New online service provides organizations with a faster, easier, more collaborative and engaging way to prioritize backlogs, features, projects and more.

BAF screenshot
Buy A Feature Online

Mountain View, CA—July 29, 2014.  Conteneo Inc. today announced the launch of, a new online service designed to make collaborative prioritization – at scale – quicker, easier and more cost-effective. Leveraging Conteneo’s Innovation Games® Online platform, the online service allows organizations to conduct large-scale, online prioritization with 100s to even 1,000s of customers, stakeholders and team members.

“In our decades of working with organizations like Adobe, Cisco, Transamerica, Rackspace, Yahoo!, we’ve learned that collaborating with customers and employees leads to breakthrough products and services and increased success for organizations,” said Luke Hohmann, CEO and Founder of Conteneo. “Collaboration is key to truly understanding market needs and priorities, but as companies, teams and markets grow larger, true collaboration becomes harder to accomplish. That’s where Conteneo’s online collaboration games come in.”

By leveraging Innovation Games® Online’s Gala feature, offers scalable, un-facilitated prioritization sessions, designed to allow 1,000s of individuals to play the Innovation Game® Buy a Feature Online – in groups of 6-8 – to collaboratively prioritize a list of backlog items, features, projects, and so forth.  And it’s easy to get started. Simply upload the list of items to prioritized; upload the contact information for the individuals who will be prioritizing the list; pay the fee (just $10 a participant)—and Conteneo takes care of the rest, from scheduling games to producing the report.

For more information, including detailed pricing information and case studies, go to or contact Conteneo at

Conteneo’s portfolio of products and professional services includes Innovation Games® Online, which launched in July 2009, and was highlighted in a by Forrester as a leader in the serious games industry for helping businesses “do work.” Other online collaboration game engines include Knowsy® and Common Ground for Action. Innovation Games® Online includes both a real-time visual collaboration platform and an online prioritization platform (Buy a Feature Online or Budget Games). The online platforms and games are based on Luke Hohmann’s book Innovation Games®: Creating Breakthrough Products through Collaborative Play.

About Conteneo

Conteneo Inc. helps private and public organizations super power business agility through the collaborative, social, serious games. Our online platforms and in-person services enable organizations to improve performance across the enterprise, including culture and change management, market research, strategy, complex sales and innovation and development. Current and past clients include Adobe, Armstrong Flooring, Cisco, Emerson Climate Technologies, HP, Rackspace, Reed Elsevier, Qualcomm, SAP, Yahoo! and others. For more information, go to

Contact: Tami Carter
Conteneo Inc.
Tel: 415.871.4732


Version 3.9 offers users vastly improved usability and modern design, across both Visual Collaboration and Prioritization platforms

Mountain View, CA—July 25, 2014.  Conteneo Inc. today announced the release of Innovation Games® Online 3.9, the latest version of its flagship enterprise software engine. The Summer 2014 release offers users enhanced design and usability, along with several new feature sets, providing improvement in both its prioritization platform (a.k.a. Buy a Feature) and its visual collaboration platform.

“Innovation is at the core of everything we do at Conteneo—and that means providing software that evolves to meet our customers changing wants and needs,” said Luke Hohmann, CEO and Founder of Conteneo. “We want to ensure that users receive the most innovative and most stable release possible, and version 3.9 is a prime example of that. From making it easier to join and start games to an all-new player tutorial, Innovation Games Online 3.9 supports our mission of providing a best-in-class platform that enables the growth and success of our customers and partners.”


