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The best Workshop Tactics cards we can’t live without

If I’m in a restaurant, I hate deciding what to eat. I’ll ask the waiter which dish they would take to a desert island. 

I could ask, “what do you recommend?”. But I don’t – because they’ll often tell you what you want to hear. They’ll tell you what’s popular. 

I want to know what THEY love, what they couldn’t live without! I’ll always order whatever they recommend, and as a result, I have tried things I wouldn’t usually try and enjoyed things I didn’t think I would enjoy.  

When I was working with Steve Rawling to develop Storyteller Tactics, I posed him the same question: what cards would you take to a desert island? What are the most useful storytelling techniques?

But in my case, as the author of Workshop TacticsI need to answer:what workshop exercises are the most useful? valuable? interesting? repeatable?

This feature made it into the final production of Storyteller Tactics. However, it isn’t a feature in Workshop Tactics yet (we’ll print it in the next edition – now that we’ve published it here!).

You can find the Desert Island cards for Storyteller Tactics here.

Fortunately, Penelope, a Pip Decks community member quizzed me on why there weren’t any Workshop Tactics Desert Island Cards. So I felt obliged to create my list!

Do you have some go-to cards you often start with? Hello everyone!  I'm just getting started with these brilliant tools.  There were some 'Desert Island Cards' with Storyteller Tactics that find useful as a newbie - wondering if there is the same for Workshops?  thank you!

So here they are. These are the most valuable workshops you can repeatedly run with any team, in any context. You can even use them on your own if you do find yourself literally stranded on an island.

The most useful workshops you can run with your team

Who, What, When

Make sure stuff actually gets done.

It’s easy for a meeting or workshop to “happen” and be productive. But sometimes, productivity only happens when people execute what was uncovered in the session.

Who, What, When holds everyone accountable for taking action and making stuff happen. The beauty is in its simplicity. A name. An action. And a due date.

Sticky Steps

Work backwards from your goal

The most powerful way to get unstuck is to break down your problem into tiny steps. The magic behind Sticky Steps is working backwards from the end goal with these small steps. Asking, “what had to happen just before for this step to be possible?” helps you uncover hidden steps you might not have thought about.

The result is a very intricate, step-by-step plan for reaching your goal. What’s not to love about that? And yes, stuff happens that can change the course of what you’re doing, but it’s always good to plot the path you intend to take even if you don’t end up taking it.

Priority Map (aka 2×2 / Eisenhower Matrix)

Create focus by trading off between two opposing priorities

Life is hard without knowing what to focus on. As a US army general during World War 2, Dwight Eisenhower had to make many tough decisions, day in and day out. This led him to create the now world-famous Eisenhower Matrix, which helps you prioritise by urgency and importance.

Using a 2×2 grid with two opposing priorities is an unrivalled prioritisation method. But the beauty of it is that you can use any two opposing priorities.

One of my favourites is the Impact and Effort Tactic: impact of the outcome versus the effort required to make it happen. These opposing priorities are so useful that it got it’s own card separate to Priority Map.

Journey Map

Understand where your customers needs are not being met

If what you do creates value for an end-user, you are working on a product or service. And understanding where your product or service sits in someone’s life can unlock huge improvements.

Let’s say you are running a hotel. Your guests arrive and shortly leave frustrated after realising there is no WiFi. Their expectations of free WiFi were not met. 

But when our expectations are met, we barely notice. Now, when they’re exceeded – that’s when we’re delighted and experience memorable moments. Like discovering your hotel bathroom has a jacuzzi!

There are an ever increasing amount of non-negotiable elements your product or service must have – as people’s expectations are ever increasing.

By mapping out where someone’s expectations aren’t met, met or exceeded – you can see the glaringly obvious opportunities to serve your customers better. 

Five Whys

Get to the heart of the problem, so you solve it for good.

We tend to tackle what’s in front of us. And that’s largely fine, but unless you get to the root cause of a problem, nothing stops that problem from happening again.

Five Whys is a way of quickly understanding the invisible reasons behind the visible problem. It is the most potent tool in any problem-solver’s arsenal. 

It’s easy to use it wrong though. If you only ask “why?” – it can get quite existential and philosophical quite quickly. You’ve got to keep it focused on the problem at hand.


Make your ideas and problems clear for everyone to understand.

This quick Workshop Tactic helps your workshop participants communicate their ideas with clarity. You can repeatedly use this legendary (and simple) format to great effect when you want to start clarifying ideas or problems. It gets your team to:

  • give a problem or idea a name (makes it real)
  • describe it with a few bullet points (gets to the point)
  • sketch it out (visual reference when scanning lots of material)

The result is a super concise mini-presentation that can stand on its own. You’ve helped them convey what was in their head so that they can more easily share it. And what’s the point in anything if we can’t share our ideas effectively? 


Imagine all the things that might go wrong, so you can mitigate them.

If you’re ever starting a new project with a team, this tactic sets the expectations that you’re actively trying to avoid failure. Obviously, that’s a given – but we don’t tend to make it explicit. Nor do we take action to prevent what obvious things might go wrong. Imagining how you might fail is an effective preventative measure. If I was on the Desert Island, I might do Premortem with myself before I start climbing that coconut tree – it could save my life!

A few worthy shout outs to cards that didn’t quite make the cut are: 

  • Sailboat for helping you help your team understand where they are trying to go and what’s stopping them
  • Crazy Eights for the most rapid idea generation exercise that gets everyone in the zone
  • Reverse Brainstorm for helping the “i’m not an ideas person” type of people realise they are brilliant at coming up with ideas.

So if you’re ever in doubt about what Tactic to pick up – remember these Desert Island Cards. It’s likely that one of these exercises will unlock something for your next workshop! 

Next steps

Check out all of the Workshop Tactics cards online for free. If you fancy diving in even further, pick up the card deck for yourself. 

It comes with access to the Pip Decks community where you can get help and support running workshops.

As well as access The Vault which contains hours of live workshop video tutorials on cards in the deck.

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