Young Upstarts

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[Review] Gamestorming

Stumped by an insurmountable problem at work? Keen to generate ideas that are “out of the screen”? Wish to find a way to make “gaming” come to life?

With “Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers” by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo, you now can.

Written in an easily digestible format laced with useful illustrations and examples, “Gamestorming” provides a useful blend of theory, tools, and techniques that anybody tasked with collective problem solving can adopt. As a “Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers”, the slim volume highlights the rules of the game world, the basics of game design (target and initial states, opening, exploring and closing), as well as tips on drawing.


Source of image

Equipped with colorful markers, flip chart paper, and post it pads, one can choose from a wide assortment of games to resolve any situation. The games are divided into Core Games, Games for Opening (to trigger divergent thinking), Games for Exploring (to uncover emerging trends), and Games for Closing (to converge and arrive at conclusions).

Some of the easier “basic” ones include storyboarding, dot voting (using colored dot stickers to vote for an idea), the Pain-Gain map and the SWOT analysis. Others such as bodystorming – a process involving the recreation of a business scenario with props, tables, chairs, and role playing – are more involved.


Bodystorming in action (courtesy of Gamestorming)

There are numerous games being covered in the book, complete with wonderful illustrations. Examples of the games being covered are visually highlighted below (NB – you can actually access all of them free at their wiki):


The 7 “P”s puts a new spin on a marketing acronym (courtesy of Gamestorming)


The Speed Boat helps you define what your customers/employees dislike about your product or service (ie the anchors) (courtesy of Gamestorming)

Before you leap forth to try some of these games in your own organization, consider the 10 Essentials for Gamestorming by the authors, namely:

1. Opening and Closing – After sparking off the imagination and ideas of participants, remember to bring things to a close.

2. Fire Starting – Warming up is always important, and this can be done by icebreakers.

3. Artifacts – Consider the items that you need for gaming such as cards, dice, post-its, flip charts, tables, chairs and so on.

4. Node Generation – A node is an artifact (post it or card) that forms part of a gaming system.

5. Meaningful Space – This provides the “game arena” where you play and can be a white board, wall or table.

6. Sketching and Model Making – This is key as gaming which engages the right “creative” side of the brain involves making stuff that is visual and transcends words.

7. Randomness, Reversal and Reframing – Essentially, you need to mix things up a little and consider an opposite way of viewing things.

8. Improvisation – Make things up as you along like jazz players as opposed to musicians in an orchestra.

9. Selection – This is where closure comes into place through voting, forced ranking and other means of streamlining.

10. Try Something New – The spirit of gamestorming is that you should always be willing to use different tools. If at first you don’t succeed, try a new game!


The Betacup Challenge shows how gamestorming helps (courtesy of Betacup)

The book concludes with a heartwarming story of how Toby Daniels – a participant in an event called Overlap – applied the principles of gamestorming to successfully launch the Betacup challenge. This idea was to replace the billions of disposable cups used in coffee outlets like Starbucks with more sustainable options.

Gamestorming” provides many great ideas to trigger your organization’s creativity while bonding staff members through teamwork. I highly recommend this book to anybody looking to create the next big thing (or just solve that irritating problem). Check out the author’s great website too!


Walter is a corporate professional with more than 15 years of experience in marketing, public relations, social media, events management, strategic planning and corporate development. He blogs at Cooler Insights.

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