New features and benefits of version 3.9 include:

  • Easy entry into games using 9 Digit Access Codes: As part of our continued work on improved usability, players are now able to join games using a 9 Digit Access Codes. The 9 Digit Access Codes are also displayed in the project organizer, making it easy for users to join a game without searching for an email or opening the game invitation.
  • Galas 2.0—massive multiplayer games come to IGO: Galas are perfect when you have a lot of people who need to play your games—more games than you can facilitate. In this release, we’ve perfected and reformulated Galas for our prioritization platform, making them seamless to plan and play. Players are now able to play immediately after identifying themselves at the game’s front door. We’ve also added more producer controls, including the ability to configure the number of players (or slots) in each game, along with the total time allotted for play, and the time frame for adding players before the player “slots” are dropped. If no additional players show up after a configurable amount of time, then the slot is automatically dropped and the budget for that slot is distributed to all of the players.
  • How-to-Play tutorial. Buy a Feature Online, our prioritization platform, now includes a simple and elegant onboarding tutorial, explaining to first-time users the main features of the platform through a quick, click-through process.
  • Buy-a-Feature Player Usability Improvements:  Players are now notified when new players arrive, when a player slot has been dropped, and when they have received an increased budget. All Buy-a-Feature games (including Galas) now include a game clock. The “needs” column has been moved to the left-hand side of the game screen, so that players can more easily see the status of the items they are bidding on.
  • Re-styled Chat Windows. The chat and “whisper” windows have been restyled for ease-of-use in both Buy a Feature Online and the lobby.
  • Visual Collaboration improvements. While major changes to the visual collaboration platform are currently underway, this release did add several valuable improvements, including iPad support for Visual Collaboration games – both iOS6 and iOS7—and the benefit of collapsing player actions by default to enable easier chatting on iPad and other smaller screens.


Slide1Innovation Games Online 3.9 is currently available to all users, with more improvements coming in 2014.

Conteneo’s portfolio includes Innovation Games® Online, which launched in July 2009, and was highlighted in a by Forrester as a leader in the serious games industry for helping businesses “do work.” Other online collaboration game engines include Knowsy® and Common Ground for Action. Innovation Games® Online includes both a real-time visual collaboration platform and an online prioritization platform (Buy a Feature Online or Budget Games). The online platforms and games are based on Luke Hohmann’s book Innovation Games®: Creating Breakthrough Products through Collaborative Play.

About Conteneo

Conteneo Inc. helps private and public organizations super power business agility through the collaborative, social, serious games. Our online platforms and in-person services enable organizations to improve performance across the enterprise, including culture and change management, market research, strategy, complex sales and innovation and development. Current and past clients include Adobe, Armstrong Flooring, Cisco, Emerson Climate Technologies, HP, Rackspace, Reed Elsevier, Qualcomm, SAP, Yahoo! and others. For more information, go to

Solo vs Social Computing (or, you don’t collaborate with a crowd)

I just finished the second day of facilitating the Human Computation Roadmap Summit Workshop (through our partner, Sunni Brown, Ink.), in which a highly diverse group of world-class researchers and innovators are exploring the past and prospective impact of human computation to clearly delineate the research areas and activities that will lead directly to the most beneficial national and societal outcomes.

While cleaning up the room after today’s games I had a very interesting discussion with Seth Teicher, who manages Partnerships and Business Development CrowdFlower. I mentioned that I wasn’t a fan of the label “Human Computation” because I think the word “Human” implies there is one person involved in the task. Seth remarked that while he never thought of it this way, he thought my point made sense because at companies like CrowdFlower, the tasks are designed to be solo.

While not perfect, I prefer “Social Computing” because I think it better captures the kinds of tasks that customers use Conteneo’s platforms (Innovation Games® Online, consisting of our Visual Collaboration and Buy a Feature platforms, Knowsy®, and Common Ground for Action) to solve. Specifically, these platforms are designed to solve collaboration problems – which by definition are not solo. (And it doesn’t hurt that Social Computing is the term used in the White House OSTP pcast Report, though it is a real shame that the report mentions the value of cross-agency collaboration without identifying the tools that could be used to achieve this – tools like Conteneo’s platforms!).

