Simplicity Cups: Workshop game for learning simplicity

Simplicity Cups is a game you can play to train your teams in applying the laws of simplicity.

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it to a 6-​year-​old, you don’t understand it yourself”. It’s so true! Here at Brutal Pixie, we live to the value Simplicity is Mastery. And so, we developed a game to play with clients’ teams, which helps people to understand and apply the 10 Laws of Simplicity. It’s highly practical, enormously interesting, and great fun.

You can read more fabulous quotes about simplicity here.

How to play Simplicity Cups

Number of players: 10 — 20
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Run time: 75 minutes approx

Assumed knowledge: The 10 Laws of Simplicity. Make sure you run a session teaching people what they are before you play this game! You can add it on to the front of the game, and it will take 15 minutes or less. We like to put some giant cards on a board (one for each law) as we teach it. That way, players can take a reference card with them while they play this game.

What you need:

  • 10 disposable cups
  • 1 marker
  • 2 pages of complex writing from your actual business (annual reports are a good place to start)
  • pair of scissors.


  • Take your 10 cups and turn them upside-​down.
  • Using the marker, write a number on each cup (from 1 to 10).
  • Choose 3 small snippets of complex writing from the documents. Make sure they are long enough that you can work with them. A good rule of thumb is two to three paragraphs; or information presented in a combination of forms (such as narrative + tables, images + tables).
  • Print and cut out three copies of each snippet.
  • Print one full version of the pages that the snippets are from.

Play the game

  1. The ideal number of people for this game is 20. It allows people to work in pairs, talk about the problem, and come up with solutions using their teamwork skills.
  2. Ask the participants to form pairs.
  3. On a table at the front, arrange the cups in numerical order. Under each cup place one folded up snippet: Put the small snippets in numbers 1 through 9.
  4. Under cup 10 put the full extract, folded up. This is because the 10th Law of Simplicity is also the only one to remember if you forget the rest (subtract the obvious, add the meaningful).
  5. Explain to the group that each cup represents one law of simplicity. Inside each cup is an activity. Each pair will come and pick up a cup, and apply to their law to whatever is inside it. They will need to:
    1. Decide how to apply their law to whatever is inside the cup
    2. Make recommendations for how to treat whatever is inside the cup to make it simpler, using only their law if possible
    3. Present their law, their method and recommendations back to the group.
  6. One at a time, ask a pair to come and pick up a cup.
  7. Allow 5 – 10 minutes for the pairs to run the activity. Make sure you’re available to respond to questions by each pair.
  8. When enough time has elapsed, ask each pair to present to the group.
  9. Ask each pair what their key learning was in running the activity. Not having thought about it ahead of time, the players will tell you the thing that immediately occurs to them, which is usually the most important.

Common outcomes

When we have played this game with clients, here are some comments that people have made about what they learned. Are they the same as what you’ve heard, too?:

  • Applying this law also makes me think about the other laws
  • With more people involved, there is more opportunity to come up with new ideas
  • The same piece can be really different depending on how you look at it
  • The One Rule (Law 10) really does do result in similar things to all the others

and so on.

Simplicity Cups is free to print and use!

This is licensed under Creative Commons. So, feel free to print and use this game!

Creative Commons License
Simplicity Cups: Workshop game for learning simplicity by Brutal Pixie Pty. Ltd. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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