Innovation Games at Work: Better Broadband

CCA and Agile Coach Karen Spencer is putting Speed Boat to work to bring better Internet Service to her community

Committee Meeting
Jan 25 Committee Meeting- Engaging and educating the community

When it comes to using game to collaborate, Karen Favazza Spencer, an Agile Coach living in Gloucester MA, has a longer history than most. Although she’s been in the business world for over 20 years, she started her professional career as a kindergarten teacher. “Using collaborative games is like Innovation Games is coming home for me. I taught school using similar techniques and now I am using collaborative approaches with adults.”

She’s even using games in her work as the Chairperson of the Gloucester Cable TV Advisory Committee. Recently, Karen took the time to tell about how she’s using Innovation Games® for creating change in her community.

Conteneo: How did you discover Innovation Games?

Karen: At an Agile Boston Event in 2011. When I first saw the Innovation Game® Speed Boat, I immediately recognized its application as a data-gathering exercise for Risk Assessments or FMEA (Failure Mode and Effect Analysis). Since then, I’ve used that particular exercise many times, as well as taught it to others. I’ve always believed in making things visual and interactive. It’s the former teacher in me.

Besides Speed Boat, are there other Innovation Games or techniques that you use in your work?

All kinds. Product Box for feature discussion, 20:20 Vision for prioritization, Remember the Future for initial planning. I also frequently use games from the Gamestorming portfolio, like Fishbowl and Plus/Delta. Whenever I have a problem that requires collaboration, I scan both the Innovation Games® and the Gamestorming inventory for inspiration.

 You’re tackling the problem of Broadband connectivity in your community. Can you tell us about that?

In Gloucester, MA, many residents have only one option for Internet service. We’re on an island, and because of our geography, some residents experience fluctuating service levels and very slow upload data transfer speeds, particularly at certain times of day. We also have challenges with our wireless reception due to granite outcroppings, but our biggest concern is economic development. Our fishing industry is struggling, and our unemployment level is higher than the state average. We want to ensure that new businesses interested in establishing themselves in Gloucester have the broadband environment that they need to flourish.

Happily, our city has taken steps in the past several years to improve our levels of broadband service. However, to attract the type of new businesses we want, the type of maritime and marine research business we need to augment our community’s slumping fishing industry, we need to understand the broadband industry and the telecommunications environment much better. We intend to develop a sustainable long term strategy and infrastructure that will allow us to compete with any other New England region.

On January 25, we held our first in a series of three exploratory meetings for the purpose of engaging and educating the community and enlisting new committee members. We now have six committee members who are passionate about improving our circumstances, and most of whom have technical expertise in this telecommunications. We have also made contact with several of our neighboring communities. It feels like we went from 0 to 60 in just 6 weeks!

Tell us more about how you used Innovation Games.

I decided to use Innovation Games® to engage residents, businesses, schools and nonprofits in a discussion about our “as is” Internet environment and our imagined “to be” environment. I used a visible agenda and survey to open the workshop, and then progressed to a game of “Sail Boat” (also known as Speed Boat) for data gathering around the issues.  Then we used Cover Story to articulate our vision for the community. We had about 20 residents playing these games, using post-its and flip chart paper at our local library.

I enlisted three of my Agile associates (Gloria Shepardson, Pat Arcady and Gary Lavine) to act as observers during the games.  After the residents left, the four of us used the game, Empathy Map, to organize the observations they recorded on index cards during play and to generate insights. The output from all of the games used that day created a very usable foundation that I expect we will build on.

How did your fellow residents react to playing Innovation Games? Any surprises?

I asked for feedback and a numerical rating on index cards after the event. The participants rated the event as “good” to “excellent” across the board. That was a relief, because I knew I was sticking my neck out using these games. Comments on the index cards included “Great interactive meeting,” and “I wholeheartedly like this dialogue focus. Thanks!” I was also gratified by the emails I received after the event and the number of great folks requesting to sit on this committee.

What’s the next step for Broadband in Gloucester?

We’re just getting started! Broadband is a complex problem that involves many stakeholders, an ever-changing environment, and complex technology. Each member of our new committee is currently working on a different aspect. When we meet as a committee, I’ll continue to use game techniques to facilitate the knowledge share, so that our committee and our community can continue to move forward. I expect that will involve developing municipal or regional plans that will be eligible for economic development grants.