Seth pressed me on this, and I’m glad he did, because it helped both of us clarify our respective products and services and the kinds of problems we tackle. Let’s say, for example, that you’re trying to categorize some data. If you can get this task into a form where a single human, working alone, can do what humans do well, then you’ve just created a terrible task for Conteneo’s collaboration platforms and a terrific task for CrowdFlower’s. And that’s the goal of CrowdFlower and platforms like CrowdFlower: design tasks (or micro tasks) that can be performed by humans in isolation, and ideally with low skills or quickly acquirable skills, because isolation in low-skilled tasks leads to scale, and scale leads to low cost.

I asked Seth to consider two different kinds of task, the first of which is certainly faced by CrowdFlower: Prioritizing a product backlog. This is a task in which we want the conversations among stakeholders and customers induced by Buy a Feature precisely because these lead us to not only understand participant priorities, but also understand the reasons behind these priorities and the conditions of acceptance. If you try to get this result through a survey, you’ve certainly reduced the task to n=1, but you’ve lost the rich data provided by Buy a Feature. And if you do reduce the “task” to a survey, then I suspect you wouldn’t use CrowdFlower, because you need much finer-grained control over the participants (market research means market segmentation).

A second kind of Social Computing task I presented to Seth was large distributed team retrospectives. I told him the story about our client who wanted to improve the performance of several hundred developers in India. Again, conceiving this as a human (n=1) task reduces it to a survey – precisely what you don’t want! In Agile at scale, the unit that matters is the team, not the person. And the best way to get feedback from the team is to have the team play a game like Speed Boat online to identify their propellers and anchors. And when we play the game with multiple teams, we generate a dataset that provides deep insight into the opportunities for true organizational improvements.

I could continue, but I think the emerging classification is easy: When the task involves collaboration, especially collaboration between stable social groups, Conteneo’s platforms are the tools of choice. When the task involves perception, categorization, content moderation, and certain forms of content creation in which there is no requirement for collaboration, crowd-sourcing platforms like CrowdFlower are the preferred choice. For example, let’s say I wanted to determine, and potentially improve, the degree of alignment in a team. That’s a problem that Knowsy® is uniquely suited to solve, and one for which I can’t imagine using a crowd sourcing platform to solve, because I don’t collaborate with a crowd).

I’m pretty excited about this insight, because it helps further clarify the distinction between collaborative problem solving and other kinds of problem solving.

I’d like to also give some respect to Pietro Michelucci and the rest of the organizing committee for assembling a stellar group of people who have eagerly tackled a bunch of complex tasks. For example, today we played Missing Pieces, My Worst Nightmare while building a research roadmap that captured how research areas and activities leads to better understanding of solution components and how these solution components lead to robust and scalable solutions. The seven teams then presented their work to Tom Kalil, the Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Senior Advisor for Science, Technology and Innovation for the National Economic Council and a renowned expert in technology and innovation. His insights and feedback, and his ability to make recommendations and connections to other work was remarkable.

How to Run HUGE Retrospectives Across Dozens of Teams in Multiple Time Zones!

How to conduct 20, 30, 50 and even 100+ TEAM Retrospectives Using Innovation Games® Online

A few years ago, I was helping with a large scale enterprise Agile Transformation project lead by Applied Frameworks with several hundred engineers spread across multiple locations. Our client was a cloud based infrastructure company who had grown very rapidly both organically and through multiple acquisitions. A key part of Applied Framework’s transformation services is starting every transformation with retrospectives so that we can better understand what all members of the product development function – from developers and quality assurance, to product management and customer care – think about what is going well and what needs to be improved.

Speed Boat is our game of choice. But the size of the organization involved meant that we would be conducting multiple moderately large retrospectives of 30 to 40 people. This was costly, of course, and it took a lot of time, but the enlightened leadership of this company was committed to understanding the perspective of their employees before cramming Agile down their throats (sadly, too many companies are cramming Agile – a topic for another post).

