Best Practices in Participatory Budgeting

Because we have produced or co-produced successful Participatory Budget initiatives since 2011 in cities around the world, I was thrilled when the White House promoted the use of Participatory Budgeting in its Second Open Government National Action Plan. In this plan, the White House has specifically requested for “tools and best practices” for implementing Participatory Budgeting. That’s sharp thinking, and having experienced practitioners share their work helps the global community. It’s also a timely request, as we’re in the midst of preparing for the largest ever Participatory Budgeting event: We’re recruiting 10,000 citizens for a series of Budget Games Jan 23-25, 2014 for San Jose, CA (want to help? Sign up here).

So whether your goal is engaging 10 people or 100,000, read on: You’ll be able to leverage our wisdom to make your event a success.

Seven Best Practices

Based on our experience, here are seven best practices when implementing Participatory Budgeting.

1. Start with a Serious Game.

San Jose citizens get more information from a representative of the San Jose Police Department during the 2013 Budget Games.
San Jose citizens get more information from a representative of the San Jose Police Department during the 2013 Budget Games.

The essential element of Participatory Budgeting is participation. The most powerful, most compelling, and most thorough from of engagement occurs through serious games that are carefully designed to help citizens deeply understand issues, develop empathy and insights, and create the actionable results that drive policy decisions. Our Budget Games meet this quality: They have been carefully designed and proven through years of use to create the results needed by elected officials. And, our games are a stark contrast to traditional forms of “town hall meetings” in which citizens may or may not participate, may or may not speak, and are frequently criticized for their inability to generate actionable results.

The games also provide unprecedented scale, enabling you to leverage the in-person versions of our games to engage dozens to hundreds of citizens, and our online gaming platform to engage thousands to millions of citizens using standard web-based technologies that enable powerful analytic capabilities on the results. (Our dream is to see 500 Million citizens using our platforms to engage with their governments.) The best news is that these are not mutually exclusive: We have produced hybrid events, in which participants are playing both in-person and online games. You can, too.

2. Ensure Elected Officials and Citizens Are Included.

When we implemented our first Budget Games event in San José, CA in 2011, we worked with elected officials to develop the set of budget choices for the games. This ensured that the issues being presented to the citizens would produce high-impact, actionable results because the elected officials were quite explicit in seeking the feedback of citizens.

In 2012, we extended our process to allow citizens to suggest new projects to the list of projects included in our game. These “write-in candidates” provided a means for the City to identify critical new projects while also framing new projects in the context of existing initiatives. Five new projects were added by the more than 100 citizens who played these games.

Our formal recommendation is to always start with elected officials to ensure that they will act on the results. The elected officials, in turn, can choose the degree to which citizen input will drive the choices presented in the games. And if you want to produce an event that is focused exclusively on developing ideas, our game Make My Neighborhood Great! is a proven approach.

3. Organize in Small Groups.

A key design requirement of any event designed to motivate participation is organizing the participants in small groups, ideally between 6 and 8 participants. Simply put, humans do not collaborate in large groups. The advantage of this approach is that instead of one large mass of people failing to meaningfully discuss issues or make choices, our game events produce a unique result from each game played. We can then analyze results to identify key patterns of produce the high-impact results desired by our elected officials.

4. Include Subject Matter Experts.

Our Budget Games are carefully organized to include Subject Matter Experts (like the Fire Chief, Police Chief and other representatives from different departments) who are present to answer questions from citizens. This helps citizens understand complex system dynamics (for example, more police won’t improve public safety if the roads don’t have sufficient quality), creates empathy in experts who are at risk of losing touch with the concerns of “ordinary” people, and builds relationships with citizens and civic servants, a critical component in restoring trust between citizens and their government.

