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The Development Games Manual and Kit reviewed


Title: The Development Games Manual and Kit
Author: Peter Gerrickens
Publisher: Gower
Year: 2001
Format: Looseleaf ringbinder manual and two packs of games cards
ISBN: 0-566-08403-1
Price: Kit price £157.50 from the TrainingZONE Mall (normal price £175.50 + VAT) (also available manual only price £112.50 and cards only price £31.50)Website:

The Development Game Kit comprises a loose-leaf manual (99 pages), a 'Skills Matrix' insert and two identical sets of 140 printed game cards. The cards are available separately and come with two suggested activities.
The author of The Development Game, Peter Gerrickens, may be known to some readers as the creator of 'The Feedback Game' also published in the UK by Gower. Gerrickens is a consultant and communications trainer from The Netherlands and The Development Game has been translated from the original Dutch version. As with almost any translation, there are a few minor mis-translations. For example, in the Skills Matrix the five headings under which the cards are sorted include 'quite a lot of fun' and 'quite fun'. Not only are these headings difficult to understand, they don't match with the headings in the instructions for the activity. The language of the whole manual is also rather laboured at times. For example the manual refers to 'applying the game' when 'using the game' would be less cumbersome. Normally such minor irritations wouldn't be worth grumbling about except that the manual costs over £110 and the subject is, after all, improving communication skills.

The manual begins with a short but interesting introduction to communication skills. This first section also explains the colour-coding and use of the cards and gives some useful general instructions for playing The Development Game. Section two of the manual describes in detail 30 'methods' for using the cards. These methods (or activities) provide detailed instructions for how to use the cards for team-working, job appraisal, self-awareness, introductions, icebreakers and evaluation. The purpose of each activity is described together with the step-by-step procedure and an estimate of the time required (from 10 minutes to three hours). The activities range from those that can be played individually to those that can accommodate up to 200 participants. Facilitators working with large groups should be aware that some of the activities require a set of cards for every 20 participants.
The manual also includes a number of Appendices, some of which are checklists intended to be used as handouts. It would appear that 'no expense has been spent' on the design of these handouts - they are simple, word-processed lists which are bland and uninspiring. Combined with the limitations imposed by the small page size, Appendix A (List of Skills) makes a dull five-page handout and Appendix C (Skills, Strengths and Weaknesses) a daunting and potentially mind-numbing 14 pages. It is surprising that the 'guinea pigs' involved in the piloting process did not point this out to the author (or perhaps they have longer attention spans than I have). Appendix F provides a helpful 'Overview of methods of play' which means a list of each activity, the number of participants that can take part, the level of trust and familiarity needed and the playing time required.

I took a copy of The Development Game away to try out at my consultancy network's recent bi-annual retreat. We used it to review the communication skills we felt we had strengthened during the two-day retreat (not an activity in the manual but an idea inspired by the cards). Although initially rather swamped by the sheer number of cards (I should have followed Gerrickens' advice and narrowed down the range of cards we used) we found the process thought-provoking and valuable. We could all see ways in which we could use the cards for a range of different purposes.
I have no hesitation in recommending the set of cards for The Development Game. They are very well-produced, adaptable and even relatively inexperienced facilitators would be able to devise a range of imaginative ways of using them. They will be finding a place in my toolkit and I can envisage using them for a number of different purposes in my consultancy and training work.
The manual for The Development Game is a useful source of ideas for how to use the cards but adds value mainly if you do not have the time needed to develop your own activities and need 'off the shelf' suggestions. Overall, the pages of the manual have a rather dull and uninspiring look to them. One final niggle: the boxes in the Skills Matrix fold-out insert are not big enough to accommodate the cards - something which could have been picked up during a thorough field-test before publication?

The Development Games Manual and Kit was reviewed by Bruce Britton of the Framework network. For an earlier review by Leslie Rae, see


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