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Creative Retrospective Formats to Reflect on the Past Year

As a team, we've written extensively about the importance of retrospectives. It’s one of the rituals that we believe in the most because of its truly transformative power.

Retrospectives are team events that are usually held at the end of every cycle (could be monthly, after a project ends, etc.) where the team looks back on the previous cycle to learn and reflect on what went well and how they can improve.

If you’ve never run a retrospective, the end of the year is a great opportunity to start! With the year coming to an end, many of us naturally take the time to look back on the year in search of lessons learned, highlights, and inspiration for what’s to come.

And that’s exactly what retrospectives offer.

We’ve put together a list of fun retrospective formats to help you wrap up the year with your team.

Pits & Peaks:

Pits & Peaks is a great check-in format. Everyone is asked to share at least 1 pit (something negative) and 1 peak (something positive) that happened during the year. Everyone takes turns sharing their own pits and peaks and the team is given the opportunity to react or reflect on what their teammate has shared. You can choose to focus the discussion on work related subjects or broaden it to more personal topics.

Symbolic Retrospective:

Instead of asking team members to share specifics, a good way to help them reflect on the past year is to have them pick a song or film that would best represent the year. This allows the team to have more indirect conversations about the topic. You can get as creative as you want and there is nothing wrong with a bit of humor in finding those metaphors!

Cosmic Conversations:

At Cosmic centaurs, we’ve been working on developing a prompt card game to facilitate conversations in teams. We call it Cosmic Conversations. The game has 104 questions divided into 4 themes:

Story time Get to know the people on your team a little better and improve your interpersonal connections and team cohesion.

Work Life Uncover your colleague’s work habits, preferences and experiences to help improve your collaboration and ways of working.

How’s work? Share open feedback with your teammates, creating higher levels of trust.

What if...

Spark a conversation about hypothetical scenarios, stretching your imagination and getting creative together!

Use these prompt cards to spark a conversation with the team. We recommend starting with the “How's Work?” series (that’s the pink one with a human on its back), and start with an ice-breaker. After everyone on the team has answered, you can then ask the “Dig Deeper” question.

Read more about the cards here, and buy them here.

Rate Your Life:

Sometimes, giving a numerical value makes it easier to reflect. By playing Rate Your Life, you can tell a lot about one’s year. Ask every team member to rate their life on a scale of 1 to 10 (they can rate their personal, romantic and work lives separately if they would like), have them explain the grade they picked and ask them to share what it would take to make it a ten.

Two Truths & A Lie:

If your team is comfortable with a bit of ambiguity, this is a fun way to learn more about everyone’s experience of their year. Ask each person to share three statements about the previous year: two of them should be truthful and one of them a lie. Then have the team try to guess which is the lie. Let everyone make their guess first, then ask the team member to reveal the truth.

You can of course still use more traditional retrospective forms like Stop, Start, Continue or Mad, Sad, Glad. No matter what format you choose, make sure to share this format ahead of time to give everyone time to prepare, and be mindful to give participants an opportunity to pass if they are uncomfortable sharing.

More importantly, make sure that this doesn’t end up being a one off event. It’s important to run retrospectives frequently so that the team can have a clear cycle for continuous learning. Maybe that can be your team’s new year resolution!


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