5. Use Certified Facilitators.

A well-designed Participatory Budgeting session tackles complex issues directly, exploring multiple perspectives and considering many scenarios. There is no obviously “right” or “wrong” choice. Instead, citizens must weigh competing factors, explore various options, and find ways to reach a meaningful outcome.The careful design of our serious games helps ensure that citizens collaborate to create actionable results. However, our years of experience producing Participatory Budgeting events confirms our experience in working with many for-profit entities around the world: Certified Facilitators produce the best results. Certified Facilitators ensure the event is planned thoroughly, help manage the flow of the conversations, ensure that no one dominates the conversation, draw out shy or reticent participants, and gently help citizens explore choices. We are proud that our global team of Certified Collaboration Architects has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in pro-bono services.

6. Provide Food.

Food should be a part of any event. Of course, you must tailor your food to local customs: Jurgen de Smet, a Certified Collaboration Architect has produced a series of successful events in Aalbeke (Kortrijk) Belgium, writes that participants enjoyed a beer during an evening event (read the full story here). In San José, CA, participants enjoy coffee and pastries in the morning and a boxed lunch in the afternoon (though beer is not involved in the San José games, I sometimes wonder if it should be ;-).

7. Share Outcomes.

As described by the White House, “Participatory budgeting allows citizens to play a key role in identifying, discussing, and prioritizing public spending projects, and gives them a voice in how taxpayer dollars are spent.” While this is a great start, we have found that citizens want more than just being heard: They want to know, in a very real way, that elected officials are incorporating their feedback into the process. They want to see the changes in policy and understand which projects are being tackled.

Some Participatory Budgeting events do this directly, as in the 2013 Participatory Budget event in Vallejo, CA, in which citizens directly prioritized $2.4M allocated by the city council for this purpose. Early that year, San José, CA, citizens did this indirectly, when they provided input into more than $81M in potential spending, $63M in revenue generating and additional budget cuts, and $295M in a 30-year bond paid through a $100 parcel tax to rehabilitate pavement in deteriorating streets. These results were then included after additional analysis into final budget choices.

Our experience is that direct Participatory Budgeting projects are based on smaller, more tactical / near-term budget issues, while indirect Participatory Budgeting projects are better equipped to address larger, more strategic / longer term budget issues. Regardless of whether or not your Participatory Budgeting is focused on smaller items or larger items, the key is to show participants that every voice was not only heard, but that they were engaged in producing identifiable results.

While I could add additional best practices, these seven are enough to get you and your Participatory Budgeting projects focused in the right direction. Now let’s explore some critical mistakes to avoid.

Five Things to Avoid

 

  • Large Groups. It’s surprising how frequently we encounter event designers who think that 20, 40, 100 or even 1,000 people can engage in Participatory Budgeting as a single group. This is just not possible. Humans do not collaborate in large groups. If you’ve got more than 8 people in a group, you don’t have a collaboration model– you have a broadcast model. Some event designs try to overcome the issues of large group size by presenting an issue to a large group and then giving each person an electronic voting device. This is nothing more than a real-time survey and does not produce the level of meaningful participation we seek in Participatory Budgeting.
  • Trying to Change the Structure of Representative Democracy. We are not trying to change the structure of our democracy. We are trying to increase the degree of civic engagement. For anyone looking for anarchy or revolution, move along: You won’t find it here!
  • Changing the Rules of the Game. All of our games have been designed through years of experience to produce the right result for the problem you’re facing. We recommend that you follow the rules of the games we’ve designed until you’ve gained enough experience to change them. Once you’ve built that experience, have fun experimenting. (More next month on adapting other games for use in Civic Engagement!).
  • Anonymity. Unlike voting, in which anonymity is considered essential, in our Participatory Budgeting events, whether online or in-person, we neither promise nor promote anonymity. For obvious reasons, in-person games cannot be anonymous. For potentially long and boorish technical reasons, the more you play online games, the more likely it is that we can uniquely identify you. So, we don’t promise anonymity when we don’t want it or can’t grant it, and neither should you.
  • Underestimating the Planning. A well-designed and produced Participatory Budgeting event is incredibly powerful, deeply engaging, and hugely impactful. A poorly designed and rushed event is frustrating, disenfranchising, and ultimately fails to produce the desired result. The root cause in both cases is planning: Adequate planning in the former, inadequate planning in the later.To ensure success you must invest in planning. Don’t worry if you haven’t produced a Participatory Budgeting event before: There are thousands of Certified Collaboration Architects around the world who can help you.

