Five Games for Creativity

To get to truly exciting, out-of-the-box ideas, you and your team need out-of-the-box ways to come up with them. Here are 5 games to utilize in your next brainstorm to help get those creative juices flowing (and have some fun!):

1. 100 uses for…

We often use “100 uses for…” as a way to get creative juices going or to prime a team to tackle a challenge. When I was in design school, one of my professors had a “100 ways to serve pizza” assignment. Everyone was given a pack of 100 paper plates and had to draw a serious or silly way of serving pizza. That was a week-long assignment, and people really saw how hard it was to come up with a 100…you had to think outside the box! When working with groups, we’ll call the game “100 uses for…” but give them only 5 minutes! The prompt can be pizza, a log, or something more relevant. When doing a workshop with our friends at KeyMe, we used the prompt “100 uses for a key” to get people thinking about their challenge.

2. Mix and Match (fruit party)

Fruit party is a fun game that can be used to teach a variety of innovation themes, from the importance of generation and combinatory innovation to the idea of there being “no bad ideas.”

Team members each choose a fruit, with no duplicates. I’ve played this game with 15-50 and it works well in both cases. I then have people arrange themselves by various criterion—color, size, cost, then by flavor. I’ll then select three or four people, representing different fruits and ask what fruit mix they are. Sometimes the combination sounds good, sometimes it doesn’t! Each time I ask what useful purpose the combination can make.

3. Generate and Share

Groups always want to talk first…I just don’t let them! The simplicity of this game is that you provide the generation template—full size paper, post-its, how many elements each concept needs to have, etc.

“100 uses for…” is a generate and share game. People don’t call out ideas, they write them down! And we give rules, like one post-it per idea and ideas with words AND pictures are better. Deciding what you want the team to generate and then making a simple template for it is an easy way to get started.

4. Always/Never

I use this with teams all the time as way to clarify their thinking on an issue. A team was having a discussion about the new employee onboarding process and was getting bogged down trying to generate features, workflows and concepts. Giving them 5 minutes to generate and share what the onboarding process should “always be like” and then generating what it should “never be like” made a clear visual word and concept map that sparked features, workflows and concepts more easily.

5. Franken Ideation

When teams have generated ideas or concepts, mixing and matching is a great way to get them to go further. Fruit Party can teach the principles of this, but doing a round of Franken Ideation can help them dig deeper. Tell each team member to grab 2-3 post-its representing ideas or concepts from the wall, and to not think too much about which ones. What will combining these ideas give us?

Once, during a color-generating teaching exercise, a participant took “Green Sweater” and “Campfire Orange” to make “Singed Wool.” This process-based mixing is creatively different from literally mixing these two colors…and far more creative! Doing this with more high level ideas is hard, but will get your team to unique ideas. Remember, even bad ideas can be good ideas if we look at them the right way!


If you’re interested in learning more, check out our Facilitation Fundamentals bootcamp, which gives context and practice to these techniques, or our Design Thinking Bootcamp.



The Design Gym
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