fullsizerender-jpg-680x667“This game is all about innovation” write the creators of Disruptus. For the Pittsburgh Zulama Team, this game was not only about innovation, but also about silliness.

Disruptus centers around a thoughtfully illustrated deck of cards. Each card depicts a different physical product, such as a sewing machine or a sailboat, and players have one minute per round to come up with original ways to improve, transform or disrupt a product. Everyone takes turns serving as “judge” and deciding which player’s idea wins the round. According to the instructions, the “craziest, most innovative” idea should win, but we interpreted that rule loosely. During some rounds, the most hilarious invention triumphed; other rounds, the most useful product took the cake. And ultimately, a player’s ability to pitch their idea could determine their success.

Disruptus revealed that each of us approaches problems from a different angle. Some of our players had an amazing knack for coming up with practical ideas like the rent-a-tablet station or shopping cart compartments. Some players took the high-tech, future-oriented approach, with products like transporter shelves and self-driving nap pods. And others went the wacky route with ideas like Pillowland, roller-coaster pills, and a service where humans act as hammocks.

The emphasis on creative problem solving makes Disruptus particularly appropriate for the workplace or classroom. Challenging our expectations about everyday products forces us out of normal patterns of thinking; it pushes our brains to look at problems sideways, upside-down, and inside-out. It helps us stay open-minded about our team-members’ ideas and our own.

disruptus-680x907Not only does Disruptus motivate players to use their imagination in thinking about products, but it also encourages players to be inventive in how they play the game. The creators write at the end of the instructions, “The bottom line is… the rules can be viewed as suggestions that you can modify.” You could alter the game to make ideas anonymous, you could decide that players get points for coming up with a perfect name for their invention, or you could require players to combine three different product cards into one new invention.
The game also comes with design-your-own cards, and our team in Pittsburgh discussed the possibility of adding in cards depicting pop culture figures or animals. A classroom could even create cards that include elements from their curriculum; for example a 3D Modeling class could make cards with different 3ds MAX tools on them, and students might have to think about how to improve the Select or Background tool.

This game is all about what you put into it. I found that in order to fully engage with it, I had to let go of my pride and expectations. It seems that silliness is inevitable in the brainstorming and innovating process. And sometimes the craziest ideas can lead you to the best ideas. If you let yourself embrace the hilarity of it all, you might find yourself thinking in completely new ways.