Like our best practices, this list can also be extended. But, if you follow the rules of the games we’ve created, you’ll find that you can easily avoid these negative outcomes.

Participatory Budgeting and Games

Whether you’re a concerned citizen, a community leader, the head of your PTA or the General Manager of a $220 million dollar product line, I hope that this post has inspired you to examine how serious games can be used to strengthen civic engagement and communities. And if you’re inspired, we hope that you will join us in helping to support the 2014 Budget Games for the City of San Jose, CA, or put the games to work in your community.


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.


Curious about how Innovation Games can help you solve real-world business problem?

Join us every Friday at 10 AM Pacific and 2 PM Pacific for an hour long Innovation Game, facilitated by the Innovation Games Team!  The hour-long session is limited to eight players and will allow you to experience how businesses large and small are using Innovation Games Online everyday in their work.

Games played will include Visual Collaboration games such as Speed Boat, Prune the Product Tree, Empathy Map and others, and the ever popular Virtual Market Game Buy a Feature Online.

Sign up to play today. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1PSM7kmbbPOZVYSp_GgTNqVpxCxjtYCeI9DdjKnhXHa4/viewform  And we’ll see you in the game!


We Knew We Were Good … Research Proves We’re Great

Research studies back up years of anecdotal evidence. Games really are a valid method for doing work.

If you’ve used Innovation Games® or Knowsy®, then you know our game platforms, well, just work. Over the past decade our customers have used Innovation Games and Knowsy to answer questions, solve problems, unearth serious insight and foresight, align their organizations, and a whole host of related work. We have years of anecdotal and experiential data, and there’s no question that serious games are becoming more common solutions in the business world. However, we feel it’s still critical for us to assess the effectiveness of games for solving problems. After all, we want to know if our gaming platforms are producing as high-impact results as other techniques–or if they are even better.

Playing Knowsy to find team alignment.

Fortunately, the preliminary research that I’m sharing confirms our years of practical experience: Our games are good. Really good.

Practical Experience Drives Research Design Parameters

For a number of years, we’ve been collecting the feedback from our customers on the business impact of our games. They’ve told us that the games generate a number of hard and soft benefits:

 

  • They improve the novelty of new product concepts. Let’s define “novelty” as an idea that your team or company had not yet identified or considered. Customers report that using our games creates more novel ideas.
  • Increase the number of novel ideas. Getting one novel idea is great. Getting ten is better. We’ve produced games that have generated hundreds of novel ideas.
  • Strengthen Intellectual Property portfolios. You don’t have to bring a new product to market to get value from a novel idea: Many organizations use the results of games to stay two moves ahead of their competition.
  • Reduce time to take decisions. While pundits tell us that we need to “move faster” in business, they often fail to give us better tools. Our prioritization games are especially effective at helping businesses move faster: Cisco, VeriSign, HP and others have told us that Buy a Feature alone has saved them months of time.
  • Increase engagement. Novel ideas and efficient decisions are enhanced when employees are actively engaged in their work. As you’ll see later in this post, one of the reasons Innovation Games® produces the previous benefits is that the games increase engagement.
  • Enhance strategic relationships. Executives and Strategic Account Managers know that strong personal relationships are the foundation of strong business relationships. Playing games like Knowsy® creates these foundations.
  • Strengthen corporate brands. More broadly, companies that demonstrate they’re understanding their customers and using this understanding to drive offerings create the strongest, most effective brands.

 

Playing the Innovation Game Start Your Day in Chicago, IL.

While this is an impressive list of benefits, it is by no means exhaustive. Quite often the highest impact result of a game is its ability to directly solve a specific problem. For example, reducing the time it takes to prioritize product features often pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars of direct savings from avoiding unnecessary or unwanted products or product features.

My experience in business suggests that for senior executives these benefits are typically sufficiently compelling to start leveraging the games. My academic training, though, motivates a desire for deeper explorations: To what degree and in what situations are the games better than traditional techniques? To what degree and in what situations are online games more effective than in-preson games? What kinds of players and facilitators produce the best results? And while we have more questions than answers, the answers we’ve got are pretty darn exciting.

