Let the Games begin

Imagine a cold winter evening in 1885. You’re about to enjoy a wonderful home cooked meal with your family but all of the sudden the phone rings. Now, this might not be anything special in the century we live in. But in 1885 – when not that many people had a phone – receiving a call was quite an experience. You’d pick up the phone slowly, say hello and anxiously await the response from the other side…

Good evening Sir, we’re from the national health advisory board and we would like to ask you some questions related to our healthcare service.

In those days people felt honored when they received a call like this. You mattered if someone took the time to call you and ask for your opinion. You would tell your spouse to stop serving dinner because you had an important phone call to take. Then you would sit back in your comfortable chair and have no problem spending one or two hours on the phone.

Now, imagine you would receive the same phone call tonight, in 2010.

The world has moved on…

But we need your input

We talk about innovation a lot  and whether it’s about new business models, new products, new services, new technologies or new processes, we all know innovation lies in that what you don’t already know. The key to discovery of something you didn’t know and understanding these areas lies in external collaboration. Customer collaboration to be more precise.

But we can’t just call a customer and ask for his opinion anymore. Even when we do get their attention, we don’t succeed in asking them the right questions nor do we find a way to figure out what they truly mean (or don’t tell us).  The customers’ time became the new currency and they’re not selling it cheap. Customers want to be heard but you need to find a way to make their time be worth the outcome. Meet Innovation Games.

Innovation Games

The Innovation Games developed by Luke Hohmann are games that power innovation by enabling  better customer understanding. They’re not silly like games in a water park or funny like a joke. No, they’re  more like playing Settlers of Catan.

Game playing provides a relaxed, less rigid environment and increases creativity while it leverages research from cognitive psychology and organizational behavior. The Games utilize verbal, written, visual and non-verbal forms of communication thereby providing greater volumes of information.

They have many uses, including strategic planning, sales effectiveness, product road mapping and customer relationship building. The Games reduce guesswork and increase confidence in customers, markets and offerings.

Many of these Innovation Games can also be played online, maximizing your reach in an economically responsible way. Ready for an example?

Product Box Game

Imagine you’re a manufacturer of coffee machines. You already have a wide range of machines  but want to create a new coffee maker that breaks free from existing features, design and functions.

Your team is looking for novelties  and groundbreaking features that meet the needs that may be currently unknown to you as a coffee maker but would allow you to realize a significant competitive advantage. Your challenge increases with a tight budget and the important rule: it has to be available on the market soon.

What would you do?

Qualitative customer research can be extremely difficult, expensive and time consuming. Failure to understand customer needs will have serious economic consequences for you as a company. Taking too long to figure it all out will probably end up in the competition taking over. So let’s get your customers involved. Let’s take a quick look at how the Product Box game can help you understand customer needs.

Let’s play!

Ask your customers to imagine they’re selling your product at a trade show or retail outlet. You give them a couple of cardboard boxes and ask them to literally design the product box that they would buy (preferable a box per customer). They are 100% free to do what they want with it: it’s their box and they’re the ones who would buy the product in the end.

When they’re finished with their boxes, you’ll be in for a surprise. None of the boxes will appear to be similar. They might have some key marketing slogans on them, a features list, a drawing of the product and pictures representing a certain feeling the product gives them. But customers tend to take you on an unexpected journey.

Now ask your customers to use their box to sell the product to you and the other customers in the room. It’s up to your team to pretend to be skeptical, asking the right questions and observe behavior. Your team should not unveil the features the customer mentions but the emotion behind the imaginary product. They have to unveil how the customer feels about it.

Silly techniques?

Techniques like this Product Box game might seem silly at first but just give it a try and you’ll be surprised by their power. Not sure how to get started? I’ll be more than happy to guide you in selecting the right game for the problem and how to pre and post process the gathered data.

Note that the Product Box game is an exercise with an open ending. Your customers are in control, and they are free to create the box that they find compelling. You can contrast this game with games like Buy a Feature, in which you select and constrain the features that customers purchase.

Innovation Games Qualified Instructor

As an Innovation Games Qualified Instructor,  trained by Innovation Games founder  Luke Hohmann, I’m eager to support you in better understanding your customer through collaborative play and thereby driving innovation within your company.
  • Learn how customers define success- Discover what customers don’t like about your offerings
  • Uncover unspoken needs and breakthrough opportunities
  • Understand where your offerings fit into your customer’s operations
  • Clarify exactly how and when customers will use your product or service
  • Deliver the right new features and make better strategy decisions
  • Increase empathy for the customers’ experience within your organization
  • Improve the effectiveness of the sales and service organizations
  • Identify your most effective marketing messages and sellable features

You define the goal and I’ll get you inside the head of the customer!

Check out our Innovation Games training program!

Innovation Games for Agile Teams

Innovation Games aren’t just for understanding customers. They have been proven to be highly valuable tools for improving communication and decision making within Agile teams. From organizing and prioritizing Product Backlogs to unveiling hidden team issues.

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Categories: Product Innovation


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One Comment on “Let the Games begin”

  1. December 17, 2010 at 08:48 #

    Awesome post!
    Thanks for sharing that. Had heard/read of InnovationGames, but you made me take the time to actually read through one of Luke’s ideas:-)

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