How 'Gamestorming' May Change the Way We Work

Ann All

I've written several times on the topic of "serious games" that some companies use to teach and reinforce workplace concepts, so I was quite interested to see an interview with David Gray, one of the co-authors of "Gamestorming," on O'Reilly Radar. It wasn't exactly what I expected. Rather than a specific game or games, the book is about a set of collaboration practices.


While Gray says these practices originated in the Silicon Valley in the 1970s, they seem to be coming into their own now as they better suit today's rapidly changing work environments. Gray describes gamestorming as "an approach that emphasizes quick, ad-hoc organization of teams so they can rapidly co-design and co-develop ideas." He and his co-authors agreed upon the term "gamestorming" because these practices "seemed to look more like games than any other form of work we were familiar with."


Gamestorming encourages a quicker and more democratic way of working than most of us are used to. Visualization, improvisation, good listening and language skills become more important than they have been in the past, which may be a challenge for many folks. One key is not forcing it. Says Gray:


It's an approach to work that's about engaging people in collaboratory activities. It's not a game if people are forced to play, so you need to have people and projects that stir people's curiosity and emotion.


Gamestorming won't work in every work environment. It's a good way to try out different scenarios and test the results. While the approach is great for fostering creative energy and innovation, it isn't useful for work that demands a predictable, consistent approach. Says Gray:


You don't want people playing too many games in the accounting department.


Unlike factories or other workplaces where folks are engaged in highly visible tasks, many knowledge workers have trouble envisioning how their work fits into a bigger strategic picture. Gamestorming offers a way to help overcome this lack of transparency and the cubicle layouts common in many offices, which aren't exactly conducive to collaborating with coworkers.


Gray's interview points to a bigger issue: Though some companies are experiencing great results using collaboration software, organizations will have to make some fundamental changes to the way they approach work if they want to derive lasting benefits from social technologies.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jan 8, 2013 3:20 AM Luke Hohmann Luke Hohmann  says:
Ann - Great interview. I'd also like to add that online Gamestorming is critical for distributed teams or for large organizations that need to efficiently collaborate with a large number of employees. The trick is that the online games need to honor the same levels of engagement and collaboration as the in-person games (e.g., goal driven, with ~8 players, and rich interaction models). Fortunately, the our online gaming platform provides for this interaction. More details are at www.innovationgames.com. Best Regards, Luke Hohmann CEO of The Innovation Games Company Author of "Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play" Reply

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