If you’re not going to AgileCamp 2014 on May 3, you’re really missing out. The one-day agile event (with pre-camp workshops on May 2) is bringing together some heavy hitters in the agile community — many of whom just happen to be members of the Innovation Games® tribe as well.
The conference promises to have something for everyone interested in agile, whether you’re an expert or novice, with sessions on enterprise agility, agile leadership, team dynamics, lean innovation, GTD with agile and lean and the agile coach / scrum master kata. And then there are the keynotes from folks like our own Luke Hohmann, Rally founder and CEO Ryan Martens and Lean Kanban Inc.’s CEO David J. Anderson.
Check out the Innovation Games tribe’s contribution to the program below:
May 2, 2014; 1PM – 5PM
Introduction to Kanban
IGQI, CCA and ValueInnova CEO Masa Maeda
Agile Facilitator’s Toolkit
CCA and Innovation Games® Training Graduates Susan Berry and Randall Thomas
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:
CCA and Agile Coach Karen Spencer is putting Speed Boat to work to bring better Internet Service to her 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 Boxfor feature discussion, 20:20 Visionfor prioritization, Remember the Futurefor 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 Storyto 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.
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.
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.
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 Tree‘s 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.
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.
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.
Tom Grant, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, gave the closing keynote at the first Innovation Games Summit in January 2013. Tom’s keynote, “It’s Time to Change the Rules of Work”, covered real-world examples of how collaborative play and serious games are providing leading companies with powerful advantage over their competitors. On April 5th, 2013 Tom Grant delivered his keynote speech via webinar.
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!
Join us at the first Innovation Games Summit on Jan. 24-25, 2013, with pre-Summit workshops on January 22-23. The inaugural event will bring together innovators, leaders and change agents in both the private and public sector to discuss how Collaborative Play is helping organizations large and small exceed their potential.
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.
“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.”