5 Powerful Ways to Brainstorming with Teams

By Joe Baz

This past Wednesday, I attended the UX Boston discussion of the book Gamestorming. The book was written by authors, Dave Gray, James Macanufo and Sunni Brown, who teamed up with the sole purpose of providing a framework of best practices and activities in the area of visual thinking. At the event, engineers and designers shared their critique of the book’s take on this discipline.

UX Boston is no ordinary book club. Book clubs merely discuss books; the UX Boston group puts a book’s lessons and techniques into practice. Midway through this session, we divided into four groups to try some of the book’s brainstorming stimulation activities. Each group was tasked to brainstorm the best way to create a brainstorming room (No joke!), and my group was given the “anti-problem” activity.  We spent the next fifteen minutes coming up with the worst features for a brainstorming room, and then wrote down the opposites of those features.

Following the lively activity session in our groups, Jason Robb (organizer of UX Boston) fired up Skype for a special end to the event: a Skype interview with co-author Dave Gray. Dave told us about the origins of the book. He embarked on the study because there wasn’t a book out there that provided a framework for visual thinking. It was a struggle to get the book published, but now that the value of Gamestorming is being recognized, he has great plans for the future.

As exemplified in the descriptions below, part of the beauty of the Gamestorming activities is how the different exercises adapt for brainstorming about myriad of important SaaS and Web startup issues. Dave Gray and his co-authors have given UX designers an important set of tools for digging into tough issues. Without further adieu, my top five brainstorming games:

1. Post Up

In the beginning, you had an idea for a web application. Now, you want to expound upon your idea by thinking of other ideas that will give the application more meat, and in particular, ideas that generate revenue. Post up offers a fun and fast way to spawn ideas. How to Play

Post Up Exercise

Photo Credit: Dave Gray

2. Forced Ranking

It can be difficult for your clients to break down the Minimum Viable Product, or MVP. When building a web application there are times when the technology clouds the vision, simply by offering too many options to the user. The Forced Ranking exercise will help prioritize the offering and achieve MVP. How to Play

Sample illustration of Forced Ranking

Illustration Credit: Sunni Brown

3. Card Sorting

A popular tool that IAs use to classify information is card sorting. Card sorting is really handy when you are dealing with Enterprise web applications where the feature set and functionality is vast and deep. By having your client arrange the groups of information into distinct affinities, you can gather vital information on how the customer thinks, and therefore craft a recommendation for the information architecture of the web application. How to Play

Sample illustration of Card Sorting

Illustration Credit: Sunni Brown

4. Storyboard

Storyboarding is a great exercise to get your clients to think about the user experience because it helps them identify the user process flow visually. Since the web user experience is not linear, it is vital that clients understand the many different ways a user can interact with their web application. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, your communication effectiveness will increase dramatically by visually mapping out user flows with a storyboard. How to Play

Photo of Storyboarding

Photo Credit: Dave Gray

5. Party Invitations

Customer onboarding is a vital ingredient to the success of SaaS businesses, and this exercise uses the metaphor of creating a party to imagine the best onboarding experience. How to Play

Sample notes of Party Invitation

Photo Credit: Brynn Marie Evans

Have you read the Gamestorming book? What exercises did you find most useful?

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