Gamestorming — An Interview With Author Dave Gray

Picture of Dave Gray
Dave Gray

I actually can’t remember how I came upon the book Gamestorming. I probably read a review of it on one of the blogs I regularly read. I ordered the book and started reading it right before I was going to leave for a trip to meet with a client team. The book is full of design “games” and other group activities that you can do with teams. I read through it to see if there were some new ideas I could use for my meeting. I picked out two “games” to use with my client. They were a great success, making the meeting more productive, efficient, and fun for me and the team.

I contacted one of the authors, Dave Gray, to see if he would be willing to do a podcast interview with me.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on this link

In the interview we talk about:

  • Different ways to do brainstorming that are more interesting and more effective
  • An interesting activity called “dot voting” that I tried out at my meeting
  • The history of the corportate meeting, and how meetings have evolved over time
  • Why having someone facilitate a meeting is a bad idea and what to do instead
  • Why design games and meeting games can make your meetings and sessions more powerful and productive
  • A low-tech social network “game” you can use with up to 100 people in the room that makes invisible connections tangible and visible
  • A quick simple “game” you can use to help keep your meetings on task and on time.

Have you read the book? If so, comment on what you think.

Here’s a link to Amazon if you are interested in the book:


Here’s how to contact Dave Gray and get more info:

website for the book:

twitter for Dave: @davegray


7 Tips To Get A Team To Implement Your Recommendation: #7

Picture of an open window and a blue sky beyondThis is the 7th post in a 7-part series on how to get a team to implement your recommendations.

Tip #1 was: Hide Your Top 3 Recommendations

Tip #2 was Say “You”, “They”, “Customers”, “Users”, or “Research”. Don’t say “I”

Tip #3 was Give Them A Presentation, Don’t Send Them A Report

Tip #4 was Use The Word “Because” And Give A Reason

Tip #5 was  Add research or statistics to bolster your recommendations

Tip #6 was Point out the consequences of the Status Quo

Now for the last Tip #7. The context is that you want to see your recommendations implemented. How can you present them to a team so that they will be acted on and not dismissed?

Tip #7 — Tie your recommendations to the viewpoint of others. We all view the world from our own particular vantage point, or window. And we sometimes forget that other people are looking at the world from their own window. I know it sounds obvious to say that what you think is important might not be important to other people, but I think we often forget the differences among viewpoint.If you want people to act, then you are going to have to phrase your recommendations and requests in a way that resonates with their larger motivations and goals.

For example, let’s say that one of your recommendations you are making to the team is: “The visitors to the site don’t understand the information architecture  we are using in the navigation bar. We should change the categories of information and the labels so that it matches the visitors’ mental model.” You’ve interviewed and conducted usability studies with visitors to the site, and you know this is true. It seems obvious to you that the information architecture and navigation bar should be changed. But what is obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to your team. You are thinking about the meetings you’ve had with the visitors, and you can see a better navigation bar and information architecture in your mind. Other people on the team see deadlines being missed, or a navigation bar that they designed and they think makes perfect sense.

Breakthrough the impasse by seeing out their window — In order to phrase your recommendation in a way that will be acted upon, you’ve got to see out their window and rephrase your recommendation and request. Perhaps the team leader is concerned about what his boss will think if he has to tell her that they are delaying the launch of the new website. In that case you might want to rephrase your recommendation to:  “We want to nail the information architecture before we release the new website. If we aren’t sure the architecture matches the visitors’ mental model, then we’ll have to change the navigation bar later, and that will take a lot of resources. I’ve done some user research and if we make some changes now, we’ll save xx hours of re-programming time later.”

Knowing others’ point of view isn’t easy:

a) you may not know their motivations and goals

b) you may think you know their motivations and goals, but you are likely to be incorrect

c) there are multiple people, and they may have different motivations and goals

d) the people involved may not even know their own motivations and goals

So how can you make sure you are tying your recommendations and requests in with their goals and motivations?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Take your time. Don’t rush into presenting your recommendations. Take some time to talk to team members so you get a feel of what is driving them.
  • Don’t make assumptions. Validate your assumptions about the team members goals and motivations.
  • Pick one influential person on the team and talk to them so you at least know what is important to that person.
  • Imagine you are that person and look through that window. Then reframe and rephrase your recommendations to speak to that point of view.

This concludes the 7 part series on how to get a team to implement your recommendations. Let me know which ones you try and how it works out.


7 Tips To Get A Team To Implement Your Recommendation: #6

Newton's First Law Of Motion
Newton's First Law of Motion

This is the 6th post in a 7-part series on how to get a team to implement your recommendations.

Tip #1 was: Hide Your Top 3 Recommendations

Tip #2 was Say “You”, “They”, “Customers”, “Users”, or “Research”. Don’t say “I”

Tip #3 was Give Them A Presentation, Don’t Send Them A Report

Tip #4 was Use The Word “Because” And Give A Reason

Tip #5 was  Add research or statistics to bolster your recommendations

Now for Tip #6. The context is that you want to see your recommendations implemented. How can you present them to a team so that they will be acted on and not dismissed?

Tip #6: Point out the consequences of the Status Quo — When you are asking people to listen to and follow your recommendations you are essentially asking them to change their course. They were perhaps standing still, or even if they were moving, they were rolling along on one track. Now you are asking them to get going on a different track. Change is not easy.