Following my own recommendations on game design, we had several teams playing Speed Boat in the same room. I’ll never forget when one of the developers in the game I was facilitating stated: “You know, Luke, this game is fine – we’ve played Speed Boat before with good results. And if you ask us about our anchors and propellers, we’ll tell you, but honestly, it won’t make much a difference. You see, my company was acquired because we’re a really good Agile shop with a great product. But now that we’re here, we’ve found multiple source code control systems, multiple requirements management systems, at least two corporate content repositories, and different testing frameworks. The difference is that when we were small we could change these things. Now we’re just a few teams out roughly 60 teams. We can’t change key things on our own. If you really want to help us, focus on the enterprise, and map out projects that can affect everyone. And sure, we’ll complain a lot as you help us standardize, but the reality is, we’ve hit a wall on what we can improve as individual teams”.

This developer was right. I called an audible with my co-facilitators, grouped everyone into one big Speed Boat game and focused on inter-team and enterprise impediments. We then repeated this at three other development locations. It took time, and a considerable investment in logistics, but we identified and implemented some key projects such as standardizing on an ALM vendor and a source code management systems. These projects, which did indeed affect the enterprise, took months to implement, with high-impact results.

This was my first Large, Distributed Team Reprospective (LDT/LDTR). We produced it using traditional techniques with direct support from the highest leaders in the company. But it was too costly and took too long. Since conducting this retrospective, I’ve been asking other organizations with LDTs (20, 50, 100, and even 250+ Scrum teams inevitably distributed across multiple time zones) about their experience with retrospectives. The results are not promising: most LDTs are not doing consistently conducting substantive retrospectives (I’ll expand on this later).

If Retrospectives Are So Great, Why Do So Many LDTs Stop Doing Them?

The simple answer is that traditional approaches to retrospectives – assembling a group people in a room with one or more facilitators – are too costly, don’t scale, take far too long and fail to produce high-impact results. As a consequence, large organizations either skip retrospectives entirely or they relegate retrospectives to individual teams, which tragically limit their effectiveness in identifying and implementing enterprise changes that can profoundly improve performance. Over time, because individual teams are not obtaining material benefits from retrospectives, they stop doing them at all.

Since then, we’ve changed our process to use Innovation Games® Online for LDTRs. Switching to online games enables organizations to conduct scalable, efficient, cost-effective, and high-impact retrospectives. Our game of choice is still Speed Boat. The core process is that each individual team plays their own online game at a time convenient to them (usually one or two one hours games is all that is needed). Multiple facilitators reduces biases. The producers of the event then download the results and analyze them to identify patterns of issues that affect the enterprise using advanced analytic techniques. These are shaped into projects and one or more are implemented. The process is faster and considerably lower cost than traditional in-person techniques.

We’ve conducted LDTRs for Agile teams and even for other parts of the organization, such as sales. Given how much Agile has scaled over the past few years, I thought it was time to share our experiences and provide a playbook for others who want to use this process in their organization. In this post I’ll briefly review the motivations for retrospectives, review the challenges of existing techniques, and then present our proven process for conducting LDTRs. I’ll draw examples from several LDTRs we’ve conducted for our clients in sales and software development and present a framework that you can leverage in your organization.

Oh – one final thing. This post is designed for people working in moderately large (10 teams/60+ people) to extremely large development organizations (250 or more teams with thousands of people).

Retrospectives Really Are Great!

Early in my career I had the good fortune to take Gerry Weinberg’s Problem Solving Leadership class. Norm Kerth, author of Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews, was my instructor, and he instilled in us the power of retrospectives.

The same year Norm’s book was published we saw the publication of the Agile Manifesto, which lists retrospectives as one of the core principles of Agile Development:

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Since then, we’ve seen increasing wisdom in conducting retrospectives. For example, Certified Collaboration Architect Diana Larsen and her colleague Esther Derby wrote Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great, a book I find quite useful. And Diana continues to innovate in this space, sharing new retrospective techniques such as Circles and Soup and Anonymous Cards.

