About – archive

Creativity and invention has long been seen as a “black box.” As business people, we don’t typically try to understand this process. We fully expect that when designers, inventors, and other creative people go into a room with a goal, they will come out with more or less creative discoveries and results. Although when we watch them at work, we can observe some combination of sketching, animated conversations, messy desks, and drinking. But the fundamental nature of what happens in that room remains mostly a mystery.

It’s easy to leave creativity to the creative types, and say to yourself, “I’m just not a creative person.” The fact is that in a complex, dynamic, competitive knowledge economy, it’s no longer acceptable to take this position. If you are a knowledge worker, you must become, to some degree, creative.

That may sound a bit scary, but the fact is that successful creative people tend to employ simple strategies and practices to get where they want to go. It’s not so much that they employ a consistent, repeatable process that leads to consistent creative results. It’s more like a workshop with a set of tools and strategies for examining things deeply, for exploring new ideas, for performing experiments and testing hypotheses, to generate new and surprising insights and results.

So we set out, much like the brothers Grimm, to collect the best of these practices wherever we could find them, with a special focus on Silicon Valley, innovative companies, and the information revolution.

Many of these practices emerged from a kind of “Silicon soup” – the deeply interconnected network of Silicon valley, where ideas and people cross-pollinate like bees in a single massive hive. The practices live in a mostly oral culture, passed along from person to person by word of mouth. For example, a consultant uses an approach with a client, and the client begins to employ that approach internally. Over time, as more people employ a method, it evolves into something quite different, and over time the source of the original idea or approach may be lost. Sometimes methods are written down and sometimes, like folk tales, they exist in many different versions in many places.

We chose to call this practice “Gamestorming” because it seemed to come closer to describing the phenomenon than anything else we could think of.

Our goal with this collection was to find the best of these tools and practices and bring them together into a single place.

It is our hope that you will contribute games based on your personal knowledge and experience, that you will help us clarify the history of the ideas and practices, and that through your comments you can help us all better understand the complex and fascinating history of games at play in creative work.

Why you should read the book

by Chris Brogan (1 minute 30 seconds)

What is Gamestorming?

by XPLANE (3 minutes)

Gamestorming explained


Dave Gray – Gamestorming from CPSI on Vimeo.

by Dave Gray speaks at the Creative Problem-Solving Institute (CPSI) (26 minutes)

Design Practices for Co-Creation and Engagement

by Dave Gray for Adaptive Path’s UX Week, San Francisco (30 minutes)

A Grammar for Creativity and Innovation

by Dave Gray for iXDA, Savannah (45 minutes)

Informal chat with Michael Dila

A very informal chat with Michael Dila about knowledge games, later dubbed “Gamestorming” (35 minutes)

Bootleg video of the first knowledge games talk

Rough bootleg video shot by Jonathan Litwack with an iPhone (45 minutes)

Gamestorming webcast

Gamestorming Webcast

by Dave Gray for the American Management Association (Opens on their site) (1 hour, including Q&A)

Tummelvision (audio-only podcast)

Dave Gray on Design, Gamestorming and more

Dave Gray speaks with Heather Gold and Deb Schultz of Tummelvision.

AMA podcast (audio only)

Dave Gray on How Games at Work Inspire Creativity

Dave Gray speaks with Doug Sohn of the American Management Association.

Forbes article

In Defense of Games at Work.

Gamestorming author Dave Gray on how games cut through creative chaos. Article by Mac Slocum.

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Object Brainstorm


Object of Play

Objects play a special role in brainstorming. A tangible object helps externalize the thought process, just as sketching or role play does, but often in a more immediate and concrete way. Because objects suggest stories about how they might be used, they make a great starting point for free association and exploration.

Number of Players


Duration of Play

30 minutes or more

How to Play

Before you can play, you will need to hunt down a collection of objects. Nominate yourself as the curator of your collection. It’s worth considering what kind of investment you want to make. Although a trip to a second-hand store to find interesting (and cheap) items is a good start, if you are expecting to make a habit out of the exercise it may be worth the time and expense to look for items more broadly.

Although you will find your own criteria for your collection, one rule of thumb is to collect “things that do things.” Functional objects can offer more inspiration. Other things may make it into the collection based on their characteristics or personality, or simply because they are “fun.” Here are some types of objects to consider collecting:

• Kitchen gadgets

• Hand tools

• Instruction manuals

• Functional packaging and dispensers

• Containers and compartments

• Sports equipment

• Toys and games

A good collection will evolve over time, and a good curator will get others involved in contributing to the cache of items.

Object brainstorming starts with a question, such as “How will the next generation of [fill-in-the-blank] work?” This question may ask participants to reimagine an existing product or invent something new.

1. Direct the group to explore the objects and to take some time to play with them.  The objects may inspire participants to think about how a new thing could function, or how it could look or feel. The long, hinged mouth of a stapler may suggest a new way to bend and fasten steel. A telescoping curtain rod might inspire thinking about a collapsible bicycle. Likewise, an object’s personality, such as a rugged toolbox, might suggest how a laptop might be designed. Most objects explain themselves, and the results can be very intuitive; participants are likely to stumble on fully formed ideas.

2. After a set amount of time, the participants share their ideas, document them, and decide on next steps. This may be as simple as voting on an idea to pursue in more detail, or it may mean moving into another brainstorming exercise.


One choice to make before an object brainstorm is whether to use a set of items or a single item. This changes the depth of focus: a group presented with a set will branch into a wider path of ideas, whereas a group presented with one item is “forced” into a deeper study of the object and associations from it, along the lines of random inputs or forced analogy. Try to use a set of items for larger groups and more divergent brainstorming, and a single item for smaller groups and more focused inquiry.

The source for the Object Brainstorm game is unknown.