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Gamestorming Made Easy: 3-12-3 Brainstorm

Brainstorming is a well known solution to bring new and fresh ideas to the table, making it easier to solve complex business problems.

Unfortunately brainstorming can easily become challenging: there are situations in which group dynamics, traditional business processes and hostile environments get in the way. Or maybe a complete paradigm shift is required, thus hindering the desired outcome.

If that’s your case, you may want to learn more about gamestorming: it’s a group of techniques developed in the 1970s and originally adopted by several Silicon Valley companies in order to overcome the limitations of traditional brainstorming.

What is gamestorming?

Gamestorming is a form of brainstorming that leverages the use of games.

As we all know, playing games enforces rules, effectively helping to overcome the usual brainstorming limitations. The way brainstorming avoids conflicts is by shifting group and thought dynamics.

To give you a real life example, at Collaboard we need to coordinate employees across multiple locations, and found that gamestorming (especially when facilitated through our app Collaboard) makes it easier to handle collaborative and creative processes.

We started to test it, mainly out of our love for innovation, and played the 3-12-3 Brainstorm game, ideated by James Macanufo, involving employees in three different locations: Zurich, Munich and Milano. Keep reading to discover this amazing technique.


The 3-12-3 Brainstorming: a new approach to creative collaboration

So, how does this game work? There can be up to 10 players, who must follow these rules:

  • First of all, they must choose a two-word topic to focus on.
  • After the choice, phase one of the game begins: for 3 minutes, each team member brainstorms on his own and writes down their ideas on sticky notes.
  • When everyone’s done brainstorming, the team is divided into sub-teams of 2 people each. This is the beginning of phase 2.
  • For 12 minutes, teams pick three random cards and develop a full-fledged concept.
  • In phase 3, teams have 3 minutes each to present their ideas to everyone else.

All you need is Collaboard!

So, back to our experiment: we decided to brainstorm some ideas for Christmas Cards. For the sake of simplicity, we split our team into 3 sub-teams according to their physical location: Berlin, Zurich, Munich.


Phase One

This first phase is all about generating ideas. Each team member is on his own and must write on sticky notes whatever idea comes to mind.
This part felt very similar to classic brainstorming, but we quickly noticed two differences:

  • Each person was using their own device, so they didn’t fear judgment from their peers, and didn’t forget what they wanted to say/write while waiting for their turn.
  • The limited time of 3 minutes meant that there was no space for self-doubt. As sticky notes were being written, they were quickly moved into a grid library.



Phase Two

Once solo brainstorming was completed, each team member selected three random stick notes from the library to start developing concepts around them.

We found this phase a bit more challenging than the first one, as the cards could involve clashing ideas. But this is exactly where collaboration steps in: the team has to work together in order to consolidate the ideas into a final, collaborative project.

With Collaboard by our side, visualizing and working through sketches, images, prototypes and concepts made the process way easier!

remotepresentation2 copia

Phase Three

Finally, we approached the final phase. Using sketches created in phase two, we proceeded to present our final ideas to the team.

The integration with Skype for Business made the remote presentation extremely easy - we ended up with three different proposals (ready to be approved by the marketing manager) in less than 30 minutes, which is hard to imagine with a traditional brainstorming session!

Also, we all could leverage other teams’ ideas, nurturing collaboration and strengthening our connection.

Want to test gamestorming with Collaboard? Check out the app here.

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