Heineken’s New Political Ad

“Heineken’s New Political Ad” was originally published on the Scrum Alliance website on May 9, 2017: https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2017/may/heineken-s-new-political-ad-(1).aspx
Heineken’s new political ad sells beer, not teamwork.
In case you haven’t seen it, beer manufacturer Heineken recently released an ad that uses political division as a marketing platform, to great effect. The political ad features three pairs of people, each with strongly held opposing views. There’s the climate-change denier with the environmentalist, the feminist with the alt-rightie, and the transgender woman with a man who strongly believes in the gender binary.

The reaction online to the ad, at least among my left-leaning friends, has been very positive — far more than the reaction to Pepsi’s appropriative Kendall Jennings ad. People resonate with the Heineken ad and the message of unity, and the ad will probably sell some imported beer.

But what Heineken is selling isn’t beer. It’s teamwork and cooperation.

The pairs of participants are given a set of instructions that start with “Put together some Ikea furniture.” A basic, if possibly frustrating, teamwork exercise in which they are forced to cooperate to successfully build something. Next, they’re given space to sit and get to know each other in an icebreaker format. The questions aren’t political. They’re positive things like, “What do we have in common?” and “Describe yourself in five words.”

Those of us who have run any kind of training exercise are familiar with both of these exercises. The first is a fairly intense team-building exercise. The second is a get-to-know-you networking moment, which is designed to build rapport with strangers — useful in team building as well as sales training.

They then have another build exercise: this time adding a bar top to the table and chairs they’ve built, and then finding a frosty Heineken hidden nearby. (As a side note: I hope that the second iteration of building is easier and faster than the first!)

Finally, after building all this rapport, the participants are shown videos wherein they describe their deeply held political beliefs, and they are invited to either walk away or sit down and talk it out over a beer.

Since this is a beer commercial, and Heineken isn’t airing the participants who didn’t sit down for a beer, we then see the participants do exactly that and come to some understanding of each other. As professional team builders, I am sure we’re familiar with the importance of creating rapport and doing cooperative exercises to build teams.

Assuming that they didn’t script everything, I’d be interested to know how many “failed pairs” Heineken had when they were filming. My guess is, with two team exercises and an icebreaker, not many.

Game Design is Iterative

Dice for game designIn my side job of game design, I’ve learned a lot about how games are made. Games can have a strong mathematical component to them, and you can apply game theory to any interaction. But when designing a game to be played, the process is highly iterative and experimental. In tabletop games, there’s usually an underlying mechanic, like “roll a d6 and move that many spaces” for a roll-and-move game like Monopoly, and a theme, which is what the game looks and feels like– “building a real estate empire” for Monopoly, for example. Zombies was a hot theme a few years ago, and cats seems to be the theme-of-the-year for 2017.

When I design a game, I start with some idea of what I think would be fun. I’m a “theme first” designer, so I start with “this game is…. (escaping from a space station, or fighting monsters in space, or being a walking, talking toy). I usually keep going, and play a solo improv game of “yes, and/no, but.” That’s where I may discard the first idea so that I come up with something more interesting, or I add to the starter idea (” a walking, talking toy” had “in a post-apocalyptic, broken world” added to make a much more interesting theme and therefore game).

Side note: Other designers are “mechanics first,” where they design a clever or new way to play a game, and then put a theme over it. You can usually identify these designers because they have clever mechanics but either very little theme, or no theme at all (abstract games). An abstract game is something like Go, where there is almost no theme at all, but there’s deep strategy involved in where one places the stones.


After I’ve played this game of “yes and,” in which I run through a lot of different ways to explore an idea or theme, then I start thinking about mechanics. If I were building a backlog of “make a game,” I’d have the following items in it:

  1. Decide on a theme.
  2. Flesh out the theme– make it more interesting!
  3. Pick a game mechanic.
  4. Flesh out the game mechanic– give it a twist!
  5. Write the first draft of the rules.
  6. Get some components and players and Playtest.
  7. Revise the rules.
  8. Repeat from step 6 until it’s either ready to ship or you run out of time, money, or patience.
  9. Release the game.

The repetitions between 6 and 7 are, of course, where the bulk of the work comes in; they are the inspect-and-adapt portions of creating a good game.

I’ve written several games, sometimes using this method, sometimes with less playtesting, and I can honestly say that iterative playtesting is the cornerstone of good game design. I even playtested my Improve Drawing Game before posting it.

Certified Scrum Professional – Achievement Unlocked!

Scrum Alliance CSP logoAs of this afternoon, I am a CSP (Certified Scrum Professional) with the Scrum Alliance!

The CSP is a certification demonstrating a commitment to my continuing education in Agile and Scrum, and to the profession. The CSP requires a few years of experience as  a scrum team member, as well as 70 hours of continuing education, which might include independent study, Scrum Alliance training and conferences, non-Scrum Alliance trainings, and scrum-related volunteer work. My blog posts here, events, and Scrum Alliance articles also contributed to the certification. In addition, my coursework for the CSM and attendance at the Global Scrum Gathering in San Diego last month gave me both necessary education and SEU (Scrum Educational Units) for the certification.

I’ve been working towards my CSP since getting my CSM last year, and I am very proud of this accomplishment.



Certified Scrum Professional® is a certification mark of Scrum Alliance, Inc.  Any unauthorized use is strictly prohibited.

Scrum Master Interview – What a Relief

Stephanie on scrum master interview dayI just had a terrific scrum master interview with a local company, and it was a huge relief! Not because the job is terrific (although I’m sure it will be if I get it), but because the hiring process has me meeting with the product owners and current scrum master in my first interview. I’m not meeting with executives or even the functional manager– at this stage, the company doesn’t even know who the my functional manager might be, because they haven’t decided which team would be the best fit!

I’ve had quite a few Scrum Master interviews in the past 2 months, and I can tell you– most people hiring scrum masters don’t know what they do. That’s usually fine– as a technical writer, I have coached hiring managers on how to interview me and other writers, even during the interview process. But when I come into an interview and I’m talking to product owners and scrum masters who want me to tell them how my last team worked, and demonstrate how I approached that role? That’s a huge relief.

A little bit of knowledge went a long way today. When we talk about “culture fit,” we usually often talk about work/life balance, office wardrobe, and whether there’s a ping pong table in the cafeteria. But for me, culture fit is about how much I have to push to get people to understand what I’m talking about. I don’t mind coaching, and a scrum master is always going to have a lot of opportunities to help the team learn and improve.

But I really love it when the company is already on that path, and I no longer have to explain what I do, just how I do it so well during the interview.