I’d also like to contribute to the national conversation about broadband. Given the January 14 DC US Court of Appeals ruling in favor of Verizon over the FCC regarding Net Neutrality, and the pending acquisition of Time Warner by Comcast, this is currently a hot topic. Providing our American businesses and citizens with sufficient affordable and reliable broadband to be globally competitive requires the involvement of passionate people. It isn’t something that we can afford to be blasé about.

The Mayor of Gloucester provided the platform, and I used Innovation Games® to engage the community in this dialogue. I’d like to use our local experience and, perhaps through the  Innovation Game® Trilicious, to engage the entire nation in the creation of better broadband for all of us.

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Meet the speaker: Jurgen de Smet on “Get yourself on the Cover”

Your session at the Innovation Games Summit is called “Get Yourself on the Cover”. What can attendees expect?
They can expect to “learn by doing”, as we will collaboratively create a vision that engages participants to actions. We’ll do this by combining a meeting carousel with a cover story to generate insights and reflect on the outcomes and endless possibilities towards execution.

The summit is bringing together people who are the front lines of using games to do work. What has been your overall experience with doing work with games?
As a team leader and product owner, I’ve been using serious games since 2006. While my career within Agfa Healthcare was booming, I kept using games to engage people around me and get them to work together and have fun. Later on, I also started using games as a way to teach and coach others. Today, I employ games in almost everything I do, for my company, as well as for my customers. Recently, I brought the Budget Games to Belgium (Aalbeke – Kortrijk), where we used games to get citizens engaged with the city budget plans.
Using games in assignments, problem solving or investigations is, for me, the most appropriate way to get people to collaborate and achieve amazing results. Attendees and customers keep on being surprised about the impact of games and that’s nice. One of the reasons I became an Innovation Games Qualified Instructor is that I want to spread out the message to the world: Game on!

Do you have a favorite Innovation Game or technique? Why is it your favorite?
I have no favorite, as all of them work very well for the context they were developed for. But I like to put a twist on existing games, change or combine them in different ways, or even invent new games, depending on the question and context they’re used in.

What techniques or games do you use most frequently and why?
Difficult question actually. There are so many games I use often. I think it all depends on the question we want to get insights on, the people we are working with, and the constraints set for the event.
As I said, I like to change the games as much as possible for each assignment as this brings out the creative part in me, but I keep following the basic structures of Innovation Games® and Gamestorming. I like to invent new, effective and fun ways to do serious work and this keeps repetitive work (like Agile retrospectives) interesting, engaging and fun. The games I most use are Product Box for visioning purposes in all different kind of contexts, Prune the Product Tree to get more details out and generate deeper insights into visions, strategy, products and such, most likely together with a Buy a Feature for prioritization purposes. Then again 20/20 Vision is the one most used, I guess.

What are you most looking forward to at the Summit? Any particular sessions?
I’m looking forward to hearing stories from others on how they explored the power of games; preferably in domains I have not been active in (yet). Next to that, I’m also pleased to catch up with my friends such as Luke, Ant, Jonathan, Oana, Bart and Ulf. Basically, I’m looking forward to the learning and fun I’ll have over there.

 

Want to find out more? Check out the IG Summit website or register now.


Speed Boat meets SWOT, Innovation Games & Scrum, ScrumKnowsy and more…

Speed Boat meets SWOT, Innovation Games & Scrum, ScrumKnowsy and more… 

One of best parts of putting this newsletter together each month is unearthing how Innovation Games are changing how people do work, all over the world. This month we have reports on Speed Boat, including a mashup with Swot Analysis, details on using Innovation Games in Scrummaster training, the ScrumKnowsy iPad app, and more… 

Speed Boat meets SWOT

Show me someone in the working world who hasn’t used SWOT Analysis? Raise your hand if you’ve played Speed Boat. Ever mashed the two together?

Speed Boat Swot mashup

No, well, Joshua Arnold of CostofDelay.com has and writes, “I’ve run a few SWOT analysis with senior managers and teams, to help them identify and share strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. What would be great to do is combine the boat metaphor [from Innovation Game’s Speed Boat] and the safe environment — and add to it a bit by identifying both negatives and positives, as well as make more explicit what is inherent to the organization itself and what is beyond their locus of control.”

Arnold’s combined game is covered in detail on his website. Do you have a game mashup to share? Let us know!

Speed Boat Short Takes. 

