Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Review: Gamestorming

Gamestorming by Dave Grey, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo

Gamestorming is a handbook for icebreaking, brainstorming and strategizing. It describes a process that begins with an "open," one or more "exploration" phases and then a "close."

With an "open" you set the stage, you define what is, you start getting the creative juices flowing.  "Exploration" does just that - dig into concepts, look at them in a new way, prioritize. And then in the "close" phase you try to bring it back home - synthesize learnings, create action items, make conclusions.

And then the book is filled with games to you can use. There are ones I've participated in before and ones I hadn't seen before. Some I want to try and some I'm not so excited about. There's also a section on questions you can ask to focus or reframe when you get stuck, ways to see patterns and construct or deconstruct ideas and even a section on sketching because they say it's crucial to your success in leading these games, to be comfortable sketching in front of a group. (Or at the very least, sketching in light pencil ahead of time and then going back over it with a thicker Sharpie in front of the participants.)


Each game is presented like a recipe - objective, number of participants, expected duration, and then the steps detailing how to play. There's a fair number of sketches to go along with the instructions, naturally.

The games range from the pre-mortem to making collages from images you find in a magazine. There's also all different kinds of ways of prioritizing when you have a large list of good ideas and you need to distill it down and bring focus. There's nothing earth-shattering here - this isn't some new approach, just a good collection of the types of things that work well when you're looking for innovation and new ideas and trying to make sure everyone has the chance to be involved.  My favorites were definitely the "exploration" ones, such as:

  • The Five Why's - ask a why question. Ask a why question of the answer. Repeat until you've asked five times. That's how you really get at the heart of the problem.
  • Building a Checklist - once you see the steps, you can see what's missing
  • Design the Box - if the outcome of your work were to be packaged for retail, what would the box look like? (Suggests bringing in wrapped cereal boxes so that each person can create one and present it.)
  • Five-Fingered Consensus - a way to gauge the level of consensus (On the subject of x, who here thinks this is a good idea? 5 fingers if you strongly agree, 4 if you somewhat, 3 if you neither agree or disagree, 2 if you disagree somewhat, 1 if you strongly disagree). Also good for splitting people into groups so that everyone who's very much in agreement can work together to explain why and everyone who's not in agreement can make their case as a group.
  • Pain/Gain Map - draw a person in the middle and then on one side, their pains and the other side, the gains (aspirations, measures of success, desires) on the other
  • The Pitch - getting ready to meet with impatient VCs who will or won't invest in your idea
  • Speedboat - draw a speedboat. Then put up post-its (anchors) that are slowing the speedboat down. Helps you look at where you need to focus to get the speedboat moving quickly.
  • SWOT Analysis - strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats
  • NUF Test - new, useful, feasible - a way of deciding amongst options
This is probably a good book to have in your corporate library if you are working to be more innovative and want some new ideas or a quick reference when trying to reach a certain kind of outcome.
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