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Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers Paperback – July 30, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (July 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596804172
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596804176
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Play a Game from Gamestorming

We're hardwired to play games. We play them for fun. We play them in our social interactions. We play them at work. That last one is tricky. "Games" and "work" don't seem like a natural pairing. Their coupling in the workplace either implies goofing off (the fun variant) or office politics (the not-so-fun type).

The authors of Gamestorming, have a different perspective. They contend that an embrace and understanding of game mechanics can yield benefits in many work environments, particularly those where old hierarchical models are no longer applicable, like the creatively driven knowledge work of today’s cutting edge industries.

Here is one of the 83 games featured in Gamestorming:

The ELEVATOR PITCH Game

OBJECTIVE OF PLAY: What has been a time-proven exercise in product development applies equally well in developing any new idea: writing the elevator pitch. When developing and communicating a vision for something, whether it’s a new service, a company-wide initiative, or just a good idea that merits spreading, a group will benefit from going through the exercise of writing their elevator pitch.

Often this is the hardest thing to do in developing a new idea. An elevator pitch must be short enough to deliver in a fictional elevator ride but also contain a compelling description of the problem you’re solving, who you’ll solve it for, and one key benefit that distinguishes it from other ideas.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: Can be done individually, or with a small working group

DURATION OF PLAY: Save at least 90 minutes for the entire exercise, and consider a short break after the initial idea generation is complete before prioritizing and shaping the pitch itself. Small working groups will have an easier time coming to a final pitch; in some cases it may be necessary to assign one person with follow-up accountability for the final wording after the large decisions have been made in the exercise.

HOW TO PLAY: Going through the exercise involves both a generating and a formative phase. To set up the generating phase, write these headers in sequence on flip charts:

  • Who is the target customer?
  • What is the customer need?
  • What is the product name?
  • What is its market category?
  • What is its key benefit?
  • Who or what is the competition?
  • What is the product’s unique differentiator?
These will become the elements of the elevator pitch. They are in a sequence that adheres to the following formula.

To finish the setup, explain the elements and their connection to each other:

  • The target customer and customer need are deceptively simple: any relatively good idea or product will likely have many potential customers and address a greater number of needs. In the generative phase, all of these are welcome ideas.
  • It is helpful to fix the product name in advance--this will help contain the scope of the conversation and focus the participants on “what” the pitch is about. It is not outside the realm of possibility, however, that useful ideas will be generated in the course of the exercise that relate to the product name, so it may be left open to interpretation.
  • The market category should be an easily understood description of the type of idea or product. It may sound like “employee portal” or “training program” or “peer-to-peer community.” The category gives an important frame of reference for the target customer, from which they will base comparisons and perceive value.
  • The key benefit will be one of the hardest areas for the group to shape in the final pitch. This is the single most compelling reason a target customer would buy into the idea. In an elevator pitch, there is no time to confuse the matter with multiple benefits--there can be only one memorable reason “why to buy.” However, in the generative phase, all ideas are welcome.
  • The competition and unique differentiator put the final punctuation on the pitch. Who or what will the target customer compare this idea to, and what’s unique about this idea? In some cases, the competition may literally be another firm or product. In other cases, it may be “the existing training program” or “the last time we tried a big change initiative.” The unique differentiator should be just that: unique to this idea or approach, in a way that distinguishes it in comparison to the competition.

The Generating Phase
Once the elements are understood, participants brainstorm ideas on sticky notes that fit under each header. At first, they should generate freely, without discussion or analysis, any ideas that fit into any of the categories. Using the Post-Up technique, participants put their notes onto the flip charts and share their ideas.

Next, the group may discuss areas where they have the most trouble on their current pitch. Do we know enough about the competition to claim a unique differentiator? Do we agree on a target customer? Is our market category defined, or are we trying to define something new? Where do we need to focus?

Before stepping into the formative phase, the group may use dot voting, affinity mapping, or another method to prioritize and cull their ideas in each category.

The Formative Phase
Following a discussion and reflection on the possible elements of a pitch, the group then has the task of “trying out” some possibilities. This may be done by breaking into small groups, as pairs, or as individuals, depending on the size of the larger group. Each group is given the task of writing an elevator pitch, based on the ideas on the flip charts.

After a set amount of time (15 minutes may be sufficient), the groups reconvene and present their draft versions of the pitch. The group may choose to role-play as a target customer while listening to the pitch, and comment or ask questions of the presenters.

The exercise is complete when there is a strong direction among the group on what the pitch should and should not contain. One potential outcome is the crafting of distinct pitches for different target customers; you may direct the group to focus on this during the formative stage.

STRATEGY
Don’t aim for final wording with a large group. It’s an achievement if you can get to that level of completion, but it’s not critical and can be shaped after the exercise. What is important is that the group decides what is and is not a part of the pitch.

Role play is the fastest way to test a pitch. Assuming the role of a customer (or getting some real customers to participate in the exercise) will help filter out the jargon and empty terms that may interfere with a clear pitch. If the pitch is truly believable and compelling, participants should have no problem making it real with customers.

The elevator pitch, or elevator speech, is a traditional staple of the venture capital community, based on the idea that if you are pitching a business idea it should be simple enough to convey on a short elevator ride.

