Just missed: In the brain of… Dave Gray

Dave Gray author headshotI recently met one of my heroes, a source of inspiration, an influencer. Dave Gray is a Storyteller, Visual Thinking Magician, Social Business Designer, spending his time on researching, sketching, and writing about innovation, design, complexity, and creativity in business. An obvious candidate for our In The Brain Of Program, a platform inviting the most inspiring speakers to create awareness, encourage discussion, and get the most valuable feedback from our community.

We invited Dave to provide a hands-on workshop on his latest book Gamestorming, a Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers and Changemakers. Gamestorming is one of those books which everyone should have in his office, not a clean copy but one filled with notes, highlights, markers, … a workbook.
On 24 September, Dave provided his Gamestorming workshop for the very first time on the European continent.

As the systems we design for become more complex, work is changing from a solo activity to a team sport, where individuals, teams, partners, customers, … need to work together. Cross functional collaboration requires new skills and practices. How can you engage more people in the process, without losing the creative culture and energy that fuels the process? Gamestorming contains the techniques you need to tackle complex problems and collaboratively drive innovation in your organisation. It’s a book about unveiling the human potential.

30 Participants started the day out on the grass carpet floor at FlandersDC, although none walked barefoot it already created a spark that ignites the imagination. Tables covered with large paper sheets, rectangles which looked like the top-view of a pyramid, and a “World Cafe” exercise to measure comfort zones and get the conversation going. No lack of creativity here.

Next all participants eagerly joined a “Fishbowl” exercise: participants at the table were asked to play out a scenario, which clearly indicated the complex social behaviour of a group. We left the exercise understanding the need for better ways to collaborate and achieve actionable outcome. The scenario had all the ingredients of a common organisation, yea-sayers, nay-sayers, confused and everything-is-possible people, and let’s not forget the alpha female in the group.
Quick simulations on the effect of using “yes but” versus “yes and” in a conversation are almost unbelievable. No ground-breaking ideas so far, but the problem space became very clear to everyone. Let the games begin!

It went from quick to faster: from Poster Sessions, Empathy Maps, 5 Why’s, … to designing your own game structures, participants were blown away by the simplicity but power of these techniques. The workshop was a mixture of hands-on game-play and useful insights on game design and mechanics. The most enlightening moments came from understanding and applying the Open – Explore – Close phases in these structures we call games.

Something I did not do before in any of our Gamestorming or Innovation Games workshops was teaching the letters of the visual alphabet, called glyphs. 12 Visual shapes that you can use to construct any kind of visual. A simple technique you can learn in minutes but which tackles a common problem: that of people blocked by the thought they have to stand up and draw the problem or solution on a whiteboard. It makes you feel a kid again, being able to sketch on the fly without thinking, having fun.

There’s more than one way to draw a cat. Something to think about.

Missed out on the event? At the end of the day, the participants got the chance to pick Dave’s brain. We were fortunate enought to film this interview:

In the brain of Dave Gray – Gamestorming from AGILEMinds on Vimeo.

Want to know more about Gamestorming?

Our Gamestorming Retreat is a collaborative environment where you can play, learn and connect with other Gamestormers. Exposure to refreshing ideas, time to experiment, and a way to continuously expand your skill set to help you gain confidence in exploring the world of Gamestorming. Become a Gamestormer.

Or maybe you feel like following our hands-on training? Specifically designed to gain a complete understanding about game design and game mechanics to help you form simple models of complex systems, so you can involve others in the idea, explore systems, and experience them to gain new insights. A perfect way to get the most out of your meetings.

Book Now

More pictures of the event? Go here!

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Categories: Management Innovation


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  1. Personal kanban @ WeBBT conference | AGILEMinds - March 28, 2012

    […] This was an introductory workshop on agile development and what it could mean for the researchers at IBBT. We will be running a short learning track there soon, to help teams and sites to actually implement these kanban ideas and scale them on team and organisation level. We will also be using some gamestorming techniques to help them improve their meeting and collaboration culture. […]

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