Gamestorming by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo is a kind of new era business book published by O’Reilly that largely consists of games that can be used with small groups to generate ideas, explore alternatives, prioritize choices and generally have more fun making better decisions.
One of the things I like most about Gamestorming is that it provides the tools that organizations typically pay “facilitators” tens of thousands of dollars to do for them. Gamestorming provides the basic rules and framework and then proceeds to detail over 80 different games that can be used to address the myriad situations that come up in day-to-day operations.
Most organizations would welcome more innovation, a greater ability to change and a more fulfilling and fun culture for their employees. This book is probably the fastest and easiest – and most economical – way to make that happen.
The first part of the book contains background that some will find very useful and serves as a basis for understanding the notion of using games in a business context. The remainder is organized into four main sections, each containing dozens of games to tackle various objectives. These are worth describing along with some of our favorites from each section. No doubt everyone will have their own preferences based on their style and business problems, but that’s very much in line with what the book is about. Take what works, make it your own.
Core Games: These games are the backbone of group thinking and decision making. I especially liked “The Empathy Map” (p.65) which rapidly develops an inside view of the person on the other side of the table at a personal level. Lots of analysis goes into situations, but thinking about how the other main actor sees, hears, says, feels and works is likely to yield more useful insight into how that person will react than anything else. This is often underestimated or totally overlooked.
Games for Opening: In “Cover Story” (p.87), a group is asked to construct the front feature set for a magazine cover story about their ultimate success. The process helps team members think big and also outline key elements that will make up the substance of a big success. The “Heuristic Ideation Technique” (p.98) is a lousy name for a simple and powerful method of forcing lateral thinking across a number of known categories to come up with new ideas. This is simple and can lead to important findings in an hour. An “Object Brainstorm” (p.109) is perfect for companies involved with physical goods; it focuses on a real object that catalyzes a discussion about how that object will evolve in the future. A simple idea; but often a physical object triggers thoughts and ideas that won’t happen with just paper and images.
Games for Exploring: This is a big chapter – my favorite offering by far is a fairly involved game called “Product Pinocchio” (p.194). This game animates a product or service and has the group define characteristics in different areas like “What am I like?” “What are my values?” “What is my community?” “What makes me different?” and “What is my fight?” This gets at not just functions of a product but also design, attitude, marketing, audience and personality.
Games for Closing: This is the slimmest and least interesting of the chapters. However, the “Impact & Effort Matrix” (p241), if combined with the “NUF Test” (p.244), generates a useful way to prioritize items along multiple dimensions that should maximize return on effort.
There were some cool little tips that I liked in the book, such as making agendas in the form of pie charts (p.112) with time allocations rather than the typical inline listing. It forces an allocation and an awareness of how much time is spent on each item. Talking chips (p.217) are another game element to add variety and some fun to group meetings rather than simply going around the table for a discussion. Adding elements of surprise and control for the participants eliminates the drudgery and can spark some new sequences of ideas.
The book is an amalgam of ideas from many areas of management, consulting, and thinking so there’s sure to be something for everyone. I’m reminded of authors like De Bono (Lateral Thinking, Six Thinking Hats) who help people think more effectively. This book is a collection of many good ideas that can be put into practice with little effort.
The team also maintains a nifty website that is worth a visit.
[Disclosure: I received this book in the hope that I would read and review it.]