Book Review: Gamestorming

In the book, Gamestorming, Dave Grey, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo have documented a wide variety of brainstorming games for use in problem-solving situations.  While I haven’t made my way that far into the games themselves yet, I appreciate the introductory material, which offers some structure around the game concepts.  First, the authors stress the difference between the goals of brainstorming games and critical thinking.  Critical thinking is largely about analyzing, reducing, simplifying, and eliminating alternatives – evaluating options to choose a path forward.  Brainstorming games are all about generating ideas – making space for creative discovery, cross-pollination of ideas among diverse people, and creating a ‘game world,’ in which new, unexpected ideas arise.

The authors define a starting point, A,  and an ending point, B, and the space between them is referred to as the Challenge Space.  In Gamestorming, the idea is to move from point A to point B, but not necessarily in a linear fashion, and they recommend having Fuzzy Goals.  Fuzzy Goals, they say, are emotional, sensory, and progressive.  Because the goals are not precise, “the way we approach the challenge space cannot be designed in advance, nor can it  be fully predicted.”  Experimentation, exploration, and trial and error represent approaches that are important to successful Gamestorming.

Gamestorming struck me as a useful practical and tactical tool, in that it’s packed full of various games to employ with any group that needs to generate ideas and solutions outside the context of their normal, structured, operating process.  It also represents a practice that works well with Complexity Theory.  Because ideas emerge from a system based on relationships and interaction between the people in the system, games like those described in the book could be invaluable tools that support the emergence of new ideas.  By getting people in a room together, and encouraging them to interact in new ways, you put them in an environment that is designed to foster unpredictable outcomes.

In many cases, especially in the business world, teams work to predict and to eliminate disruption caused by unplanned for events.  Complexity theory, though, tells us that unpredictable outcomes are not only inevitable, but can be harnessed if we approach them in an open-minded way.  This book is just one example of how we can apply complexity theory to practice.  I highly recommend the book, especially for those of us that sometimes need outside ideas to get us started along the path of creative thinking.

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