Inertia is powerful — As Newton’s first law of motion says, it can be hard to get people moving once they’ve stopped.

Movement in a particular direction is powerful too — Physics also teaches us that once a body is in motion in one direction it will keep going that way unless something hits it and gets it going in another direction. In order to get people to move in a diferent direction, or move at all, you have to jolt them out of their curent state. There are a few options about how you do this:

Show them the consequences of staying still. If they don’t do anything differently, what is the result? You’d think people would have thought this through, but often they haven’t. For example, let’s say that a product is hard to learn and so there are many calls to the help desk after it is released. You’ve pointed this out, but people are still not willing to make the changes you are recommending. You’ve already shown them how you can make the product easier to use. Instead,  focus on what happens if they keep the product the way it is. Calculate how many calls to the help desk that really means in a month. Calculate the % turn over each month, or the new people coming on board. Show that there will be an xx% increase in calls over a 1 year period. Make it concrete.

Make use of a catastrophe. It’s unfortunate, but true, that sometimes it takes a catastrophe to get people to change course. If a catastrophe happens, make use of it. That is the time to speak up. One of my clients had been trying to get an online form improved, but no one was willing to spend the time and money to fix it. She worked at a large insurance company that owned commercial property. The form was for appraisers. They would go online and fill out an appraisal form. That appraisal form would be used to compute the selling price of a large commercial building. Because the form was hard to use, the appraisers sometimes entered incorrect information that led to a property being appraised at an incorrect value. Someone would later review the appraisals, realize that there was an error, and the mistake would be corrected. But one day an appraiser filled out the form incorrectly and the building sold the next day before anyone noticed or fixed the error. The company lost several million dollars overnight. It was a catastrophe, and my client seized the opportunity. She said, “NOW we are going to fix this form!” Inertia was gone.

What do you think? Have you been using any of these techniques to overcome inertia or change course?


5 Lessons From Theatre You Can Apply to Web Site Design

Theatre CurtainsI just finished a run with my local theatre group (I played Golde in Fiddler on the Roof), and I couldn’t help but make comparisons between putting on a theatre production and designing products, web sites, or anything where a team needs to create something together.

1. It takes a team – In order to put on the show we had an entire team of people. Obviously we had all the actors, but we also had musicians, people to work on props, lighting, a stage manager, director, etc. If you are doing to get a web site or a product out the door on time you’ve also got to have a team of people. Large endeavors rarely get finished if you are the only person working on it. A great team appreciates that it really is a team.

2. Everyone has a role to play – And I don’t just mean a particular character to play, although that is true too. But more than that, we needed people with different talents. In the production I was just in, people appreciated each other for the unique gifts they brought to the group. Some people sang very well, others were great actors, others could dance, there were some excellent violin players for the orchestra, there were good set builders, and a person who knew how to work the lights in the theater. No one had to do it all. Bringing one gift, talent, skill or knowledge to the group was enough. The same is true of a team that is putting out a web site or product. The individual members of the team don’t have to be “equal” to teach other. Everyone can bring their own particular skill or talent to the group and whatever they bring can, and should be, appreciated. One person is a great content writer, another is good at graphic design, another is a psychologist that can guide the group on design, another is an efficient programmer… A great team appreciates all the players, even those who have a small role.

3. You need a director/leader – Although the cast and crew were critical to the success of the show, we needed a director to create the vision of what the show was to be, to communicate that vision clearly and appropriately to the cast, the set designers, the costumers. The director guided us when we were going astray, and inspired us when we were getting tired. The web site or product team also needs someone to be in charge; someone to go to if you are unsure what to do, or which alternative to choose, someone who can communicate with others outside the team, and someone who will lead the team through the project.

4. You need a deadline – In a theatre production the deadline is very clear. It’s opening night! And there is no such thing as changing the deadline. This means that every part of the work from the start to the end is planned out. Exactly what will be rehearsed each night is planned out, with some blank space to work on “problem scenes” as they crop up. A good director has experience putting on a show and knows, for example, that if we are going to be ready to raise the curtain on opening night we have to have had a certain number of rehearsals of the whole show. A good director decides the date that all lines must be memorized (called going “off book”), when costumes need to be started, sets built, etc. The web site or product team also needs a deadline. Everyone on the team needs to feel that the deadline is do-able with hard work, and that there is a firm plan in place for all the activities and interim deadlines along the way that ensure the final deadline will be met.

5. Practice, practice, practice – Our first night of rehearsal was nothing like our opening night. We didn’t expect to get things right the first time. We all knew that it would take lots of practice, both individually, and then as a group, before we would be ready. We understood that we didn’t have an infinite amount of time to work on the production. This is community theatre, and we are volunteering and involved on a part time basis while we have our jobs, families, etc. But we also knew that we had to put the time in if we were going to create a quality production. The web or product team also has competing priorities – other duties at work, personal and family time, etc., and all of that must be juggled. Yet there has to be a commitment to the project, a willingness to do one’s part on one’s own, and also to spend time together to create the final product. Quality products require iteration and the wise team member will be tolerant of themselves and others when mistakes are made.

Do you agree? Can you think of any other parallels that I’ve missed?


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