Tools and Templates

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Sample Agenda for an Innovation Game

Pam Oliver is the product manager for Blendz, a fictitious manufacturer of commercial food and drink blenders. Here is a sample document that captures the work Pam and her internal team put together for a one-day Customer Advisory Council meeting. The templates are invaluable for making certain that key decisions are written down and that everyone on your internal team understands their role in the process. You can customize this sample agenda to fit your needs:

Purpose
The purpose of this document is to record the agenda for the March 13 Blendz Customer Advisory Council meeting and capture key decisions regarding this event.

Background and Logistics
The spring session of the twice-yearly meeting of the Blendz Customer Advisory Council will be held March 13 in Detroit, MI. As of January 9, 18 customers have confirmed. We expect no more than 24 customers. Although Blendz corporate headquarters is located in Topeka, KS, a large number of our customers are located within a single plane flight of Detroit, MI.

Key Goals
The key goals for this Customer Advisory Council Meeting are as follows:

  • Provide an opportunity for Blendz customers to share how they use various Blendz product features.
  • Provide Blendz with opportunities for product and service innovation by uncovering unmet market needs.
  • Provide Blendz with information that will inform near- and long-term product development road maps.
  • Foster a creative sense of shared development and discovery.

To accomplish these goals, Blendz has elected to play the Product Box and the Buy a Feature Innovation Games with members of the Blendz Customer Advisory Council. We will start with the Product Box game so that participants are more likely to express their own ideas about what is important about their Blendz blender, because they will not yet have seen our ideas about potential new features. To provide extra motivation, we will allow council members to vote on the best overall product box. The winner will receive a $50 coupon.

Following this, we will play the Buy a Feature game. Pam Oliver prepared a sample list of features and their suggested prices and proposed the amount of money that will be given to each participant (see “Key Remaining Action Items”). Some participants will receive more money than others based on their perceived importance to the company. If more than one participant is present from the same company, the amount of money will be distributed equally among company participants, and they will be put into the same group. Because we expect to have three groups of customers engaged in each exercise, we require one Buy a Feature leader for each group. Pam Oliver, Stephan Zunck, and Robert Derby (see Table 3.1) will manage the selling of features for each product group.

Role Description
Planner Pam Oliver, Product Manager
Organizer Franklin Smith, Assistant to the VP of the Fast-Food Sales Division
Greeter Pam Oliver
Facilitators Raj Subramanian, Director of Customer Service
Group leaders for Buy a Feature:

  • Pam Oliver
  • Stephan Zunck, Product Manager
  • Robert Derby, Marketing Director
Helper Franklin Smith
Observers
  • Timothy Melna, Design and Packaging Services
  • Sarah Johnston, Materials Engineer
  • Dan Allstead, Retail Channel Manager
  • Randy Weaver, VP, Sales
Photographer Clifford Mark, eCommerce website developer

Key Remaining Action Items
The following action items must be handled before the event:

  1. (Owner: Franklin) Finalize event location, sign contracts, and prepare for the event.
  2. (Owner: Pam) Finalize list of features, feature prices, and amount of money given to participants.
  3. (Owner: Franklin) Acquire materials for the Product Box game.

Sample Invitation Letter

As detailed in Part One, the invitation letter you send to your customers needs to answer the questions you can expect participants will ask. Examples include:

  • Basic event logistics: Where? When? How long? Typically half to a full day.
  • Will you pay for their travel?
  • Will you coordinate their travel?
  • What is the overall agenda?
  • Who will be coming?
  • What do they need to do to prepare?

Below is a copy of the letter I sent to executives of Rally Software Development for our 2005 Enthiosys Customer Appreciation Day. Although some of the letter is clearly boiler plate, you can also see that I try to customize the letter.

Dear Ryan, Tim, and Dean
I am honored to serve Rally as a member of the Rally Technical Advisory Board and to count Rally as a client of Enthiosys. In the short time that we’ve been working together, I’ve gained a great appreciation of how seriously you take building for the future needs of your many diverse customers, and I am especially excited about facilitating the Prune the Product Tree game at your Customer Summit in a few weeks.

Enthiosys has grown to the point where it is now our turn to take a step back and share an event that we hope will help us better understand how we can effectively meet your needs through future product and service offerings. By attending this event, you will have the chance to work directly with Enthiosys employees and other Enthiosys customers in directly shaping the future of Enthiosys products and services. We will also be taking this opportunity to provide feedback on our activities over the past year and to provide you with an overview of our future plans. More plainly, we’re practicing what we preach.

The event will take place in Monterey, CA, at the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa (http://www.woodsidehotels.com/ monterey/monte_home.htm). We have negotiated special rates with the hotel for this weekend, so please let them know that you’re associated with this event. (You are responsible for travel and hotel room costs. Enthiosys will pay for food.) Dress code is business casual, and we recommend that you bring something warm because Monterey can be a bit cooler than you might expect.

Our schedule is as follows:

Thursday, Sept. 22 (travel day):

  • 6:30 p.m. Casual dinner reception at The Whaling Station, a short walk from the hotel.

Friday, Sept. 23

  • 9:00 a.m. Check in
  • 10:00 a.m. Welcome
  • 11:00 a.m. Keynote—Don Nielson, SRI
  • 12:00 p.m. Lunch
  • 1:00 p.m. Innovation Games sessions
  • 3:00 p.m. Wrap Up

Saturday, Sept. 24 and Sunday, Sept. 25

  • Although we have nothing formally planned, you may want to extend your stay over the weekend to enjoy the many
    attractions and activities in Monterey.

We are pleased to announce Don Nielson as our guest speaker. Don is a recently retired vice president of the SRI who
has just published A Heritage of Innovation: SRI’s First Half Century, which chronicles the many innovations of SRI in
its first 50 years. You can learn more about Don’s work at http://www.sri.com/about/history/nielson_book.html. We
will distribute copies of his book at the event along with a few extra “goodies” that we’re sure you’ll enjoy.
We respectfully request that you RSVP by email or phone no later than September 12 so that we can provide the
hotel with an accurate head count for planning purposes.
On behalf of the Enthiosys team, I am again honored to send you this invitation and look forward to seeing you at
this event.
Regards,
Luke Hohmann
CEO
Enthiosys, Inc.
Innovation Through Understanding
cell: (408) 529-0319
www.enthiosys.com

Basic Materials Checklists

Room
Bigger rooms are better. In general, ask for a room that is 50 percent bigger than the number of total participants (customers and members of your team). Room setup can take anywhere from three to six hours, so it is best to have access to the room the night before the event.

Item Purpose
Pens and pencils Allows customers to take notes
Note pads (one per person) Allows customer to take notes
Easels (min two) Allows you to capture shared notes for the group
Post-It Easel Paper Excellent choice because you can stick it to most walls without tape and without harming the wall. Easel paper is also a good substitute for plain butcher paper when you need to cover a wall or a table quickly. When hanging easel paper, do it as shown in
Figure