Measuring Novelty and Feasibility

The benefits listed above provide a good starting point for research design. The first study I wish to share is from Hadi Ghanbari from the University of Oulu in Finland, who compared the online versions of Prune the Product Trees effectiveness at generating novel, or previously unknown requirements, again traditional requirements gathering techniques and Buy a Feature‘s effectiveness at identifying the most important, most feasible requirements.

PTPT
Prune the Product Tree Online

Hadi found that Prune the Product Tree was significantly more effective at identifying previously unknown requirements. Perhaps more importantly, the identified requirements were more clearly understood by the stakeholders precisely because the collaborative structure of the game enabled participants to share information clearly.

Hadi also found that Buy a Feature was also significantly more effective at prioritizing requirements, and that the requirements selected through the game were judged to be more feasible, because the game structure generates prioritization data, conditions of acceptance that shape the requirements, and deeper understanding of the motivations for the requirements which creates greater clarity on the problems these features are designed to solve.

In reviewing these results, I found that Hadi was testing a relatively small sample size compared to what we see in corporate implementations of our platforms. This suggests that the advantages that Hadi identified to our online games may be magnified as the number of features and players increase.

Unfortunately the paper is not yet cleared for publication, we will post it as soon as it is available!

I’d like to see this research extended to see if we could identify more fine-grained aspects or dimensions of “novelty” and which of the visual collaboration games are optimal for what aspect of novelty we’re trying to identify.

Measuring Engagement

Buy a Feature game results.

Our second research study comes from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, which worked with Daimler Financial Services to explore the effectiveness of using Buy a Feature in prioritizing the ideas that employees submitted to an internal “idea catcher”. Historically, these systems excel at capturing “spur of the moment” thinking, but are typically weak on prioritization. After all, if all you can do is give a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” on an idea, you’re not going to be engaged in trying to select the best idea possible.

While the full results of the study have not yet been released, Daimler has approved sharing some key insights. These include the following:

  • The Daimler team found that preparing the ideas for inclusion in the game produced a much better result, because items in a Buy a Feature game must fairly state benefits. By “fairly”, I mean that a project with outlandish claims of benefits (for example, 1000% ROI) won’t be purchased, and projects with too few benefits won’t be purchased. Playing Buy a Feature results in more fairly defined projects.
  • Employees reported significantly higher levels of engagement, when prioritizing ideas using Buy a Feature.
  • For the reasons previously mentioned, the Daimler team also found that the selected projects were more feasible, and that the chat logs provided significant insight that made the proposals even better.

Like Hadi’s study, the Daimler research was based on a relatively small sample size. Increasing either the number of employees engaged in the study or the number of projects would likely show even greater impact.

Making Your Move

For those of you who have already experienced the incredible power that comes from playing our games, I’m sure the results from these studies are no surprise, and will only confirm what you know to be true. However, you may find that the results may sway others who are still skeptical about the role serious games can play.

If you’re new to our games, or perhaps still on the fence about whether games are really a valid method for solving business problems, I hope these studies provide you with a reason to make the move toward using serious games for solving business problems.

Finally, ff you’re a researcher who’d like to join us in assessing the effectiveness of our games, drop me a line. We’re eager to support you in your efforts to explore the effectiveness of our games.


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.


Meaningful Games–Michigan to France

Meaningful Games–Michigan to France

The best part of putting together this newsletter each month is seeing how Innovation Games® are being put to work around the globe, in every industry imaginable. This month we have posts from conferences and meetups in the US and Europe, revealing how Innovation Gamers are putting Budget GamesSpeed BoatRemember the Future and more to work! 

Meaningful Play
Innovation Games Qualified Instructor Andy Simon joined

 Andy Simon
Andy Simon

Every Voice Engaged Ambassador Steve Dodds and Michigan State’s Carrie Heeter to discuss Every Voice Engaged Great Neighborhoods program at the Meaningful Play Conference at Michigan State this fall. The Great Neighborhoods program was designed by Innovation Games’s not-for-profit spin-off, Every Voice Engaged, to help local governments support community and neighborhood growth through the use of serious games. Read Andy’s blog post, and check out Every Voice Engaged for more details on Innovation Games is doing good works.

