Andrew Lenards is a software engineer with the iPlant Collaborative at the University of Arizona who has an interest in gamestorming—a new way to look at brainstorming and collaboration that doesn't require a company or a community to hire a consultant. Instead, people get together to share ideas and ask questions, drawing, or using Post-its and whiteboards. Lenards will discuss gamestorming from 3 to 4 p.m., next Friday, May 4, at the Catalyst Café at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 N. Stone Ave., in the fourth-floor boardroom. For more info on the cafe, go to tucsontalks.blogspot.com. For more on Lenards' current work, visit www.iplantcollaborative.org. He says he can use some more hits at the Tumblr page where he posts his own drawings: alenards.tumblr.com.
So, what is gamestorming?
Some people have said that brainstorming is broken, and this is one way, through games, that you can build better communication around activities, (by) creating games. It could be drawing. For some people who are introverted, it might be a great way to involve them. One way to do this is to pick a topic, and give everyone Post-it notes. It gives everyone a chance. ... It's a good tool for human-resource individuals or a company going through transitions.
What do you do at the UA? Is gamestorming involved?
I'm a computer scientist by training, a software engineer. I'm the implementation co-leader for my iPlant Collaborative team. I'm sort of charged with taking the current challenge of my team and explaining it at every level—leadership, other groups or outside users. At iPlant, we're trying to enable the next generations in plant sciences through cyberinfrastructure ... collected for plant sciences—DNA sequencing, biology and ecology. The idea is ... to dramatically improve the quality of life. Better fuels would be something that plant sciences could impact, or a higher crop yield. We're a collaborative, and the activities I am trying to do through gamestorming also help try to find new ways to get all of those people together.
What's a great way you've used gamestorming?
Last year at this time, I was at Gangplank Tucson. It's a collaborative workspace near Interstate 10 and Irvington (Road). I led a gamestorming session to help people understand what Gangplank was. ... It turned into way more questions than I imagined. I expected 25 people, but we ended up with about 50 people, and then 150 sticky notes across two whiteboards. We were trying to answer questions about what Gangplank is and what it could do in the community. For some people, it seemed insane and chaotic, and they left. But the process ended well.
Is brainstorming dead?
I don't know that it's dead, but there's a lot of talk that because (economic) times are rough right now, it gives us the ability to tear everything up and start over. I don't want to throw away all of brainstorming, but it's good to point out shortcomings. At a TedX Tucson, Dr. George Land talked about creativity and the notion that if you give ideas and reject them at the same time, you put on the brake and press the gas, and you don't go anywhere.
Would you say gamestorming offers us a different way to make changes?
Not to get philosophical, but often, we need to question reality more. If everything you're doing doesn't feel right, maybe you should do something different. We do a lot of things, especially in business, because that's the way it's always been done. ... I think of Alistair Cockburn (and his) oath of non-allegiance, that "I will use any tool at any time to get the job done." ... I don't want to throw away any classical tools, but ... I don't want to ignore things that other people are doing that might work.
What do you hope to accomplish by sharing gamestorming?
My hope is that people will start to see new ways or different ways to solve problems at a shorter time, and that it leads to a balanced life. Right now, most of us are operating at a level that gets it done, but not as efficiently. ... We're coming to a situation that may have a larger problem that isn't going to be solved by one genius, but a lot of people.