I could go on – there are a tremendous number of Agile-related or Agile-inspired retrospective techniques, blogs and books – too many to enumerate there. It suffices to say the Agile community has embraced retrospectives.

But Agile is not the only community to embrace retrospectives. Sales and Marketing Teams use retrospectives to improve their performance in two common ways. First, they conduct internal process retrospectives to identify opportunities for improvement. Second, they regularly conduct Win/Loss analysis to understand how to improve the entire marketing and sales process. You can find a practical guide to Win/Loss Analysis by Steve Johnson and Certified Collaboration Architect Jim Holland here.)

The Retrospective Performance Curve

If retrospectives are so great, why do large organizations stop doing them? To help answer this question, we’ve been asking hundreds of agilists to draw a retrospective impact curve. A composite of many individual curves is presented below. As you can see, there are four distinct phases of retrospectives for individual teams within large distributed teams.
Retrospective Performance Curve


Why Bother?The last stage of retrospectives is when teams stop doing them. Oh sure, they might conduct a retrospective as a token ritual – a means to share beer at the end of the Sprint – but no one takes it seriously. And while we’re all for sharing some Tequila (or beer, as you wish) at the end of a Sprint, we think it might be better to change this curve.

Phase Description
Early Adoption In the early adoption phase, teams experience rapid improvements because they are often new to Agile and retrospectives help them fine tune their processes, learn new processes, understand new roles, and identify opportunities for improvement. This is often a time of substantial team-based productivity improvements, as teams focus primarily on their own team dynamics.
Team Maturation As teams mature, the impact of their retrospectives starts to wane: The problems they identify are bigger and harder to fix, often involving coordination with other teams. We start to see a shift in focus from intra-team issues to inter-team issues.
Organizational Limits To address these issues, many teams spontaneously choose to hold bigger, more comprehensive retrospectives, often with collocated teams with whom they collaborate. These retrospectives typically identify inter-team improvements and often some process and technical improvements. As these improvements are made, teams start to lose interest in retrospectives because they are no longer providing material value.

Summarizing a bit, the root cause of large distributed teams stopping retrospectives is that they bump into the limits of what they can improve. And if they can’t improve, why bother with the retrospective?

As a corollary, note that another root cause of large teams stopping retrospectives is that they conduct them too frequently and therefore too trivially. The Agile Manifesto never said to conduct a retrospective every Sprint!

Challenges With Scaling Traditional Retrospectives

Traditional retrospectives assemble participants in a room for a structured meeting that can last anywhere from 1 hour to as long as 1 day (you can find LOTS of very good advice on how to conduct traditional retrospectives; I won’t repeat that advice here). While getting together a single team for an in-person retrospective is often not more complex than booking a conference room, as the number of participants/teams increases, costs and complexity increase dramatically. We’ve produced in-person retrospectives for 30 people; and other Certified Collaboration Architects such as Henrik Kniberg have produced retrospectives for 65 people (see here).

And while 65 people might seem large, we’ve produced dozens of in-person events that are much larger. We regularly produce Innovation Games® sessions with more than 100 participants; our record is a 500 person event for Intuit, and we’ve explored producing a 2,000 person event for the City of San Jose, CA as part of our Budget Games initiative through our non-profit partner, Every Voice Engaged Foundation.

The two limiting factors for in-person games are costs and logistics. You can play around with a cost estimator later in this post. I’ll focus on various logistics challenges.