Buy a Feature — en Francais
There’s no doubt that Innovation Games have take France

Agileplayground.org
Buy a Feature in Paris

by storm, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. (After all, I actually get to put my seven years of French classes to work.) Case in point, the recent Agile Playground event in Paris that featured Buy a Feature as one of two games participants played. Nathaniel Richand, aided by Audrey Pedro and Yannick Grenzinger facilitated the game. The subject was an e-learning platform and the participants–as always–had to collaborate to “purchase” the best possible features. Read more (in French, of course) here.

Speed Boat + Remember the Future
Our friends at ValTech have been using Innovation Games
Valtech Open Space
Speed Boat at Valtech

to great affect in their work. Case in point, this post by Valtech Trainer and Agile Coach Jean Claude Grosjean, entitled “Speed Boat + Remember the Future + Open Space = the Road to Joy“. Jean Claude details how ValTech’s team used both games in an internal standup to define ValTech’s vision of success and how they will get there. Onward!

 

Software Powered Through Collaborative Play
InfoQ just published the video of Luke Hohmann’s keynote at SDEC 2012 in Winnipeg last October. Luke’s talk centers around his favorite topic, how games power innovation.

As Seen in the Financial Times: Playing the Budget Game

Financial Times: Playing the Budget Game

On November 9, 2012, Financial Time’s Assistant Editor and Market Commentator Gillian Tett wrote about our work with the City of San Jose, CA to elicit feedback and cooperation from community leaders and city residents during the budgeting process. Like many cities in the U.S., San Jose has faced budget shortfalls, resulting in reduced city services. Beginning in 2011, we adapted a version of our prioritization game “Buy a Feature” to work for government, allowing citizens, during the Budget Game, to not only “purchase” the city services they most value, but also gain revenue for those purchases by either cutting current services or increasing revenue through various tax measures.

Tett writes, “A cynic might dismiss this as just a marketing or political gimmick. And San Jose appears to be the first city in the US to do anything quite like this. But, if nothing else, the experiment is distinctly thought-provoking, particularly given the real-life democratic dramas that have played out in America this week.”

The third annual Budget Games for the city of San Jose will be on January 26, 2013. And Every Voice Engaged, the nonprofit founded to bring Budget Games to other communities is in talks to bring the games to local governments across the U.S.

To read the complete Financial Times article, go here. Want to get involved with the 3rd Annual Budget Games? Sign up at EveryVoiceEngaged.org.


As Seen in Businessweek: Games Politicians Play

Collaborative play for problem solving has hit the mainstream! Businessweek recently profiled our work with the city of San José, CA, highlighting how we and the Every Voice Engaged Foundation have been  working with local governments and nonprofits to apply Innovation Games to the difficult problems many communities are facing.

The inspiration for the 2011 and 2012 Budget Games for San José, CA, emerged from our work with organizations like Cisco, Qualcomm, Yahoo!, Adobe and others. Tackling complex problems in prioritization, strategy, new product development is all stock and trade for us, and many of those techniques are applicable for communities as well.

Making Sense of the Games Politicians Play

San José citizens play Budget Games, an adaption of Buy a Feature created by Luke Hohman.

“One Saturday morning last year, about 90 leaders of neighborhood associations in San José gathered in small groups to play a game. Each person had a roll of fake money, from which he or she could pay for city services—like beat cops or libraries. Each group lacked enough money to cover the city’s budget. “We intentionally, just like reality, gave them far less money to buy the things they wanted,” says Kip Harkness, San José’s senior project manager.

By morning’s end, all the groups had agreed to run the city’s fire trucks with one less fireman each to save money. City council members adopted that change in San José’s actual budget last summer. At the same meetup this year, residents agreed to eliminate paid overtime for city managers, and six of 10 groups were willing to raise their sales tax by 0.25 percentage points, which the city is now considering. “I really haven’t had anyone tell me this is a waste of time,” says Harkness. “That’s pretty incredible when you’re talking about budgets.”

