We recently launched Cosmic Conversations, our prompt card game for team members to learn more about each other and connect with one another, and as many people have been asking us questions about the game, we gathered our answers here!
1. How can prompt cards help create connected teams?
We believe that improving our mutual knowledge and building better relationships leads to better collaboration, and the data agrees with us. The greater the mutual knowledge within a team, the better the team’s performance, quality of decision making, and the more innovative they are. Research from both Microsoft and Google support this. We also believe that happy teams are connected teams, and these connections require intentionality in virtual settings. In the office, it’s easy to pick up on cues to start a chat, and get to know more about your colleagues, but it can be very hard when you’re only ever engaging with your team on Zoom or Slack.
With this in mind, we set out to create a way to make it easier for team members to learn more about each other, and to strengthen their connection and bonds even when they don’t share the same physical space. Cosmic Conversations also are an opportunity for team members to simply have fun together, and to remind them that their conversations and interactions do not have to be all about work.
2. What are the Cosmic Conversation themes?
Cosmic Conversations has four themes, two related to work, and two on the personal side:
Work Time (yellow cards), includes questions about work habits, preferences and experiences to help improve collaboration and ways of working.
How’s Work? (pink cards), are cards to help you to share open feedback with your teammates, creating higher levels of trust.
Story Time (red cards) is all about learning about each other's lives and backgrounds outside of work.
What If… (blue cards) cards help you learn about your team member’s values, by finding out what they would do in hypothetical situations.
3. How many prompts are there in the deck, how are they divided?
There are 52 cards with 108 questions, because each card includes an “Icebreaker” prompt as well as “Dig Deeper” prompt about the same topic. The titles are self-explanatory: while the “Icebreaker” helps in breaking the ice through a simple question, the “Dig Deeper” allows for a deeper conversation regarding the topic.
4. What are some ways to play Cosmic Conversations?
We listed below our favorite instances to use the prompt cards, but of course you can be as creative as you would like! As long as you are respectful both in your answers and in listening to each other’s answers (as said in the principles card included in the deck), there are so many ways to enjoy Cosmic Conversations.
Onboarding: Using the yellow “Work Time” cards, to learn and share more about how you work. These can be especially useful when onboarding new team members, and helping them acclimate to your team culture.
Team Time: Most people’s favorite ritual is an opportunity to come together and spend quality time as a team. Use the red cards “Story Time” cards, or the blue “What If?” cards to learn about each other’s personal backgrounds, lives and values outside of work.
Retrospectives: The pink cards “How’s Work?” cards can help create a safe space where to share and receive feedback about your work and your ways of working as a team.
Daily Standup: You can pick an ice-breaker prompt from any theme during your next strand up to animate a compelling conversation before you dive into your work for the day. If you happen to have more time, use the dig deeper card to get to know your teammates even better.
5. Who is the game for?
This game is for teams, colleagues, or even friends to learn about each other and share meaningful stories and experiences both about work and about their personal lives.
6. What are some of the main qualities business and team leaders must possess to ensure that this activity, and other team-building activities, are done in a safe space?
Leaders need to be able to create a psychologically safe environment for their team, where people are not scared to express their thoughts and where their contributions are valued. They need to be very explicit about creating that space, through role modelling behavior, implementing regular rituals, and improving the levels of interpersonal knowledge in a team. This means leaders should be the first to express how they feel, answer an icebreaker question, accept feedback, or ge
nuinely and regularly check-in individually on team members. Leaders can also create a safe space for teams by setting a cadence for team rituals. From retrospectives, to daily standups, to celebratory rituals, creating and maintaining a clear rhythm and prioritizing the togetherness of the team sends out a strong message about the importance of team cohesion. Team leaders should prioritize learning, curiosity, and open mindedness in their team, because the Cosmic Conversations activity along with other team-building activities often push people out of their comfort zone.
7. How can Cosmic Conversations help in creating healthier workplaces, without unhealthy practices such as workplace gossip and rumors?
When team members are strongly connected to one another, and trust each other, what would be the motivation then to spread gossip and rumors? Behaviors are often mirrors of their environment, and these behaviors are a lot more likely to happen in work cultures that encourage unhealthy levels of competition between employees rather than developing interconnectedness.
8. There might be some within a team that may be less sociable than others, or perhaps disinterested in activities outside of work- how do you believe Cosmic Conversations can help in breaking the ice with such individuals in particular?
By playing Cosmic Conversations, a team member who tends to be less social and sometimes disinterested in activities outside of work, might start to see commonalities with their colleagues that they might have been unaware of. We’ve seen team members discover and connect over shared hobbies, likes, interests, and values or even engage in open dialogue about points of disagreement or debate.
On the other hand, the leader plays a big role in making everyone feel included and ensuring that all voices are heard. It’s important that the leader has a sense of the resistance of each team member and that they are able to engage people across the spectrum of extraversion through great facilitation and high levels of emotional intelligence. You might even want to consider having the most resistant team member facilitate.
We also think that these activities should not be considered as “Extra curricular”, otherwise they will be perceived as a burden by team members. In fact the more integrated into the daily life of a team, the better. Think of them as ways of enhancing your existing practices, not a whole new ritual that needs to be added.
9. Remote work can make people feel less motivated and lonelier, how can Cosmic Conversations help?
Alongside intentionality, and facilitating psychological safety, an important reason why Cosmic Conversations can help teams is because we need each other - not as coworkers, but as humans. We all have bad days and good days, sometimes extra bad days, and sometimes days that make our hearts burst with joy. It feels so incredibly lonely when you can’t talk about these things with the people you collaborate with all-day everyday. For many, work is their main community.
Connie Hadley, an Organizational Psychologist who researches extensively about the topic, shared that through her research on highly stressful jobs, she discovered that what helped people cope the most with high levels of stress was the support they received from coworkers.
Also, we all know how incredibly devastating loneliness can be. Mark Mortensen, Professor and former Area Chair of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD, and the keynote speaker at our Future of Teams Conference writes extensively about the loneliness pandemic. Not only can loneliness have serious consequences on work performance, it can also lead to serious physical and mental health issues for individuals. He argues that this is an organizational issue and we agree with him.
Cosmic Conversations’ impact can extend beyond fun Zoom calls (a worthy outcome by itself), to the well-being of team members.