be given. When going through use cases etc make a word up out of some sounds and use that for the first few hours of discussion.

Once you have gone through some analysis. Revisit and try defining the words more specifically.

Replace the word with a real word. You will be amazed how often it is different than the one you would have first selected.

The goal of the game is choosing different words until we have far more information. This can help eliminate some cognitive bias. This game can be quite good for getting confusing discussions laser focused especially when you are stuck on “what should we call this thing”

be careful you can’t use the same make believe words over and over again either otherwise they gain baggage themselves.

I played this game with a client this fall. We chose toglies and glotys to describe some concepts. When we felt that the conversation was using too broad words. Sure enough at the end we had different words. The game can be fun too (try recording yourself talking about the marital patterns of toglies).

I didn’t make sure to check up with them to share this but I can’t imagine how toglys and glotys could be covered under a NDA 🙂 btw doesn’t gloty sound like something you would order in a Polish restaurant?

We don’t need to always be so serious, even if we are wearing suits.


  1. Sharas
    Posted February 28, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    ummm gloty…

    • Posted February 29, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink | Reply

      is that meaning “ummm, gloty” or “mmm, gloty!”

  2. Sharas
    Posted February 29, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

    @Greg: I meant it in a Homer Simpson way. Probably mmm gloty… then:)

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