Challenge Description
Facilities Complexity Unlike a conference room or a team room, in-person events involving hundreds of people require special space: ballrooms in hotels or conference / event centers. This causes scheduling and materials complexity, because you have to schedule the retrospective when space is available and you might need special materials.
Scheduling Complexity Managing the travel of the people involved LDT is complex – multiple flights, hotels, food. Ick. And if the retrospective really is HUGE (say, a 600 person development organization organized in 80 teams) you’re going to have to plan your event carefully to ensure you’ve got the right space (see the previous row!).
Agenda Complexity Larger events require more carefully planned, more strictly controlled agendas: It is pretty trivial to swap out one retrospective activity for another when you’ve got one team– really, hard if you’ve got even more than 5 teams, and effectively impossible when you’ve got 20 or more.
Staffing Complexity Great retrospectives share many qualities of great qualitative market research: the facilitators / moderators ensure positive outcomes with minimal bias. Like other components of “largeness,” as the number of facilitators increase, the effort to coordinate them also increases. To minimize coordination overhead, it is very helpful that all of the facilitators share knowledge of the same techniques. Add to this additional staff for managing the event.
Materials Complexity Many great in-person retrospective techniques, like Speed Boat, require customized materials and lots of wall space. That’s easy to get for small teams – hard for large teams. And always check with your facility to confirm they’re OK with you taping stuff to the walls – because if they’re not, you’re going to have to rent more gear for your retrospective.
Food and “Other” Stuff More people means increased food costs, etc. And it often means a longer retrospective than truly necessary: if you’re going to invest this much money on a retrospective, you sure better structure the event to consume at least an entire day of time!

To get a sense of just how much of an investment you might need to make in your large retrospective, you can access our handy calculator in the future.

When the calculator is done we’ll put it here. I promise.

Online Retrospectives Are the Answer

Speed Boat is a well known retrospective technique. Taking it online provides the scale you need. I’ve presented the overview of the process earlier. Here it is again in a handy checklist – with a lot more implementation details.

6 Speed Boat Game Results 6 Speed Boat Game Results

Step 1: Each team will play Speed Boat online creating a single result.

  • Keep each team intact – because at scale, teams are the unit of all organizational engineering.
  • Use multiple facilitators to reduce unnecessary facilitator bias and improve results.
  • Have them use the same facilitation scripts like this one.
  • You can use facilitators within your company or consultants.

Step 2: Results of each team are downloaded into a centralized spreadsheet. This is easy – each facilitator just downloads the results of their games and uploads the results into a common spreadsheet.

Step 3: Results are coded by People / Process / Technology AND by scope of control. Although a large team should be used to facilitate the games, we recommend a small team of 2-3 people be used to code the results for speed and consistency.

  • Each item placed into game is coded – if you’re using Speed Boat, this means every anchor and propeller!
  • We recommend coding items into a Primary People / Process / Technology and an optional Secondary People / Process / Technology. For example, “My PO doesn’t attend review meetings” could be coded as primarily as People, secondarily as Process, and “We should switch to GitHub,” would likely be coded primarily as Technology.
  • The online chat logs are invaluable in identifying underlying issues.
  • We then recommend using Diana Larsen’s Circles and Soups taxonomy to assess the perceived degree of control a given team has in addressing any impediments.
    • Team: This is an issue that the team should address. For example, a PO not attending review meetings should be handled by the team
    • Product / Group: This is an issue that the team can’t address, but is likely the scope of the product or group.
    • Enterprise: This is an issue that requires coordinated effort at the enterprise. For example, moving to GitHub is likely to affect all of the teams within the enterprise. As such, it should be carefully assessed as a potential enterprise project and compared with other high-impact projects.

We often do extended analysis to identify various kinds of biases that can creep into the game play. Here are some biases that can affect your results:

  • Positivity Bias is a pervasive tendency for people [teams], especially those with high self-esteem, to rate positive traits as being more true of themselves than negative traits. This can happen when a team is asked to identify Propellers. To catch this, we look for propellers or chat logs with aspirational language, such as “We could do this…”, or prescriptive language, such as “We should do this…”.
  • Sampling Bias occurs when a small portion of the organization plays (e.g., 20 out of 60 teams) or only one kind of team is engaged. Your goal should be at least 90% of the teams participating.
  • Method or Question Bias can inappropriately guide participants into answering questions. By keeping things open-ended, Speed Boat and other games minimize method and question bias.

