// GAMESTORMING : A STRATEGY TO CREATE BETTER
Before we talk about Gamestorming, let’s bury the lead to set the stage a little bit…
What do you think of when you hear the word “brainstorming?”
Like many, you may be quickly reminded of many meetings with high hopes, but that were short on solving real problems. There is a reason why – because unstructured groups generate less creativity than when those same people work individually.
We all know the drill – the team rallies together, participation is encouraged from all, and the meeting organizer assures everyone to speak openly. The meeting starts and BOOM – the loudest people dominate the discussion, all while stick-figures, flowers, and grocery lists are scribbled on to notepads by the rest in frustration. And while a good idea or three may have been generated, one must question how many amazing ideas were muted by the shapeless brainstorming sessions.
There must be a better way!
/ “CREATIVITY IS CONTAGIOUS, PASS IT ON.” – Albert Einstein
In the meeting above, creativity was limited to those with the loudest voice(s). Gamestorming demands that everyone share, a democratization of ideas that sifts for gold in piles upon piles of new ideas that are critiqued.
The key is structure. Where brainstorming is done on a field with no lines or instructions, every Gamestorming exercise has unique rules and requirements that are critical to its success.
The first key to great gamestorming is criticism. Yup, that is the total opposite of brainstorming which insists “there are no bad ideas”. In fact, according to research at UC Berkley, the “debate condition” alone increases creativity by approximately 25%.
Time constraints are also critical. Who hasn’t sat in a brainstorming meeting remembered mostly for meandering discussion about just one or two topics. In Gamestorming, time constraints – where some exercises are just 2-3 minutes in length – force players to free associate with urgency, allowing the open debate to validate it (or filter it out).
And we can’t forget to mix things up. Some people are best at writing, others talking; some are best individually, others in groups. Each Gamestorming session should have a variety of games/exercises that help to showcase the great ideas of every player.
When all of these pieces come together everybody will be contributing equally and in unique ways. Not only does that result in more innovative outcomes, but done frequently it has the potential to enhance the overall culture of an organization.
/ “IF YOU ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU HAVE ALWAYS DONE, YOU WILL ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU HAVE ALWAYS GOT.” – Henry Ford
What is a better question:
- What are our target audiences?
- Who are our friends?
Typically, #1 is used. But the answer, you might be surprised, is often #2. See, a target audience is not only too narrow, but it is also very aligned to business-centric thinking. But the question “who are our friends?” will lead to a longer list that includes the target audience (“our customers”) and many other types of people that can help grow your business indirectly. The end result can be a broad and illuminating audience map!
This example of a question requiring non-linear thinking is part of a game called “Product Pinocchio”. The exercise challenges people to give human qualities to products, websites, and other business objects. You’ll be amazed the creativity and strategic ideas that come from asking “what is my style” (instead of a question about design characteristics), “what are my hobbies” (instead of a question about user experience), “how do I talk” (instead of what’s our tone), and more.
/ “E PLURIBUS UNUM”
Research indicated that the “debate condition” noted about, by itself, will increase idea creation by about 25%. Add in targeted games with time constraints and some rules, and creativity will soar. Take one of the many games built upon short responses on sticky notes (like Product Pinocchio); it is my experience that Gamestorming can generate 6-8x more ideas than a similar activity run as an unstructured brainstorming exercise.
So what do you do with all of this extra data? E pluribus unum – Out of many, one.
Time to use those tools of convergent thinking that we were taught in grade school. The “debate condition” will eliminate some data. Other data might be repeated/confirmed by multiple players. It is often that 100’s of data points will converge into 8-10 summary points.
And from there were can deduce the great ideas necessary to build a strategy.
/ “NO IDEA IS SO OUTLANDISH THAT IT SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED.” – Winston Churchill
At LeftIris we use Gamestorming as a part of the discovery process for nearly all of our projects – content marketing strategy, website development, social media, and video. Why? Because every idea should be considered. From there, what often differentiates OK strategy from great strategy is the ability to gather mountains of information, distill that data down to its essence, and articulate a vision with purpose.
And, in the end, creativity and innovation can be fun if you can make a game of it all.
Have you ever used Gamestorming? If so, what are your experiences, and favorite games? If not, we highly recommend Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by David Gray.