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The Friendly Feud Game: The secret to making better product decisions

How I effectively surface diverse opinions to aid better decisions with my team at Uber.
Product strategy is often not about what to do, but what not to do. Product leaders across companies have codified this principle as the belief that if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.
Yet nailing a small set of priorities is one of the most elusive steps in product planning. Unlike the first phase of planning, which usually involves inclusive, fun brainstorms on what is possible, the final phase involves the much less fun and rarely inclusive step of deprioritizing most of the exciting new ideas to drive focus on fewer things done well.
I used to dread discussions on priorities as they tend to be unwieldy:
Participants rarely have depth across all potential priorities making it difficult to discuss trade-offs.
Educating participants on all potential priorities is highly inefficient. Documenting each potential priority is very labor-intensive and the write-ups, created ahead of the discussion, rarely address the most pertinent concerns.
The meetings tend to drift towards the most exciting or well-understood priorities, rather than focusing on the most consequential trade-offs.
The discussion is often dominated by the most extroverted, not the most knowledgeable, participants.

The most common solution to limit the unwieldiness is to limit participation; with fewer participants, there are fewer opportunities to go off the rails. But at Uber, I was introduced to a much better approach—The Friendly Feud Game—which allows for focused prioritization discussions even in very large forums. Its a high energy, fun, and much more inclusive approach.
We have successfully played Friendly Feud with more than 25 participants at Uber and play it for anything that requires a cut line in a stack rank: Priorities, detailed initiatives, KPI’s, etc.
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Friendly Feud: Effectively mitigating information asymmetry
The Friendly Feud game efficiently surfaces information asymmetry and directs discussion to the most consequential points of disagreement. And as an added bonus, it’s easy to play.
Given a list of potential priorities, assemble your leadership team in a (virtual) room and have them score every potential priority on a 1 - 10 scale. The scale is subjective to each individual: 1 is the worst possible idea, 10 is the best possible idea. Participants can use as many points as they would like, and they are free to add additional priorities they feel are missing.
Here’s an example of a participant scoring each initiative. Go ahead, give it a shot! Move the sliders to score on initiatives. 👇
Search
Player
Initiative
Score (slider)
1
LT
Lola Tseudonym
Self-driving stroller
00
7
2
LT
Lola Tseudonym
Driver crypto tokens
00
9
3
LT
Lola Tseudonym
Autonomous toothbrushes
00
2
4
LT
Lola Tseudonym
Lawn Care as a Service
00
8
5
LT
Lola Tseudonym
Mobile app redesign
00
8
No results from filter

As scoring begins, a shared screen will display the of every priority and score as it evolves over time. The matrix is sorted with the highest scoring priority on top and lowest on the bottom. Everyone can see what everyone else is scoring and questions & clarifications are encouraged. Inevitably some proposed initiatives will require clarification, the facilitator should call out someone who scored the initiative ‘10’ to briefly explain what the initiative covers
The exercise solves for simplicity of play. Leads do not have to be calibrated on what constitutes a 1 and what constitutes a 10, are allowed to allocate different subtotal of points, and participation can be very wide and open. The resulting stack rank therefore cannot be used as a voting mechanism for making decisions; it is a mechanism for efficiently creating a rough stack rank that can be used to facilitate a productive discussion.
Search
LT
Lola Tseudonym
BD
Buck Dubois
PR
Polly Rose
FM
Felix Marlin
AD
Adam Davis
JZ
Jingxin Zhao
Self-driving stroller
7
10
9
1
6
5
Mobile app redesign
8
10
9
8
7
3
Driver crypto tokens
9
1
1
7
10
5
Autonomous toothbrushes
2
3
1
2
1
9
Lawn Care as a Service
8
10
2
1
6
8
The shared scorecard

After a while, the scores will settle, and usually three distinct segments will appear:
1. Broad support initiatives: All or most leads scores priority 8+.
image.png
2. Conflicted initiatives: Some leads scores 8+ AND some leads have scored 3 or less.
image.png
3. Low priority initiatives: All or most leads have scored 3 or less.
image.png
The key to unlocking productive discussion is for the facilitator to start in the middle segment. The matrix lays out very clearly who is strongly for and strongly against a given priority, so the facilitator can drive a very focused, constructive disagreement with the two parties that disagree, starting from the top of the “conflicted” segment.
Priorities that have broad support, previously the focus of most of our discussions, can be ignored for the purposes of information asymmetry, as can priorities that have little to no support (its not uncommon that a few proposed priorities have 1 and 2s only across all leads).
Instead, we can focus on the most intense points of conflict, and who is disagreeing. Often, it’s one or two people on the opposite ends of the spectrum, with very different underlying information and beliefs. Facilitating these types of discussions can produce the most productive outcomes. And because it’s a game, we encourage conflict in a playful, safe way. Comments and changing answers are encouraged.
Playing the game
The purpose of Friendly Feud is to make sure everyone feels heard while arming the decision-maker with information and views on points of conflict. I’ve built this doc to do both. Here’s what you can expect from the following pages:
: Where the game is played.
: New to the game? Here are some brief instructions.
: Ready to play? Join the game from this page.
: A table that shows everyone's scores for each initiative.
: A table that includes every initiative discussed.
: A table to keep track of discussion participants and their scores.

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Frequently Asked Questions
Since implementing this game, I’ve fielded a some specific, and helpful, questions. Here are the highlights:
How much time should we allocate for this game?
We usually play for 2 hours at a time, any longer and the room runs out of energy. It is better to play multiple rounds than to try to pull off a marathon session. It usually takes 30 minutes to do the initial voting and 90 minutes can be allocated to discussion.
Can it be played virtually?
Yes! With less than 10 participants I encourage everyone to be unmuted to facilitate discussion. With more than 10 participants the facilitator should start a chat channel for discussion.
Who should participate?
The only requirement is that the final decision maker is in the room to understand the debate. Go for a wide, cross-functional set of participants. The game can be played in groups of 20 people or more.
Why would we not have participants allocate the same amount of points (don’t participants need to have a shared understanding of what is a 10 and what is a 1)?
This exercise is not a vote - the final decision maker is under no obligation to follow the stack rank and this should be made clear to participants ahead of time. The goal is to efficiently surface trade-offs and subjective scoring suffices for this purpose and makes the game simpler to play.
What if an initiative is missing?
Any participant can add during scoring. The facilitator should keep an eye on initiatives added during the voting and call out incomplete scoring.
What if a participant does not know what a proposed initiative would cover?
The facilitator should call out someone who scored the initiative ‘10’ to briefly explain what the initiative covers. An additional signal for a poorly understood initiative is a lot of ‘5’ scores by participants.
What if an initiative covers several components?
The facilitator should break out the components individually as separate line items. A longer list of more specific initiatives is more instructive than opaque, grouped initiatives.
What should I be focused on as a facilitator?
During scoring, your main job is to make sure everyone has scored on all initiatives.
During the discussion, your main job is making sure the discussion is focused on the highly split initiatives, call upon the highest scoring and lowest scoring to each make their case and move the group on when the arguments become circular.
Can the facilitator and final decision maker be the same person?
I don’t recommend it. Facilitation is a very active task that makes it difficult to also fully absorb discussion. A BizOps lead or a Chief of Staff are well suited facilitators.
Can the facilitator vote / can the decision-maker vote?
Yes.
A special thanks to everyone who took the time to review this doc and added their feedback: Rohan Rajiv, Sanjeev Kapur, and Eckart Walther.
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