About the Author

Dave Gray is the Founder and Chairman of XPLANE, the visual thinking company. Founded in 1993, XPLANE has grown to be the world's leading consulting and design firm focused on information-driven communications. Dave's time is spent researching and writing on visual business, as well as speaking, coaching and delivering workshops to educators, corporate clients and the public. He is also a founding member of VizThink, an international community of Visual Thinkers.
Sunni Brown, M.P.A., is Owner of BrightSpot Info Design, a company specializing in visual thinking to support organizational and group success. Sunni was trained in graphic facilitation at The Grove Consultants International, a San Francisco-based company that pioneered the use of visuals in meetings and group processes. She is currently an Associate of The Grove, a freelance consultant for XPlane - the visual thinking company - and an Associate of Alphachimp Studios. She is also co-Founder of VizThink Austin, currently the largest visual thinking community in the United States. Sunni presents regularly on the topics of graphic facilitation, graphic recording and visual thinking. She is also a contributing researcher for Nancy Duarte's upcoming book on storytelling and presentations. Sunni holds Bachelor's degrees in Journalism and Linguistics and a Master's in Public Affairs from the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs. She lives in Austin, TX.
James Macanufo: As a consultant at XPLANE, James helps large technology and government clients develop their vision, strategy and communication plans. He is actively obsessed with understanding what things are, the way they work, and why they matter. He is also an occasional inventor of card games.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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This is just the kind of book I was looking for.
NNNMMM
More than just a collection of fun activities, these games provoke creative idea generation by providing imaginative but structured frameworks for ideation.
eJaeson
The metaphor of life as a game is well worked over.
C. Avampato

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Ken Rider on March 10, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The authors deserve credit for pulling the content of this book together and organizing it in a way that is inviting and intuitive to read and browse. It's all about using games to help groups of people think about and address business challenges in creative ways. Although it has 8 chapters, Gamestorming really divides into two major sections: (1) an introductory set of chapters that define what games are, their key characteristics and skills for effective play and (2) an expansive collection of about 90 games, each with rules and strategy explained in one to three pages of text. The book concludes with a short example of how to put games to practical use.

PROS: Gamestorming is an engaging, one-of-a-kind resource for using games in business settings. The introduction and early chapters are well geared to those without much gaming background and do a good job explaining how games can be used to help groups define problems, clarify thinking, generate ideas and ID next steps. There is even a small section with simple drawing tips for illustrating ideas...a nice addition. The diverse selection of games, which appropriately fills more than three-quarters of the book, is applicable to a range of situations. Think of it like a collection of "recipes" for games, which good facilitators can follow exactly or adapt to their own needs. Purely as an idea book for business games, it would rate at least a "4" but there are a few things that make it less useful than it probably could be for some audiences.

CONS: The book is ambitiously written for "the novice and the experienced practitioner alike," but appealing to everyone can be tough. Novice facilitators will like the intro but may find the later sections somewhat lite on game strategy.
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful By C. Avampato on August 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
For several weeks, I've been combing my bookshelves for activities to incorporate into my LIM College class on social media marketing. I wanted games to drive home the information in unconventional, interactive ways. I went to my theatre books, my business books, and my books filled with writing exercises. Nothing seemed quite right. And then I found Gamestorming. It felt like a gift out of the sky. My anxiety about the class diminished a bit more with every page.

Gamestorming details games that engage groups, both large and small, in learning and discovery. They work in corporations and in schools, and I'd like to add that they are a valuable tool for navigating just about any decision and complication in life. I found myself noting in nearly every margin how to use each game. The clear, concise description, depictions, and plan for each took a great deal of thought and care from the authors.

The metaphor of life as a game is well worked over. The trouble with the game of life is that there are no rules. You don't make them and neither does anyone else. They change from moment to moment, and the rule that seemed to work today may never be useful again. We are forced in every situation to think on our feet. Gamestorming gives us more confidence and empowers us to take our futures in our own hands.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Murray Thompson on October 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
In their book, Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo have researched and codified a number of strategies to help people generate new ideas, work through them, and act on them. But in making this book, the authors have done more than create a valuable reference of approaches for idea generation and decision-making: they've also begun to create a shared language that we can all make use of.

Rather than going into the games cold, they begin by placing them in the context of a larger framework, allowing the reader to better understand how each game could best suit their situations and mix and match with each other.

Those who've read Gang of Four patterns in the programming world, have dabbled with various design pattern libraries, or are familiar with other collections taking the approach of Christopher Alexander's "A Pattern Language" may find the format recognizable. As they never mention a pattern approach, I'm not sure if the authors intended it that way, but the book is structured in a very similar fashion: naming each game, explaining the basic layout of how it works, and when to apply it.

As with the other pattern-related books, the authors do not claim to know it all, and in fact expect others to discover more patterns -- in this case, the games -- and for the ones they mention to be refined over time. Also similar to the pattern-based approaches, they encourage the reader to use the ones they feel will best fit together for what they need to accomplish, rather than use them in very prescriptive ways.
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43 of 55 people found the following review helpful By C. Hlas on August 1, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Gamestorming" seemed to be chosen as the title of this book because the authors encourage the use of games for the purpose of "brainstorming" (i.e., generating ideas). I find this to be a noble goal because elements of games are underutilized in realms of business, education, etc. However...

Calling the activities presented in the book "games" stretches any definition of the word (which they never define, nor do they formally define gamestorming). The activities that are presented do have rules (maybe "directions" would have been a better word), but lack an objective/goal to make them actual games. For example, "To let leadership understand and be responsive to any and all questions around the topic" (p. 181) is an example of a goal of one of the games in the book. I understand that games are difficult to define, but that goal does not sound like the goal of a game, nor does it sound very fun.

That said, the activity in question ("Help Me Understand") is one that I plan on trying during my first day of class this semester. So if you can get beyond the nomenclature you will find a book with interesting activities for organizing meetings or other groups of people.

Final nit-pick. The book indicates the virtues of iteration in many examples, but never includes iteration as an important attribute of the "games" they create.
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