Customer Reviews: Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers
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on March 10, 2011
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. It's just hard in a few paragraphs to fully explain each game's flow or give newcomers much in the way of tips or trouble shooting to make a confident go of it. A beefed-up focus on "how to" might have been better for this group (those looking for a primer on facilitation may want to check out Kaner's "Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making"). By contrast, seasoned facilitators might want more nuance in other areas, like how to organize the rich info games generate for later use, so it isn't reduced to a bunch of meaningless sound bites -- a challenge with any brainstorming session. Finally, to round out its practical application, a few more examples or links showing how games can be used to solve real-life problems would help (see Daniel Hoang's Amazon review of Gamestorming, for several good online links).
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on August 3, 2010
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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on October 3, 2010
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.

In naming each game and using a pattern-like structure to explain them, it not only makes it easy to read each individual game, but also helps codify them -- packaging them up into a shorthand that people came refer to and apply quickly with shared understanding.

The authors mention using the games in 'knowledge work' situations, but I feel that it is really applicable to any industry. The things that they are really talking about address real LEADERSHIP, rather than industrial-age, control-focused management approaches that apply less and less to even manufacturing industries today. (I find a lot of ideas in the book reflecting the organizational learning approaches advocated by Senge and Mintzberg.)

You'll find the likely-used-too-often SWOT method in this book, and probably many more that you're already familiar with. But like me, I bet you'll read a few more that you'll be thinking about applying in a future meeting, project, or even when you're stuck for ideas working on your own.

Read the first 75 pages to start, and look through the rest of the games as you can, and keep it nearby as reference for your next strategy session.
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on August 1, 2010
"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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on March 3, 2011
If everyone read Gamestorming, we wouldn't have boring and nonproductive meetings.

The first three chapters the foundation for skills and knowledge you need to use games in your meetings. I particularly love the section on employing visual language and the visual alphabet. It's true that anyone can draw and illustrate using just basic shapes and lines.
Chapter 1. What is a Game?
Chapter 2. 10 Essentials for Gamestorming
Chapter 3. Core Gamestorming Skills

The rest of the book is a compilation of various types of games that can be used. The first three chapters make an excellent read. The remaining chapters are great as reference. There's a very vibrant community on Twitter and at the website I would say this book is similar to David Allen's Get Things Done and how it spawned a community of GTD geeks who tailored the system for their own needs. I predict that there will be new apps, tools, and kits that will spawn from this book.
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on May 3, 2012
Gamestorming was a very interesting book, I was under the mistaken impression (for about 5 minutes) that it was a book about gamification of applications. but i was quickly corrected - it is a book about how to use gaming or games to help mainly with generating ideas but also as a more general business tool

the permise is that you would think that business people would look at gaming as not intellectual enough or not scientific enough and develops the idea that games can be made into very useful and controlled tools that can help you and the business in general become more creative and overcome all kinds of creative and other obstacles using gaming principles and even actual games

the author argues that using the right games in the right framework and settings can be a very powerful tool for you as a manager

he goes on to give examples of different problems that were solved with games and how that was managed he then describes his framework of using games to solve problems and generate ideas through a organized process to control the naturally chaotic and undisciplined thing that a game is. after that he goes on to explain a bit about creativity and different ways to look at a problem using different sketching techniques and views.

and to finish it off he details very LONG lists of games for different types of problems along with a brief description of the game rules and important information not excluding credit to the originator of the game idea

all in all I found it a very interesting book teaching an interesting and seemingly useful way of helping creativity flow in an organization with controls put in place to help guide and navigate this creativity into paths and channels that would benefit the organization and its goals instead of just expending itself on meaningless ideas
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VINE VOICEon August 2, 2014
In our Management Consulting practice, we frequently have to facilitate meetings with executives, sales people, call center agents and IT professionals. Using standard Q&A formats as laborious for the attendees, often leaving them open to distractions, and can result in losing focus. The methods outlined in Game Storming are great tools to speed up meetings, keep attendees highly engaged, extract better decisions and clearer requirements.

Word of warning - it takes a lot more prep time to pull together meetings like this. Game Storming is not something to pull out the day before a meeting. On the other hand, you will find that your follow-up after the meeting is much more efficient.
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on August 20, 2015
Dave does deserve a lot of credit for compiling the possible management activities into a book, which can act as a ready reckoner for some meeting. While I bought the Kindle edition, but I feel this should be bought as a hard copy and kept in the office for referencing.

What I liked was the logical sequencing of the events (with particular focus on opening an closing), the clarity with which the acitivities were laid out and the checkpoints to decide whether the particular event is suited for a particular outcome. While some of them were familiar, however, there were still some which were quite interesting. I found "The Anti-Problem" activity very interesting and would like to try it out whenever we are stuck in an issue next time. Brainwriting was another interesting activity as it helps to get the view points of all in the room and not just the vociferous ones. Pecha Kucha is also exciting and have already tried it out a couple of time (not knowing that it had a name, just that had a very limited time and had to cover various topics). And I got the first proper reference for an elevator pitch .

What didnt work for me was that most of the activities could not be categories as 'game' by any stretch of logic. e. g. SWOT analysis. And also it would have been more interesting if some real life examples would have been quoted rather than imaginary situation. Each activity could have been a short story, engaging the readers much more. In the current format, it remains a good compilation, but a bit of pain to go through.
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on July 27, 2010
With Gamestorming Dave, Sunni, and James created one of the most valuable and applicable collection of tools and techniques for organizational design that I have ever come across. The "games" outlined in the book help you make ideas more tangible and meetings more productive, notably through visual techniques. Gamestorming is a window into the future of how groups will work.

There is no way around this book if you are serious about making innovation and change happen in your organization.
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on September 19, 2010
Gamestorming isn't about gaming, at least not in the traditional sense.
It's a book dedicated to using a gaming model to solve problems and move projects forward in a work environment. Gamestorming provides the reader with a non-traditional tool set, relying heavily on the visual side of working with questions, ideas, and answers.

Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo begin the journey into gamestorming by defining just what games are, how we interact with and in them, and how games resolve. Mapping problem solving onto a game setting gives the reader a way to take ideas, questions, and possible solutions out of the purely head space and make it visual and tactile.

Dave Gray's influence is strong in this book, with constant visual focus. Taking the game visual leads to the concept of artifacts, from simple sticky notes to full blow constructs of paper and other materials.

Describing the book doesn't give it enough credit for being useful. OFten we fall into the rapid exchange of emails, or even just long phone conversations. If we move beyond that to webinars and desktop demonstrations we still find ourselves trapped in the confines of those environments.

Dave, Sunni and James challenge us to remove the constraints and tackle things with an open mind, even playful. Start by opening the discussion to as many thoughts about it as possible. Then, rather than plodding through how a screen or app is broken and trying to patch it, the gamestorming approach has us take an uninhibited look at what would be ideal.

Wrapping up a session would be the closing questions. These questions are the where do we go from here, or how do we implement type. Note that during the experimental middle ground the focus isn't on the details of how to make it work but on how it would work in an ideal world.

I'd recommend this book for managers and their teams.

(Disclaimer: I received a free evaluation copy of this book and was asked to give an honest review, good or bad.)
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