Yesorno_850

Last summer I went to Burning Man in Nevada. I ended up helping some nice guys from Malibu run a donations-driven food truck for a few days. I did front of house, and was mostly in charge of tunes – off my iPod connected to the truck’s radio. They cooked absolutely gorgeous food, based on whatever people happened to give us. Even the propane was donated, connected mysteriously up one night by an anonymous benefactor. I remember asking the guy in charge, Josh, where he’d learned to cook. “Italy,” he replied. Enough said. We probably had the best cooking facilities in Black Rock City, the gigantic temporary refugee camp we all made home for a week. At Burning Man you’re not allowed to buy or sell anything (including food), so we were a pretty popular stop.

On the weekend morning (I think it was the Saturday) a really nice atmosphere developed around the truck and lots of great people were milling about. We got on to talking about the art of asking great questions. Questions are really interesting, because the right question, framed and phrased carefully, can help people solve problems, work out what’s right and decide what’s wrong. I explained how I really wish someone would build me a rig you could wheel into a room, like a gameshow prop, called “The Yes Or No Game”, with two pulsating buttons simply saying “yes” or “no”, plus some sound effects. Introduced at the right moment in group discussions or meetings it would be a really fun way to pose questions and achieve clarity and maybe consensus.

Back in London, Linda and I were talking about this a few weeks back and we thought it might be fun to build a prototype on an iPad. She hacked something together in Apple Keynote, buying a few low-cost stock images and sound effects. Unfortunately the sound effects are copyright so we can’t distribute the resulting “game” publicly. And we love the sound effects so much that we won’t change them to ones with a different license. But if you want a copy of the Yes Or No Game (you’ll need to run the latest version of Keynote on an iPad), mail me or Linda ( mark[at]akvo.org or linda[at]akvo.org ), and we’ll send it over. We love it.

I plan to inflict this game on people in various situations over the coming months – a sort of Akvo decision support tool, and a way to help us understand when and how we make decisions.

Mark Charmer is a co-founder and communications director at Akvo.