Some insights on team work and decision-making from a game of Codenames

I was playing a few games of Codenames with some colleagues. For those who aren't familiar, Codenames is a game where the "spymaster" can give one clue word that can help their "operatives" guess a bunch of team words (say, blue) while avoiding a bunch of opponent team's words (say, red). It's a wonderful team game that is fun and strategic. 

I was the spymaster in one of the games, meaning I could see all the team words and the opponent team's words and I had to give clues to my team of 5 to make them guess my team's words. It gave me a unique vantage point to observe team discussions, dynamics, and decision-making while knowing the right answer. 

I said "Greece" to hint at "Atlantis" and "State" (not the best clue!). I felt good when a teammate immediately suggested Atlantis and State to the rest of the team. But another teammate more strongly proposed "War" and that Greece is a country and not a state. There was some discussion, then ultimately a vote, War was confidently chosen, and we lost the game. 

1.  Quality of decision-making is separate from the quality of the outcome. You may get an answer right, but only because you lucked out with the wrong process, and vice-versa. Getting it wrong upfront helps as it forces us to examine the quality of decision-making. 

2. Acknowledge that many decisions, by default, are likely to be wrong. Even more true for group decisions as they are subject to group-think and several other biases and flaws. You have to deliberately be rational and rely on logic and data. Think critically and double-check the rationale before pulling the trigger. 

3. Don't get tied to the options you proposed.  The goal is to get to the best option, not your option. Pay attention to what your teammates say, especially the ones who are thoughtful but gentle as their opinions usually get drowned otherwise. 

4. You won't get it right always, but if you optimize for learning and adapting both your decision-making process and knowledge of the domain, you'll get better over time. Codenames is a "kind learning environment", meaning there's an immediate feedback loop that can evaluate the quality of the decisions and the players, and then improve. But most actual business work, by default, is not. Unless you set up experiments or try different hypotheses, you may never learn. 

5. Think several steps ahead, and maybe work backward from the end. As a spymaster, you want to pair the hard to pair words upfront when there are lot more options. You may want to wait on the ambiguous words until the end, as they may become easier when more words are cleared.  

6. Consider all the factors, or as President Bartlet says is West Wing, "Look at the entire board". As a spymaster, you may give a clue that seems right to you, but your teammates may have a different perspective, or there may be an opponent team word that matches the clue better.