First, let’s get out of this way. Gamestorming is not new. Gamestorming is a collection of ‘games’ collected under the banner of ‘Gamestorming’. As a Business Analyst (BA) I can assure you that there will be a lot of books and games on the website that you have used in your role in various disguises.
Dave Gray (‘S co-authorGamestorming ‘) It’s best when he describes himself and his fellow writers as Grimes brothers. The Grimm’s brothers, if you are not familiar with them, have put together a collection of fairy tales in one book.
Amy and I both have different backgrounds in business analysis, while we’ve both worked on large, complex technology programs in the public sector. We’ve used different project methods, Amy’s background is mostly waterfall, while all the projects I’ve worked on have been using Agile. We want to demonstrate in this article that you can use gamestorming with any project method. It’s more about project methodology and more about adapting games to meet the needs of your audience.
Why do I need to know about this …?
As for BA, it is very easy to fall into the trap of speaking ‘I’m not creative’. However, when you think of a system like Soft System Methodology (SSM), most of it is based on converting information into graphical format. SSM has emerged from the perspective that organizations and systems are complex and that people will view things differently by nature. The main thing I always remember about SSM is that the method is not focused on trying to solve the problem but it is more about analyzing a situation. Gamestorming, takes a similar approach – It focuses less on the problem you are trying to solve and more on the solutions you are trying to achieve.
Another thing to note in this trap of ‘I’m not creative’ is that when companies want to do something creative, they usually bring in an outside team to do the practice and then expect their company to adopt new methods. This usually results in companies not embracing their new equipment because they do not feel confident or have purchased the equipment. This results in jobless workers and wasted money.
Everyone can be creative but … we need the right tools.
So what is it?
It has three main components, just like the game you played when you were younger
1. Opening- What is the goal here, what are you trying to achieve from this game. When you play a game it is like setting rules and understanding. This is commonly referred to as the ‘aversion’ stage.
2. Middle- This is where ideas are explored, these ideas are refined. This is commonly referred to as the ‘Emergency’ stage.
3. Conclusion- This is practically everything being closed, negotiated and agreeing to the next step. What are the results that you have achieved? If you think in the traditional game format, who won, who came second, and so on. This is commonly referred to as ‘convergent’.
Why you should embrace it
Einstein said he would spend 55 minutes defining problems and alternatives and 5 minutes solving them. In traditional meetings, we tend to focus on the problems we are trying to solve. From experience, I see that at least half of the meetings have been spent on what we believe to be reconstruction problems. By doing this, as a team, we don’t necessarily find opportunities that can make our organization smarter.
The famous saying ‘a picture can say 1000 words’ is so true. In the sketch note above you can see what is being communicated in the drawing. Now, think about how big the document will be to communicate with what is drawn above.
By removing the limitations, creating a way for people to think differently and think outside the box, you are more likely to be innovative as an organization.
Gamestorming Business Analysis can be used at any stage of the life cycle. The two games highlighted below, we want to use in the life cycle.
Give it a try … make a decision
It is always difficult to bring in stakeholders for decision making and this is an area where you have to constantly navigate as a BA. When you have a list of stakeholders, they often handle a number of tasks, which naturally diverts their attention to all areas. It is incredibly difficult for this group to agree on priorities. 20/20 vision – A great game in your toolbox. It helps your stakeholders agree on priorities for your organization.
How to play
Before the meeting, ask all participants to send a list of their top two projects that they think the organization should prioritize over other projects.
Write all projects on post-brick notes – one item per post-brick note.
On a wall / flip chart paper / whiteboard, stick the first priority there. Ask the project owner-participant to describe the benefits of this project Write these benefits in a post-it note. You can write only three benefits for post-brick notes and each project gets only one post-brick note.
If the other participants do not agree with the benefit, write their objection in a note of a different colored post
Do the above for the rest of the projects on the list. Before proceeding to the next step, ask participants if there are any projects missing from the list. If so, do the above exercise on them. This would be a good time to ask why these projects were missed from the original list.
Pick two random projects from the list and ask everyone to decide between these two projects, which is a high priority for their organization. If participants are undecided, I suggest you cast a vote. It is important that you do not allow participants to gossip and make decisions too late
The project which has been considered as a higher priority should be pasted on the wall / flipchart / whiteboard above the other project.
Pick another project from the list and ask the same question – ‘This project has priority over these two projects’, if yes then add it at the top. If not, add it at the bottom of the list. If they think it has more priority than one, not the other, stick it in the middle.
Do the above exercise on all the projects on your list.
At the end of this game, there should be a priority list of projects for your organization. The highlight of this game is that you will naturally have people who struggle to make decisions, so it is important that you keep mentioning the benefits associated with the project.
Top tips or key points?
Don’t be afraid to have a vague goal- hug it. I personally feel that if you have a vague goal you will become more pained to solve and find that as a team you are really exploring the problem at hand. Also, with a vague goal, you will see that less time is spent as a team on the solution and more on how you can overcome the problem you are facing – this allows you to tackle the problem in a different way.
Humans are usually visible animals and we embrace things, so try to use as little text as possible.
People are generally considered to be more creative in the morning so we suggest you keep any creative or brainstorming games in the morning.
Use only the tools available to you in the office. If you only have post-brick notes and use them sharply. Post-brick notes have many uses; In one session, I got participants to create origami from post-it notes.
Dip your toes
If you feel that the company you work for may not be open to embracing gamestorming. Then, there are the little things you can do to dip your toes.
Make a watch to represent your agenda
A. Draw a large circle on a whiteboard or flip chart paper
B. Write the results you want to achieve from the meeting in the middle of the circle
C. Divide the circle into different segments, the segments will present all the topics that need to be discussed. How much time you are going to spend in each area will depend on how big the part of the circle will be
d Explain to all participants how much time you would like to spend on each discussion point. Before you start any point of discussion on the agenda, you can set a timer for the amount of time you have given to that item.
This is a really good way to visually present the agenda to your participants. Using a clock metaphor, participants will naturally begin to associate the amount of time spent in different areas of the agenda.
Ice Breaker – Squiggle Bird
Whether they love it or not, ice breakers are here to stay. We like Squiggle Bird as an ice breaker because it’s a great way to start a session in a creative way and encourage people.
A You will need to provide participants with a pen and paper. Start asking everyone to draw squiggly lines, we suggest you draw about 5 squiggly lines.
B. Ask everyone to pick the line of their choice. First, ask them to draw a lip on this line, then some legs and two legs with a tail.
C. You can then draw these features in other lines on their paper.
This ice breaker is great for communicating how brilliant the human brain is in detecting patterns, we don’t need to explain everything in granular details. This tool is also good for finding people who may not be physically present at the meeting / workshop.
Process Map – Draw how to make toast
I first came across this tool through Tedtalk And I have used it consistently with my clients in both the public and private sectors throughout my career. This is a great tool to use beforehand, you have a great workshop on Stakeholder Management or expressing requirements from your end users.
A. You will need to provide participants with pens and papers. Ask everyone in the room to draw a picture / process map of how they make toast. We suggest you give each one about 3 minutes.
B. Once the time is up, talk to everyone by drawing them, if you have time. If you do not have time, choose a few people in the room to talk through their pictures.
This tool is a great way to show how system thinking works. We’ve used this tool to show how people can access it in a variety of ways, even for the simplest of things. I personally would like to use this tool before a required workshop, as a way to demonstrate how important it is to be clear about the requirements.
If you have any questions, please contact @AmyMorrellBA @RohelaRaouf on Twitter or LinkedIn.