Since its publication in 2010, Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers, has received a great deal of high praise.  The authors, Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo, have written an informative and engaging read.  But, as the title indicates, the book was written with a more specific purpose; it was written to catalyze action.  And so it has.

Over the last two years, the principles and strategies featured in Gamestorming have enjoyed steady momentum with an ever-widening audience.  It’s hard to imagine finishing the book without becoming partial to the dynamism of gamestorming methods versus traditional brainstorming methods.  At a recent event in Philadelphia, I learned about the genesis of Gamestorming in greater detail.

(Many thanks to Tactile Design Group for hosting the event and also to Jessica Ivins for facilitating!)

Dave Gray explained (via Skype) that many of the practices he, and others, had been employing for some time are now codified in the book.  Listening to Dave describe those practices that evening, many other questions came to mind.  Below you will find some of those questions, as well as Dave’s responses.

1. How does your training as an artist inform your work with organizations?

DG: “Art training differs from many kinds of professional training in that it tends to be very experiential.  In art school we learn by doing.  This means most theoretical learning is informed by practice.  And as everyone eventually learns, just because something works in theory does not mean it works in practice.  I do think that the experience of going to art school has made me more skeptical of ideas that cannot be tested in the crucible of experience.  My bias is to try and test new ideas before accepting or discounting them.  A good idea applied is better than a great idea that remains a theory.”

2. How has your use of visual thinking strategies within organizations evolved over time?  More recently, how has your own work as a practitioner been influenced by the writing of Gamestorming?

DG: “Certainly the work of putting the Gamestorming ideas into a book forced me and my co-authors to make sure there were no gaps in our experience and understanding.  Only exercises that we had thoroughly tested ourselves were allowed into the book.  In addition, after we released Gamestorming into the world, people have embraced it and amplified it in ways we could never have anticipated.  I might add here that open-sourcing all the material at has involved many, many people in building up a library or pattern language of activities and exercises that could not have been easily compiled any other way.”

3. You have described PRACTICE as essential. What benefits or results have you observed in individuals who commit to the practice of Gamestorming?

DG: “This probably goes back to my art training.  Facilitation is a skill, and it takes an investment of time and energy to develop a skill.  The best facilitators I know take it seriously as a discipline and work hard at it.  The good news about Gamestorming is that in a game-like structure, the burden of facilitation is distributed among a group of people, so you don’t bear that entire burden alone.  And with only a little bit of effort you can get good enough to get positive feedback from your team, which gives you the energy to learn and try more things.

It doesn’t take too much effort to set a positive feedback loop in motion in your organization.”

4. In your experience, which aspects of Gamestorming are organizations or individuals often resistant to, unsure of, or slow to embrace?

DG: “It depends on the organization, but some people have a harder time with physical activities like role-playing, improvisation, bodystorming and so on.  There’s a lot of personal risk there.  People are reluctant to do anything that would make them look foolish in front of a group.  So I like to lead up to that slowly by having people do simple things first, like working with sticky notes, or exercises they can do individually on a table-top, like making simple sketches.  If you let people ease into things they build up their confidence and are often ready for more. 

That said, I do think the physical activities can be great for keeping a group’s energy high and provoking stimulating, breakthrough ideas.  The whole idea of Gamestorming is to get people out of their habitual thought patterns and spark new kinds of thinking.  So I do try to get there.  But like anything big, it helps to start small.”

Among other things, Gamestorming outlines the benefits of utilizing visual thinking strategies.  These methods are a springboard to critical and creative thinking.  In fact, the book concludes with a compelling case study that beautifully illustrates the impact these methods can have on problem finding and problem solving.  But don’t take my word for it…check it out and share YOUR thoughts about Gamestorming!

Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers, will be the focus of the next #creativereads Twitter chat on Tuesday, October 23st at 8pm ET. 
Join us!


Dave Gray, SVP Strategy, Dachis Group, is a management consultant, focused on innovation and change. He works with companies to spark breakthrough thinking, to find and clarify their greatest challenges and opportunities, and to design their way into the future. His previous book, Gamestorming, has sold more than 50,000 copies and has been translated into 16 languages.

© 2012 Kira Campo