Gamifying Ideation to Inspire Creativity: Lessons from Models of Impact


A blank wall, scattered with Post-It notes of every color in the crayon box. If you work in the design or innovation space, this might sound familiar. Ideation is the point in the design process where we respond to problems and insights with solutions. Post-It notes and Sharpies are the tools we were taught to use. But what if there’s a different way to brainstorm?


Imagine rolling die to generate random combinations of models to inspire new ideas. This is how we brainstorm in Models of Impact, a role-playing ideation game that simulates the process of launching a social enterprise. A social enterprise is defined by a business structure that incorporates both a revenue model, a way to gain profits, and an impact model, a way to maximize impact on the communities they serve. At its core, the game is a great tool for introducing teams to a range of innovative business models, inspiring new programs and initiatives within a business or organization, guiding the process of ideating new products and services, and getting teams to think differently.

While role-playing may seem like a freewheeling method to ideate, players of the game work through a purposefully designed process: Learn, Invent, Program, and Report.


Before we dive into brainstorming, we take the time to learn about all the different revenue and impact models that exist in the world. Then, we invent multiple social enterprise ideas by rolling die to generate random combinations of a revenue model, impact model, and “other factors”. We converge on one idea and develop it further by completing a Models of Impact business canvas during the program phase. Finally, we report out our plan for feedback and iteration.

In Models of Impact, ideation is treated as a thoughtful process that requires preparation, collaboration, and creativity to help teams of players achieve a common goal: form a business idea that generates money and creates positive impact. It’s a fine balance between structure and randomization that unlocks innovative ways of combining revenue models with impact models.

There are a few key takeaways from the unique model of brainstorming in Models of Impact:

Incorporate learning prior to brainstorming. We can shape our ability to brainstorm creatively by devoting time to researching ideas and trends that are directly or peripherally relevant to our industry. In Models of Impact, before we “invent” our business, we learn about all the different revenue and impact models that are already out there in the world, such as the “one for one” model popularized by shoe company TOMS, or the less familiar sliding-scale cost model. Before brainstorming with your team, define useful categories of ideas you want to investigate further (i.e. cutting-edge technologies), so you can leverage your newfound knowledge in discovering interesting and provocative ideas that haven’t been dreamed up before.

Jumpstart ideation by using existing models. Existing models are like blueprints that provide the initial foundation for drawing up ideas. Conceptually, models and frameworks are abstracted at a level that can inspire original ideas with specific features. In Models of Impact, the main blueprints are revenue models and impact models. During the ideation process, these models set constraints on the general approach to making money and creating impact. It is up to the players to specify how these models will coexist with one another in a unified way, as well as determine what products or services they are offering and what industries they will play in. Teams also determine a range of “other factors” to add a layer of specificity to the combination of models, which could include your team’s core competencies, customer demographics, cultural trends, and more. To apply this approach to your own brainstorming, define the constraints you want to set, which will inform the types of models and frameworks you’ll use as a starting point. For example, if you want to focus on ideating new services, start with existing service models. If you want to focus on ideating digital experiences, start with existing and emerging digital modalities, such as mobile apps and augmented reality.

Randomization and play can spark wild ideas. A key feature of Models of Impact is rolling die to determine combinations of revenue and impact models you’ll start with. Rolling die introduces randomization into the ideation process, which removes biases and sparks unexpected combinations of ideas to happen. What might a social enterprise look like that combines retail commerce with pro-bono publico? Or a business with a subscription model that also donates 1% of all profits to environmental causes? These are new questions we can begin to ask when we incorporate randomization as our ideation structure. And when we dare to answer these questions, we enter a possibility space of wild, imaginative ideas. As a game mechanic, dice are familiar tools we’ve most likely encountered in various games. The act of rolling dice can make ideation interactive and actionable experience, which creates a playful environment that encourages creativity and collaboration. For your team’s next brainstorming session, explore different game mechanics and hands-on activities that introduces randomization and play to the ideation process.

Like a game that comes with a kit of parts, ideation doesn’t have to start from a blank slate. We can create the board and pieces we’ll play with by conducting thoughtful research beforehand, leveraging existing models or categories of ideas, and using game mechanics and interactive activities to throw randomization and play into the mix. Ideation should be fun, creative, and energizing, so why not gamify it?

Need an extra hand? We get it. It’s hard to do this stuff on your own. As creative facilitation gurus, we combine playful creativity with applied strategy to facilitate productive workshops and consulting sessions that help entrepreneurs and organizations think creatively about the problems in front of them. Our team of award-winning consultants have worked with hundreds of clients across the globe on over 1,500 initiatives. Talk to us at

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