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Using the BoardREADY Card Deck: Wisdom in the Cards

Using the BoardREADY Card Deck: Wisdom in the Cards

Exploring New Ways to Reach New Wisdom with the BoardREADY Card Deck

Using the BoardREADY Card Deck at the CSAE Leaders Forum

I, along with senior CSAE staff and the leadership within the CSAE Chapters, including the CSAE board, attended a Leaders Forum this week. We were there to discuss where the organization is headed through 2017 and beyond and the best ways to get there. The Forum presented numerous good ideas and other outcomes, as well as excitement about the future. This was in no small part to the excellent facilitation provided by Amanda Fenton.

Many discussions took place over the Forum's day and a half span, but it all required a starting point to begin moving forward. In doing so, Amanda showed us all a new way to start using the CSAE BoardREADY Card Deck. This method illustrated the incredible potential the cards have for helping boards, work groups, and even brainstorming and troubleshooting sessions.


Wisdom in the Cards using the CSAE BoardREADY Card Deck

Using an exercise Amanda introduced to us simply and aptly as "Wisdom in the Cards", we were first broken up into small groups. We were asked to recall a challenge we encounter in our work with CSAE and present it now to our smaller groups of four or five. We then opened these issues up to discussion within the smaller groups, but with a twist.

In our groups, members each shuffled their own, individual CSAE BoardREADY Card Deck and then dealt themselves six cards at random. One person was then selected to present their challenge to the group. Each of the other group members in turn presented to the former a card from their hand they felt was relevant to the issue at hand.


The Importance of the Random Card Deal

The selected card to present need not be the most obvious – in fact, I think the more obvious the fit the less useful the results would likely have been. The exercise was intended to get us to go beyond the obvious.

It is the outside of the box thinking randomly drawn cards can provide where the true value is likely to be found. The randomness forces participants to approach the problem from directions that are not necessarily obvious and would likely not be their usual approach to analyzing the challenge. Allowing participants to sort through their own cards and choose one from a complete deck will likely result in most participants choosing cards that most align with their comforts and preconceived notions.


Drawing Wisdom and Value from the Cards

Once the group I was a part of got started, the session was incredibly productive. From what everyone said after, they shared a similar experience. Using the CSAE BoardREADY Card Deck in this simple, quick manner gave everyone a starting point to jump right in instead of shyly standing back.

The presented cards also kept the conversation going and maintained direction and focus. They served as a point of reference when thoughts stumbled. They helped people give voice to the perspectives they were struggling with finding a way to communicate. The cards gave everyone a chance to express their opinion and the opportunity to view the challenges from a new perspective.

I believe keeping the groups small was also key. Doing so prevented the discussions from becoming mired down in too much cross-talk and a lack of focus. By using this exercise as a precursor for a larger discussion, we were able to cut through much of the weeds that normally slow such processes. This allowed us to relay the discussion's key points to the larger group later for further consideration.

Overall, the entire process took roughly 25 minutes. It was an excellent exercise and started the Leaders Forum off on correct, productive footing. The insights that came to light during these discussions carried on throughout the rest of the Forum and lingered throughout the remaining sessions.

Perhaps best of all, people participating in this exercise don't need to be familiar with the cards to get use from them. As an introduction to the CSAE BoardREADY Card Deck, this particular process only require you read over and think about the six cards you are dealt, even if you've never seen them before.

As promised, the CSAE Leaders Forum indeed did find Wisdom in the Cards. Thank you, Amanda, for showing introducing us to this new way to approach the CSAE BoardREADY Card Deck.



Amanda Fenton is a skilled designer and facilitator of participatory gatherings using circle-based methodologies to host and harvest conversations for thoughtful change. Learn more about her at amandafenton.com.



Watch this brief instructional video on how to conduct your own "Wisdom in the Cards" session using the CSAE BoardREADY Card Deck







This is the first of an on-going series of CSAE BoardREADY Card Deck exercises that explore how your organization may use this resource. The following exercises developed by Amanda Fenton, will be part of this series as it continues:


More to come soon!

    1. Wisdom in the Cards: Randomly dealing cards to members of small discussion groups to drive focus and inspiration while addressing challenges.
    2. Top of Mind or Placeholder Cards: Distributing to volunteers 3 to 5 relevant cards selected by a facilitator that are held up when appropriate to remind the group of the card's importance and messaging.
    3. End of Day Reflection: Participants select and ponder a card that reflects something positive they got out of the meeting and share that perspective in turn at the meeting's end.
    4. Work Group Integration: Small groups working on an action or program plan (etc.) can use 2 to 3 appropriate cards to drive discussion regarding how the work reflects the cards' topics.
    5. Random Pull: Randomly draw a card during a discussion to see how its content impacts and brings new perspective to the point at hand.
    6. Personal Development: Pick a card during a board evaluation or performance reviews or the like that reflects a strength and another for something you need to work on. Discuss as part of the process.
    7. Identify Competencies or Mindsets for Board Recruitment: Use cards to identify attributes required of future directors or team members.



BoardREADY, Card Deck, Boards, Strategic Planning, Troubleshooting, Amanda Fenton, Lori Prospero





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