Interview Video

Interview with Sunni Brown: Doodler, Gameist and 2011 TED Speaker

Sunni Brown lives up to the promise of her name. She lights up a room. She’s one of the author’s of Gamestorming, a fantastic book that has catalogued visual brainstorm processes that can be used in various situations yielding distinctly different results.

Sunni also has her own consultancy and is starting a Doodle Revolution. She has a well-deserved spot on the 2011 TED stage this year too.

She came to my shop a few months ago to talk to my team about her Doodle Revolution and her new Gamestorming book.


Q&A with Sunni Brown

What’s your favorite Gamestorming idea in the book?

I’ve seen so many sessions where Gamestorming and participatory design have transformative effects on a group that it’s difficult to pinpoint one foundational idea to call my favorite. That said, I like to be decisive so I’ll choose. One concept around Gamestorming that I find is pivotal for playing is the ability to improvise. Improvisation is one of the core skills for group play and problem-solving and it should never be underestimated. If we’re uncomfortable taking risks, looking silly or being wrong, going into unknown territory and proposing wild solutions to problems, then we might as well go home. Innovation and breakthroughs happen when people stop taking themselves so seriously and start being of service to the group and the challenges it faces.

If your question was really about whether or not I have a favorite game in the book, I’d have to say that Make a World, The Anti-Problem, and The Blind Side are at the top of my list.

You are a busy lady, how did you muster the creative energy to write a book?

I mustered the energy because I had kick-butt co-authors. Having Dave Gray and James Macanufo on board was a recipe for awesome. We each brought a different but relevant skill set to a book like this and none of us were territorial or egomaniacal or any of those other negative ways of being that can plague a good idea. We all have a deep appreciation for participatory design and we genuinely wanted to offer the world a playbook to learn the fundamentals of visual thinking, to learn how important play is in the workplace (and in life!) and to get really good at leading meetings. I’ll be the solo author on my next book so maybe you can ask me that question again next year, when I want to freak out and shave all my hair off.

As a facilitator, what’s the greatest transformation or “aha moment” that a client has had while working with you?

I’m glad you asked! I recently co-facilitated a three-day session and one of the most powerful moments was when the group visibly “grokked” the market realities of their industry. Leadership had been cascading messages from the top – that the company needed to be agile and adapt to new technologies, that its market share wasn’t going to stop decreasing unless they seriously redirected the ship, that they needed to be relational with customers rather than transactional – but the group had been in a sort of collective denial. When we ran them through a series of Gamestorms we could literally see the layers of doubt and fog start to peel off. And only after that could they then start to deal with what had to be done. But I should note: while I’d love to say that the methods in our book were the only key, this success had much to do with this team’s commitment to knowledge and to the process. They were amazing and supportive of each other and that makes a huge difference.

Nancy Duarte

AUTHOR |

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  • Nat_K

    I just want to say one initial thing with this post:

    Thank you.

    However, where can I begin as a teacher impressing these ideas on my teenage students? I think many, if not all, can benefit from this style of note-taking. After watching the video I immediately ordered Sunni’s book.

    • Hi Nat_K, Her book is amazing! Dave Sibbett of Grove.com also wrote a book on Visual Meetings that’s very good too. Dan Roam’s “Back of the Napkins’ has great insights as well.

  • Nat_K

    I just want to say one initial thing with this post:

    Thank you.

    However, where can I begin as a teacher impressing these ideas on my teenage students? I think many, if not all, can benefit from this style of note-taking. After watching the video I immediately ordered Sunni’s book.

    • Hi Nat_K, Her book is amazing! Dave Sibbett of Grove.com also wrote a book on Visual Meetings that’s very good too. Dan Roam’s “Back of the Napkins’ has great insights as well.

  • Awesome! Thanks for sharing. I also shared a brief French summary on my blog and linked back here so people can watch the video.

  • Awesome! Thanks for sharing. I also shared a brief French summary on my blog and linked back here so people can watch the video.

  • Warwick

    Good post. I will look into this TED speech. Recently I started commenting on TED speeches. The most recent one is on Jamie Olivers’ speech on Healthy Eating. http://www.oneminutepresenter.com/2011/02/speech-analysis-by-the-one-minute-presenter-on-jamie-olivers-ted-prize-wish-teach-every-child-about-food-long-post/

    • Great analysis Warwick. He had a great dramatization in there too by spilling the sugar on the stage.

  • Warwick

    Good post. I will look into this TED speech. Recently I started commenting on TED speeches. The most recent one is on Jamie Olivers’ speech on Healthy Eating. http://www.oneminutepresenter.com/2011/02/speech-analysis-by-the-one-minute-presenter-on-jamie-olivers-ted-prize-wish-teach-every-child-about-food-long-post/

    • Great analysis Warwick. He had a great dramatization in there too by spilling the sugar on the stage.

  • Nicely done and well presented… I feel too that everyone can be a visual thinker… If you know what you are thinking or telling well you can doodle it as well….
    And you would be amazed when I say my secret blog is called as “PratiksDoodle” …. Doodling it not bad at all!

  • Nicely done and well presented… I feel too that everyone can be a visual thinker… If you know what you are thinking or telling well you can doodle it as well….
    And you would be amazed when I say my secret blog is called as “PratiksDoodle” …. Doodling it not bad at all!

  • PrezoFan

    Inspiring. I’ve got a terrible problem, I make people yawn! 🙁 during presentations, or even on a business conversation or explaining things, people yawn! maybe it is my voice tone, body language in addition to lots of text, so I will start using more visuals.
    Nancy, thank you for all the information you share with your global audience.

  • PrezoFan

    Inspiring. I’ve got a terrible problem, I make people yawn! 🙁 during presentations, or even on a business conversation or explaining things, people yawn! maybe it is my voice tone, body language in addition to lots of text, so I will start using more visuals.
    Nancy, thank you for all the information you share with your global audience.

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