Arnold wasn’t the only person posting about Speed Boat. Check out these posts as well on how folks are putting the game to work:

  • Russian Speed Boat
    Speed Boat in Russian

    The product manager blogger behind Tisquirrel.com writes about how Speed Boat can ease the most uncomfortable and most important part of retrospectives, what went wrong and what went right. The original post is in Russian, but Google Translate helps, if you’re not lucky enough (like me) to have a kid fluent in Russian.

  • David Koss writes about attending an Innovation Games workshop at PaloIT in Paris in April, where he explores how to use Speed Boat to solve organizational problems. (En Francais, but Google Translate helps here as well.)

Innovation Games + Scrum = Awesome 

Qualified Instructor and Enthiosys President Jason Tanner recently teamed up with Carlton Nettleton to co-teach a Certified Scrummaster class. Innovation Games have long been used in the Agile community; the techniques work really well with common agile practices, but it’s still cool to hear about how the games are being put to use.

Changecamp tree

In this post, Carlton details how he and Jason incorporated both online and in-person games into the class, including 20/20 Vision, Prune the Product TreeSpeed BoatBuy a Feature and Knowsy (ScrumKnowsy, of course).

 

Carlton writes, “The online games are really powerful. During our course, Jason demonstrated how to use the online games for retrospectives, market research and release planning. Seeing the new and interesting ways that Jason had used the on-line games as a collaboration tool intrigued me.”  Read more about how Carlton and Jason incorporated Innovaton Games here.

ScrumKnowsy: iPad or Browser-based? 

ScrumKnowsy is now available as an iPad app, allowing you to play the standalone, personal version withou ScrumKnowsy Personalt a wifi connection and discover how your Scrum practice stacks up against such Scrum luminaries as Jeff Sutherland, Jim Coplien, Jens Østergaard and Jeff McKenna.

Want to play online, alone or with your team? Save and export your results as you improve and grow your Scrum practice? Register and play online at www.scrumknowsy.com.


20/20 Vision–with Wooden Blocks!

20/20 Vision–with Wooden Blocks!

The best part of putting together this newsletter is seeing howInnovation Games® are being adapted and put to work around the globe, in every industry imaginable. This month we feature a post froom Portland-based applied anthropologist Amy L. Santee. Amy adapted 20/20 Vision for use with wooden blocks to get feedback on her clients ideal customer experience. 

Not just another boring focus group.

Focus group participants, Amy writes, “really appreciate it when they don’t have to sit […] for two hours in one, long drawn-out conversation.” Instead, Amy includes at least one or two hands-on activities to get people talking, thinking and using their imaginations.

Tactile and unexpected.

“One example of a collaborative, hands-on activity I have used in the past,” Amy continues, “involves something participants don’t usually expect — playing with blocks! This is actually an adaptation of an exercise from a book called Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play by Luke Hohmann.”

Called 20/20 Vision, this game is a way to gain insight into customer priorities, Amy writes as she describes how she used the technique with a current client.

20 20 Vision Blocks
20/20 Vision Blocks

Why Blocks? 

“First, I thought it would be better to involve the participants by having them do the actual “arranging” of the list of attributes, rather than having me doing it for them with index cards.

[Second], why use paper index cards? Why not use something more interesting and tactile that adds to the hands-on, collaborative feel? I couldn’t think of anything that would work better for this very purpose than big sturdy blocks of some sort.”

How did it work?   

Amy writes that the 20/20 Vision games as blocks, “was a useful catalyst for revealing how people define the ideal customer experience. All of the talking, sharing of opinions, debating, and collaborating provided insights unattainable by more traditional market research approaches.”

To read all the project details, including how Amy structured the exercise, and had the blocks made at a local hardware store, check out her post, “Defining the ideal customer experience: an example of a collaborative, hands-on focus group activity for market research“.  For more on 20/20 Vision, check out innovationgames.com.


The International Appeal of Visual Collaboration Games

We love our work, especially when it challenges us to think about Innovation Games® in new ways. This post was inspired by a two-day strategic planning meeting that we produced last month for the Adobe Localization team. The event was a notable success, and you can read an interview with three members of the Adobe team (Francis Tsang, Senior Director Globalization at Adobe; Janice Campbell, Sr. International Program Manager 2; and Jean-Francois Vanreusel, Director of Localization) here. In this post, though, I’m going to focus on what Adobe taught me about Localization, and discuss some ideas on how you can improve your ability to play games with a global audience. Bonus? Fans of Scott McCloud’s book Understanding Comics (which I love) will see the influence of his work in our games.

