Innovation Games® Certification in Washington DC

Founder of the Serious Games At Work website, Tom Grant will be hosting an Innovation Games® workshop for Customer Understanding on May 29-30 in Washington DC. These games (originally outlined in Luke’s groundbreaking book, Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products through Collaborative Play) enable you to work directly with your customers, eliciting unique insight into what they truly want from your product or service. Tom Grant has been using serious games for over two decades, in education, software innovation, and military affairs. He currently works as a senior consultant for the Cutter Consortium, and previously as a senior analyst at Forrester Research.

This two-day certification course will teach you how to use a variety of games with your customers to:

  • Uncover unspoken needs & breakthrough opportunities
  • Understand where your offerings fit into your customers’ operations
  • Clarify exactly how & when customers will use your product or service
  • Deliver the right new features & make better strategy decisions
  • Increase empathy for the customers’ experience within your organization
  • Improve the effectiveness of the sales & service organizations
  • Identify your most effective marketing messages and sellable features
  • Discover what customers don’t like about your offerings

 

For more information on these courses and registration click here

 

 


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.

______________________


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.


From “Oh Shit” to “Oh Wow” in 30 Minutes!

A few weeks ago the the Innovation Games team was facilitating a Customer Advisory Board (CAB) meeting for Rackspace. While preparing for the meeting, we had designed brand new game, Dozens of Diamonds, which asks participants to add gemstones to an empty brooch to create a truly valuable piece of jewelry. In this game, the brooch represented the Rackspace Enterprise and Cloud offerings portfolio, and gemstones represented aspects of functionality that would make the brooch truly valuable to Rackspace’s customers.

Find that unknown jewel of insight via Innovation Games.

After the game had started, I noticed that Joanne, an Observer and one of the many Rackers involved in the event production, had been taking a tremendous amount of notes. During a break, I walked over and thanked her for her help, as Observers are a critically important element of a successful Innovation Game® event–especially those focusing on market insight. It was her reply, however, that really got me smiling.

“Luke, this game is great!” she expounded. “I’m getting so many insights and taking so many notes that my hand is getting tired! I gotta be honest, though: When I walked into the room and saw the brooch on the wall and the junk on table, [paper, pens, scissors, tape, stickers, and other materials], I thought to myself ‘Oh Shit. This is going to be some stupid arts and crafts team-building thing.’ But, this is totally awesome. Our customers are really into the game, and I can’t believe the feedback. And they’re loving it! You took me from ‘Oh Shit’ to ‘Oh Wow’ in 30 minutes!”

While I’ve heard variations of this from different people over the years, I must admit that this was the first time someone said we took them from Oh Shit… to Oh Wow! in a half hour.

Making Your Move

When you’re ready to have your Customer Advisory Board, market insight or sales meetings with customers go from Oh Shit… to Oh Wow!, give us a call. Just be forewarned: Your journey might involve stickers.


Why Yahoo! Is Playing Games Instead of Working From Home

Hi everyone! This blog post has been temporarily unpublished while I work with the Yahoo! team on making sure all aspects of this great story are properly shared. Thanks for coming – and come back soon!

Luke


Are You Ready to be Innovation Games-Certified?

Are You Ready to be Innovation Games-Certified?   

Those attending the Innovation Games Summit in January got a preview of one of the biggest developments coming to the Innovation Games community – the Innovation Games Certified Collaboration Architect Program. After years of requests (by our customers, partners and students), we’re launching the Certification Program to help companies using Innovation Games (and related techniques) find the skilled partners they need to be successful. And to help our Certified Collaboration Architects find more engagements and more opportunities to put innovation Games to work.

The certification program focuses on skill, and incorporates training, facilitation and production experience (both online and in-person). Be on the lookout for more details on how you can join in.


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.

 


Announcing The Innovation Games Summit!

The Innovation Games® Summit

Collaborate, Create, Succeed. Celebrating 10 years of doing real work with games.

For 10 years, we’ve been changing the way the world does work, helping organizations large and small put their ideas to action through Innovation Games. People work better together. And the results are even better when that work is a game.

Join us on January 24-25, 2013 for an exploration of how Innovation Games® are changing the world.

  1. We’ll explore the diverse uses of Innovation Games and serious games.
  2. Celebrate practice and real world applications of Innovation Games.
  3. Promote skill through the launch of the Innovation Games® Certification program.
  4. Have fun, learning with like-minded people.
  5. Support the 2013 Budget Games on Jan. 26, 2013 though facilitation. (We’re recruiting facilitators for the 2000+ person game event.)
  6. Celebrate 10 years of Innovation Gaming!
Keynotes

We’re pleased to announce that Author, Speaker and Advisor on Business Model Innovation Alexander Osterwalder has agreed to present a keynote address at the Innovation Games Summit.

Innovation Games Founder and CEO Luke Hohmann will also keynote. Stay tuned for more details and additional keynote speakers to be announced in the coming weeks.

Call for Papers Open!

