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Gamestorming March 2, 2012

Posted by Arian Shams in Uncategorized.

By Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo

Gamestorming, as illustrated in the Book, is a technique for navigating toward solutions for fuzzy goals. Unlike clear goals, fuzzy goals do not have a foreseeable, step-by-step sequence of processes to follow in order to reach the goal. Instead, fuzzy goals often have uncertain, diverging and converging patterns where ideas are juggled multiple times until a feasible solution is reached. Gamestorming provides a framework to manage the maze of diverging and converging patterns as one navigates towards finding solutions by defining the sequence of activities leading to the goal as a set of games.

What is a Game?

A game is exactly what it sounds like, a game. A game has boundaries in time and space, a set of rules, artifacts, players and goals to achieve. This basic definition applies to sports games, board games and other leisure games but it can also be applied in a business context. For example, brainstorming can be considered a game because it has boundaries in time and space (brainstorm session for one hour in meeting room), a set of rules (all the brainstorm rules we discussed in class such as those from IDEO), artifacts (post-it notes and a board), players (team) and goals to achieve (a collection of ideas on the board).

Playing a single game alone cannot lead to a solution for a fuzzy goal, rather games need to be sequenced, each with a different purpose so that the sequence of games support the diverging and converging patterns of idea exploration often needed to reach the fuzzy goal. The Book defines three chronological acts when designing a game sequence; opening, exploring and closing. There can be any number of game sequences in any number of patterns but the main point is that the conclusion of one sequence feeds into another sequence, thereby producing the diverging and converging patterns of idea exploration until a feasible solution is reached. The three acts of a game sequence are discussed below.


The opening act is composed of games meant to open people’s minds, to get all the ideas out in the open. Opening act games correspond to the diverging part of the diverging/converging pattern. The idea is to jump-start the brain and identify the main themes that need to be explored. Some example games that can be used in the opening act are: brainstorming, heuristic idea creation, and anti-problem.


The exploring act is composed of games meant to examine and experiment with some of the ideas from the opening act. Examining an idea is to study the idea in more depth (narrowing the diverging/converging pattern) whereas experimenting with an idea is to consider other possibilities (expanding the diverging/converging pattern). Some example games that can be used in the exploring act are: 5 whys, affinity maps, and business model canvas (this game is in reference to our business model generation textbook).


The closing act is composed of games meant to move or converge toward a solution. Decisions need to be made in this act as to which ideas will be part of a feasible solution or will feed into the next game sequence. Some example games that can be used in the closing act are: dot voting, $100 test, and forced ranking.


It seems the goal of the book is to define a framework built around the concept of games to guide the reader toward creating a diverging and converging pattern of idea exploration when presented with fuzzy goals. It is useful to break down such a pattern into a set of game sequences with chronological acts because it provides a concrete method of approach to such challenges. In addition, the diverging and converging pattern of these game sequences introduce ideas that may not be apparent if a person approaches the problem individually. By treating each step toward the eventual solution as a game and by recognizing that there are multiple games required until a feasible solution can be reached, it alleviates some of the uncertainty or doubt that a person tends to place on the effectiveness of a standalone game, such as brainstorming, because that game is just one of many that is needed to solve fuzzy problems.

The Book provides a list of MANY games, each categorized as games for opening, exploring or closing acts. Some games are well known, such as brainstorming and affinity maps but many are not (at least not to me). I found it thought provoking to look over the various games because they can all potentially be used for different types of problems and circumstances. It was also helpful that the authors categorized the games as to which ones were good for opening, exploring and closing. However, I felt the Book was lacking in providing direction or strategy on choosing games effectively for differing circumstances or industries. For example, the games listed for the opening act include those that are meant for idea generation but also those that are meant for team building and project management tasks (such as stakeholder analysis). If I were designing a sequence of games for members of a team that did not know each other, I may want to start with a game for team building but I may not use that game for a team that has been working together for a long time. Although that’s a trivial example, the point is that some games can be good for certain circumstances whereas others may not. It would have been helpful to identify which games are good for which circumstances. In addition, it may have been helpful to identify the games useful for specific industries. The authors did mention in some games as to which industry can benefit from it but I feel that there needs to be a separate chapter or guide that helps categorize games that are effective for say software solutions, or product solutions or service solutions, etc.

Overall, I felt the authors developed a well thought out framework for approaching fuzzy problems and have aggregated a useful collection of games to help the reader navigate through the diverging and converging pattern of idea generation. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to explore different types of games or needs a handy reference of games to help them approach fuzzy problems.