Background on the Adobe Event

With more than half of its revenue derived from outside the United States, Adobe has developed an amazing ability to localize its products. From my experience, Adobe’s approach to Localization is just amazing, and it accomplishes many things I didn’t think was even possible (for example, localizing an interface in every sprint). What makes this team extraordinary, however, is that they are simply not content to rest on their laurels. Their desire for dramatic improvement was the motivation for this meeting.

We started planning this event months ago, when key members of the Adobe team began reviewing my book as part of their book club. Peter Green, Agile Coach and Trainer at Adobe systems, had previously hired me to help bring the games to Adobe’s Agile development teams, introduced me to the Localization team. We quickly agreed that instead of just reading about the games, the Adobe team would use the games in a two-day strategic planning meeting whose:

… main objective was to develop a common Localization vision and identify short-term and long-term initiatives to progress towards that vision.

Joining us were Innovation Games® Trained Facilitators Peter Green and Deb Colden, who consults extensively on matters of corporate strategy. The planning process was extraordinarily enjoyable, as the Adobe planning team used this project as a way of deeply understanding the games and each phase of the planning. I especially appreciated the team’s focus on assembling the right materials and in recruiting a very helpful helper. You can read Janice Campbell’s excellent description of the event here.

Globalization Is More Than Just Localization

We’ve known for a long time that developing truly global products is more than just localizing the user interface. Certainly, translating strings in fields is an obvious first step. So are developing localized versions of help and technical documentation. And I wrote about localizing such things as installation and log files for enterprise software in my book Beyond Software Architecture.

The Adobe team demonstrated that localization goes much further. They discussed such things as the entire user experience, from advertising and order fulfillment on the web site to installation and use of the product. Perhaps more importantly, they discussed how to engage internal and external customers in making continuous improvements to all of these factors, and identified a number of cutting-edge strategies to make this happen. We know that we need to create a similar localized experience for our customers, especially since nearly a thirdof our sign-ups are from outside the U.S. (And we will.) But today, I want to focus on the international appeal and the globalization/localization of Innovation Games® and Gamestorming Games.

Visual Collaboration Games and Internationalization

Let’s compare and contrast three Instant Play games to explore what makes a visual collaboration game more or less globally accessible. (Note: Clicking on these images will start an instant play game).

Speed Boat SWOT Analysis Manufacturing Games

The left-most image is our Innovation Game Speed Boat. As a pure image of a boat, with no textual labels, it can be used in any culture around the world that understands boating. And while I would expect that different cultures have different styles of boats that they prefer, I suppose that this would work just fine.

The center image drawn from the SWOT analysis framework. As a well-known strategic analysis framework, I suppose it is acceptable that this game has English labels. But the moment I introduce words, I start to reduce the global appeal of my game.

The right-most image is drawn from the growing collection of public games. And I can’t play it because I can’t read Spanish, though I’m guessing it deals with manufacturing processes. But that’s probably OK, as I’m quite likely not the target market for this game. Unless they want to play this game with people in China.

For a long time, we’ve known that visual game designers need to pick an image that helps players find a solution to the problem  they’re trying to solve. This is the power of visual metaphor, and it can range from using a tree to represent the evolutionary growth of a product in Prune the Product Tree to using a stylized face to represent our understanding of a user when playing Empathy Map.

And when you’re playing a game that includes a global audience, like the games we played with the Scrum Alliance, or some of the games we’ve played for the HP.com FutureWorks team, you need to ensure that the image is accessible and understandable to the global audience. And a simple way to do this is to avoid text in the image.

Purchase Motivations for Independent Insurance Agents

Of course, you don’t always have to focus on a globalized image or avoid text. A great example of this is the image that Ryan Peel from Hastings Mutual created when he wanted to understand what people see as the advantages/disadvantages to working with independent insurance agents. This image, like the right-most image in the table above, is clearly optimized for Ryan’s target audience (as he described here).

Should Layers and Regions Be Localized?

Of course, the power of our platform is more than just collaborating on an image. The ability to create multidimensional layers and regions on images is what gives our platform such amazing and expressive power (see “How to Make any Doodle or Image a Collaborative Game” and detailed videos on how to do this).

However, in working with Adobe, I realized something quite important: Even if the image is “universal,” the layers and regions are textual. And, in our current platform, these labels are stored in one language. Meaning, if you enter your labels and regions in German, then I’m going to see German — even if I don’t speak German. Likewise, if I create a game with English labels for the layers and regions, all of my players will see English.