We invite you to submit a session proposal for the Innovation Games Summit and help us reveal how Innovation Games are changing the world of work. Proposed tracks are:

 

  • Sales: Games for Fun and Profit
  • Strategy: Unleash Internal Teams
  • Market Insight: Understand Your Customer
  • Agile: Breakthrough Products and Services
  • Government: Games for Good
  • Grab Bag

Submit your proposed session here.

Join us!

Check out the Summit website for registration, speaker updates, the Call for Papers and more.


Ant Clay talks about Requirements Gathering, SharePoint, and using Innovation Games.

Ant Clay of Soulsailor Consulting talks with MYSP.tv about SharePoint consulting using Innovation Games to help facilitate requirements gathering for his clients. Ant is a Innovation Games Qualified Facilitator that teaches Trained Facilitator classes regularly in the United Kingdom. Check out Soulsailor Consulting’s website here.

 

 

Antony Clay on the Anywhere Organization, Collaboration, SharePoint Social Media, and Requirements Gathering from MYSP.TV on Vimeo.


How We Play Online Games Differently Than In-Person Games

Online vs. In-Person Games: How playing them differs

We get a lot of inquiries about the differences between online and in-person games. Quite often, these inquires have some not-so-secret agenda, as when advocates of one or the other forms of play try to convince me that one is clearly superior than the other. Ha! Those questions may be cleverly worded, but they forget that we’ve been playing games for more than 10 years. After writing the book — and then writing the software platforms that powers in-person and online games, I’m far too crafty to be fooled by these questions.  However, there are indeed differences between online and in-person games, and this blog post fulfills a tweeted promise to write about those differences. In this post, I cover some of the differences we see when playing online or in-person visual collaboration games. Stay tuned for a second post covering some of the differences in our virtual market games.

We’ll start with the game production and design, and then cover differences in play and facilitation. Finally, I’ll cover how post-processing results differs with online and in-person games.

Game Production

I’ve come to think of game production as a small system of three interlocked phases of planning. The first is situating yourself in the Ideas Into ActionTM framework so that you can be clear on the broad kinds of question you’re going to ask, the goals you’re trying to achieve, or the kinds of puzzles you’re trying to solve. This phase is independent of whether or not you will play online or in-person games. If you’re in the Discover phase, you’re going to choose open-ended games, and if you’re in the Prioritize phase, it is pretty certain you will choose a prioritization game.

The second phase is Detailed Game Design, in which you’ll select and tailor the game(s) you’ll be using. This planning template can help you in both high-level design and detailed design. You can also find inspiration in this blog post, which describes how your goals, your nouns, your verbs and your context will help you choose between online or in-person games.

The last phase is Play-Testing your assumptions. While experienced facilitators often consider this step optional, I always recommend play-testing your games (even, and often most especially, when you’re playing games with internal teams). Play-testing helps you calibrate that the background image and items you’re using are effective for your goals, helps you fine-tune your facilitator scripts and provides a sample of the kind of results you’re likely to acquire. Play-testing is required when you’re producing large numbers of games, as your facilitation team will need to experience the games before playing them with customers.

So, if the high-level planning phases are the same, where do we start to see differences? Let’s start with Detailed Game Design.

Making Banana Pancakes: Detailed Game Design

People who have taken my classes typically hear me refer to the games as “the pancake batter of customer understanding”. Sticking with pancakes for a moment, you can make lots of different pancakes with a few basic variations. Starting with basic batter, you can make banana pancakes by adding bananas, blueberry pancakes by adding blueberries, and apple pancakes by adding apples and some spices. Similarly, Innovation Games like Speed Boat or Prune the Product Tree provide an amazing design palette for gaming.

The Detailed Game Design phase is where you will start dealing with all of the details of the game that you’re producing, much like the distinction of which kind of pancake you’re making.

Online games allow for greater flexibility in the selection of items, in that you can use any 25×25 pixel image in your selection. In-person games are least costly when you’re using items that you can purchase from a store. Apples and leaves from elementary school teacher supply stores are great options. You can also design and print custom items for a considerably higher price.

Using Prune the Product Tree as our example, here are some key areas where online games differ than in-person games.

Differences between Online and In-Person Games

Background Image

The best background images are simple, clearly understood, and typically based on light colors. Hand-drawn images are just fine. Of course, if you need help in creating images, check out our game design services.

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Online Games

Online images need to be sized for the platform and prepared in advance.

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In-Person Games

In-person images can be drawn by hand in real-time or poster printed before the game. If poster printing, make sure that you’re using a hi resolution or vector based image so that it doesn’t look pixelated when printed. Decide up front if you want your images printed in black∓white or color, and estimate how many images you’ll need, as this will affect production costs.

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Item Images

Item images need to match the metaphor of the game. So, for Prune the Product Tree, you’ll use items that match the tree you’re creating, like apricots, apples, leaves, or even coconuts. Don’t let your metaphor constrain you, as you can also have some fun with images that don’t perfectly match the metaphor. For both kinds of games we recommend limiting the total number of items available to players in the games.