Click here to read the entire article.

 


Blue Cross Blue Shield Puts Innovation Games® to Work

Blue Cross Blue Shield Puts Innovation Games® to Work

Blue Cross Blue Shield's Leon Sabarsky

Leon Sabarsky’s Scrum team has been using Innovation Games for a while in their work on Claim Automation.The Raleigh, NC-based team at Blue Cross Blue Shield has used Speed Boat for project retrospectives and Prune the Product Tree for backlog prioritization—both common ways agile teams put Innovation Games to work. But recently he introduced the games to the market research team at Blue Cross Blue Shield—with interesting results.

How did you discover Innovation Games?

Word of mouth. I heard about the games from colleagues and though sessions at conferences I attended. I started trying out the games at work, and eventually took the two-day class taught by [IGQI and Enthiosys President] Jason Tanner.

Can you tell me more about how are you using Innovation Games at Blue Cross Blue Shield?

I’m the manager of a Scrum team in Durham, NC. We work on claims automation, and I also serve on the Innovation Committee here at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

We use Innovation Games in our Scrum practice—Speed Boat for retrospectives and Prune the Product Tree for backlog prioritization—but have started using them in other ways as well, such as in our market research work on our insurance products.

How did the market research work come about?

It was Jason Tanner who first suggested we use Innovation Games for market research, instead of just internally with our Scrum team. I bought the book [Innovation Games for Understanding] and invited the market research lead to lunch. After some discussion, we decided to try it.

What was the project?

The target market was college-age consumers, and we wanted to determine what type of insurance products and benefits they would be interested in purchasing—and how much they would be willing to pay. In essence, we wanted them to produce a list of benefits and prioritize which ones were most valuable to them.

How did you structure the event to get those results?
One of the Product Boxes created by the summer interns at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

We recruited 20 of our summer interns as the subjects for the market research project, and decided to do two phases in July 2012.

First, to get the benefits, we had the interns build Product Boxes outlining the insurance products they would most be interested in. This was face-to-face, of course. And each intern presented his or her box and then the group voted on the best one.

Second, we used Buy a Feature Online to prioritize the benefits that the interns had developed through their Product Boxes. The interns logged into the game from their different offices on the Blue Cross Blue Shield campus. We had priced the benefits and gave the interns 40% of the total budget to spend on the insurance products they most wanted. We were surprised and pleased with the quality of chat and negotiations during the game. At the end we got a prioritized list of insurance products that college age consumers would want to buy.

What did you learn from the games?

Price was an issue for many of them. They are buying insurance for the first time and wanted it to be reasonably priced.

Any surprises?

Yes, we had some unexpected results. The market research team had done a series of focus groups on the same topic and they had got different results than our project using Innovation Games.

Also, during the Buy a Feature game I facilitated, the game didn’t stop when the interns had spent all their money. The chat and negotiation continued, and the interns decided to un-purchase an insurance product to buy one concerning healthy benefits. It took 5 minutes of chatting to decide, after I had thought the game was done.

I was impressed with the depth of thinking during the game. The interns were really serious; we thought half would not be engaged, since the game was online and they weren’t together, but they surprised us. The game results went beyond what we expected.

Are you planning on using Innovation Games again?

We have a “FedEx Day” coming up in October. We’re inspired by Daniel Pink’s Drive, and want to create and deliver something overnight. Basically, you drop whatever you’re doing for a day and present a product at the end.

Our past “FedEx” Days haven’t been structured, but we’re hoping to use Innovation Games this time to help us get an outcome.We’re still planning, but think we’ll use 3-4 games, maybe Buy a Feature, >Product Box, Speed Boat and Spider Web.

I truly believe there’s a different dynamic when you get people moving. You get much more robust idea generation with activities like Innovation Games, than sitting down around a conference table. There’s just something about Innovation Games, the moving around and collaborating, that you don’t get from focus groups.