I’ve reflected on this quite a bit, and I’m not sure that this is a problem. I’ve played a lot of global games — with as many as eight different countries represented in one online game. In the games I’ve played, one language (usually English) emerges as the “lingua franca” of the players. I’ve discussed this with our several of our facilitators from other countries, and they have pointed out the same thing — one language emerges as the “lingua franca” of the players. This is a natural outcome of the need to collaborate with other players. We may all be using a second, or even third language, but until we can find a common language, we can’t communicate. And that common language, when used as the language of the layers and the regions in the game, actually promotes collaboration.

Chats and Shared Language

Our online games provide an online chat facility that allows players to collaborate as they play the game. And while we’ve had some requests to add video and voice capabilities to our games, we’ve also received several emails applauding us for our text-only chat. And while I consider some of the pros/cons of text chatting, you can play an online Pro/Con game and give me your opinion of text-only chatting by playing the Pro/Con game on the right.

Play the Pro/Con online!

Text chatting slows down the play of the game and keeps all players at a similar level of proficiency with the “lingua franca” of the game. Suppose, for example, that you work for SAP as a product manager in a globally distributed product development team and you want to play a “Whole Product Game” to identify changing perceptions of your product. Your native language is German, but since you’re playing with your colleagues from India and America, you choose to play the game in English.

Of course, each of the players playing your game have a “natural advantage” in their native language. But if even a small subset of the players is speaking a different language, everyone suffers. And, while I readily admit that audio and video provide additional information that is critical to communication (tone, inflection, body language and so forth), it is also important to point out that audio and video can intimidate and frustrate the players (for example, it can be hard to hear people, different cultures respond quite differently to visual cues and power distance among players, and the lags in communication can be quite frustrating). In the quest to obtain the best results, these differences are quite important.

Play the Whole Product online!

Moreover, audio and video are hard to integrate in a way that allows players to privately negotiate during the game, something that we accomplish easily through whispering (a form of person-to-person chatting). And the post-processing of audio/video files is considerably harder.

That said, I’m sure that we’ll be adding audio and video to our games over time. It is natural and inevitable, and done correctly, it should enhance the experience and provide yet another option for global game play. For now, though, we are pleased that our system provides excellent results for globally distributed teams.

The Global Network of Innovation Games® Trained Facilitators

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that a key strategic advantage that Innovation Games® has over traditional problem-solving and market research techniques is our global network of trained facilitators. We’ve trained consulting facilitators in countries from Korea and South Africa to Germany and Mexico. These remarkable people can help anyone who wishes to leverage the games develop games that fit their local cultures. And we’re happy to help connect you with a facilitation team in another country when you’re trying to produce a global engagement.

Player Appeal Matters More Than International Appeal

The appeal of a visual collaboration game starts with the universal power of a visual image to help people “see” — reason, explore, investigate, examine, study and ultimately solve — problems in new and novel ways. Suppose, for example, that you want to identify ways to improve your sales process by focusing on the buying process of your customers. Inspired by Scott McCloud’s amazing book Understanding Comics (Tundra, 1993), let’s explore three images that you could use for your game (note: only the boat is an instant play games):

Speed Boat Buying Process Home Buying Process

The left-most image is our familiar Speed Boat, whose enduring power is the metaphorical abstraction that it can bring to any process improvement game. It can be easily used to address and buying/selling situation.

The middle image, from Guuui, is less abstract, but still applicable in a large number of purchase scenarios — even though it has English labels.

The final image, from Rey Homes, is very concrete, as it represents the Rey Homes approach to guiding an American home buyer through the home purchase process. And it works great in America, but not so well in Brazil or Belgium, and not at all for buying a Cisco Router.

Ultimately, that’s my point: Innovation Games® online gives you an amazing palette in which to explore what kind of image will engage your audience. And, it is through this engagement that you’ll find the key to unlock the insights and understanding that drive innovation.


Your Next Move! January 2011

Welcome to latest issue of Your Next Move!, our monthly newsletter covering the latest news, events and announcements from the Innovation Games® community.

This month in the Innovation Games at Work section, we profile Reed Elsevier’s global use of Innovation Games, having recently signed up for an enterprise license. Luke blogs about our the game design for our recent event for the City of San Jose on budget prioritization (which was also covered in the Huffington Post and the San Jose Mercury News). From the community, there are several thoughtful blog posts detailing how folks are using such games as 20/20 Vision, Speed Boat, Prune the Product Tree and Product Box–and a profile of our very own Santiago Zavala by HotDevs.

Click here to read the newsletter online.