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Initial Items

Visual collaboration games allow for the placement of two kinds of initial items: items that a player cannot move and initial items that can be moved. For example, when using Prune the Product Tree for roadmapping, you might have two kinds of roadmap items. One might be regulatory requirements that simply must be done,while the other might be suggested roadmap items. It turns out that handling these scenarios is exactly the same in both games: add the items that can’t be changed directly to the background image, and add the items that can be changed as initial items. Remember that any items you add at the start of the game must be explained to your players.
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Placement of Items

It is usually important to capture the placement of items in a meaningful way. Not an X-Y coordinate, but something more meaningful, like: this apple represents a new feature that we want in a few years vs. this apple represents a feature that we want in the next release.
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Online Games

Online games have the ability to add layers and regions to the image to know where an item was placed. This is a tremendous advantage when playing large numbers of games, as this makes it easy to post-process the results. To better understand how to add layers and regions to your online games, read this.
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In-Person Games

In-person games capture the semantics of image placement by printing guides on the background and adding observers to the game session.
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Facilitation Scripts

To play your game, your players need an understanding of the goal of the game, the meaning of the background and items, and the rules of play. This information typically comes from your facilitators.
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Online Games

Online games typically involve many more games, more facilitators, and a more controlled setup. In these games, we recommend preparing a facilitation script and having each of your facilitators introduce this script to the players in the lobby before the game begins. You can see sample facilitation scripts for the Agile Alliance Conference Retrospective and the Scrum Alliance retrospective. For online games,it is also helpful to prepare an overview of your games before the event and emailing this to your players, along with instructions on how to play. While most of your players won’t read this, you’ll be satisfied that you’ve done all that you can to help your players prepare for the game.
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In-Person Games

In-person games are typically structured as one or more groups of people who are playing the game at the same time in the same place. For example, you might be producing a Customer Advisory Board meeting where 18 to 24 customers will be playing Prune the Product Tree to provide feedback on the product roadmap. This 18-24 people will be organized into 3 to 4 different teams based on various attributes (e.g., you can group participants by role or by vertical). In this case the lead facilitator will introduce the game to all participants, and then hand control to the facilitator of each tree. As such, the per-tree facilitators only need a few short bullet points to stay on track.
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Now that the games have been designed and introduced, let’s explore some of the differences in how people play online and in-person games.

Differences In How People Play

There are significant differences in how people play games online and in-person games. Since our story started with in-person games, I’ll explore those first.

In-person Games

There are two clear patterns for in-person games, depending on how the facilitator frames the preferred interaction model for the players. The first can be called “Discuss first; Move second”, in which the group will discuss any moves before making them, and then, once agreement is reached, they will make the move. This is common in games where the facilitator puts the group in control. Continuing with our with Prune the Product Tree roadmapping example, we’ll typically see that one or two people who are standing closer to the tree will take the lead on discussing items and then moving them. Note that this is not strictly true for every part of the game, and you will, of course, see people add or move items independently.

The second mode, “Move first; Discuss second”, is embodied in games like Speed Boat, where players are asked to silently write their ideas, add them to the game board, and then organize them a bit before the facilitator manages the discussion. This approach is also common in many retrospective games from the Agile community, in which a team generates ideas and then discusses them. Both of these modes are straightforward to implement during in-person games, because you can rely on the physical presence of the facilitator and structure of the room to guide interaction. For example, in the “Move first; Discuss second” model of interaction, the facilitator often stands and has the participants stay seated.

Online Games

The power of real-time interaction in the online games makes them overwhelming “Move first; Discuss second” interaction models. Specifically, once the game begins, players will add items to the image until they start to run low on items. It is then that the facilitator will start to explore specific items with the group. As a facilitator, you will have to refer to items explicitly, because you can’t rely on the physical structure of the room to capture items.

Facilitators of online games also cannot rely on body language to indicate player state. For example, in an in-person game a player might nod their head in agreement with another player’s explanation of an item, or they might cross their arms and lean back in their chair in a subtle expression of disagreement. A skilled facilitator will use these physical cues to help them manage the discussions to the most important items. During an online game, facilitators should use both the public and private chat facility of the games to encourage players to express their thoughts.

Differences in Processing Results

The essential activity in processing results is making sense of the items and looking for actionable patterns in the data. This is easier for online games, because you can simply download all of the information across all of the games you’ve played in a single Excel spreadsheet [Pro Subscription only]. Skillful use of layers and regions makes this even easier!

In-person games require more work, because you have to photograph and transcribe all of the results of in-person games to make post-processing easier. However, there is an undeniable emotional punch to in-person games because the items were created in the “human font“. Over time, of course, this will diminish, as our online games will allow for direct input in increasingly individualized means. For now, though, I have to admit that hand-drawn and hand-written articles pack a lot of information.

What Differences Do You See?

It seems that no matter how much I strive to write a short blog post, I end up writing a long one. I do hope you enjoyed this one and will consider sharing some of your experiences with in-person and online games.