We expect producers of LDTRs to take into account any potential biases and to provide assessment of potential biases in their research reports.

A visualization of the pattern of results in a large retrospective.
A visualization of the pattern of results in a large retrospective.

Step 4: Results are analyzed to identify patterns. One of the great advantages of digital results are the ability to analyze data using sophisticated tools like R and Qlikview. Here are the results from a 42 team retrospective with nearly 1000 unique anchors and propellers. A “Pod” is a grouping of related products. For those of you who are trying to convince Senior Leaders that an organization wide impediment exists, this kind of visualization of results is invaluable!

Step 5: Patterns are shaped into potential projects. This step can take a week or so – which is a good thing! You’re looking for incredibly high-impact opportunities. Investing time in identifying them will pay incredible dividends.

Step 6: Projects are selected. If there are a small number of projects we just select them. Or we use Buy a Feature for large numbers of projects.

To help you put this playbook into action, the end of this post has links to additional reference materials, sample scripts and post-processing of results.

Case Study: Large “Captive” India Team Retrospective

Our client was a EUR1B technology company with centralized product management and business leadership and three large development centers. One of these was a Captive in India, with 54 teams and approximately 450 people. The client wished to engage their development teams in identifying more substantive and actionable feedback than traditional retrospectives.

We scheduled the teams, trained the facilitators, conducted the retrospectives, processed the results and made our recommendations. We organized our recommendations by Scope into Team and Enterprise; by Area into People/Process and Technology. An example enterprise technology recommendation was increasing the budget for hardware associated with testing and simulating production operations in development. An example enterprise process recommendation was changing certain processes associated with DevOps. Our client is now implementing these items.

Case Study: Cisco Sales Enablement Retrospective

Cisco Sales Retrospective Games
Cisco Sales Retrospective Games

This project as engaged as part of Cisco’s broader ACT program: Accelerated Cisco Transformation, a multi-year program to implement major improvements at Cisco. Cisco wanted to engage a global team of Account Managers, Sales Engineers and Product Sales Specialists to identify sales improvement opportunities.
Conteneo designed and produced a series of online games that engaged hundreds of Cisco’s sales teams. I’m including it here to illustrate that LDTRs can benefit every functional unit within a company – not just software development or product development.


  • 490 unique ideas defining opportunities for improvement in Culture, Process & Technology
  • 15 thematic business challenge areas
  • 20 tactical projects
  • 15 strategic projects

The Cisco sales leadership team subsequently selected and engaged key projects that helped the globally distributed team address many impediments.


To continue to gain the benefits of Agility at Scale, organizations must move beyond traditional, in-person retrospectives focused on making individual teams great, and shift towards low-cost, online retrospectives focused on making organizations great. Innovation Games® Online provides a low-cost, efficient, massively scalable and extremely high-impact collaboration platform upon which organizations product Large Distributed Team Retrospectives.


Here are several resources that will help you in implementing a Large Distributed Team Retrospective in your organization.

Resource Description
Speed Boat with Propellers and Anchors This game has 25 propellers to represent positives or things going well and 40 anchors to represent impediments or opportunities for improvements. The game has three regions to capture the “weight” or “badness” of the anchor and two regions to capture the “goodness” of the propeller.
Facilitation Script Here is a sample Facilitation Script that you can download and edit for use in your games. Distribute this to all of your facilitators to help ensure consistency in the process. Note that while players do not have to have an account, every facilitator must have an account so that we can authenticate them.
Post-Processing Guide This is a sample Excel spreadsheet that is reflective of the kind of download you will get from Innovation Games® online. We’ve included helpful examples on how you might want to post-process results.
Sample Presentation Need some help in putting together a presentation to convince your organization you could benefit from a LDTR? This presentation will help you!

The Innovation Games® Tribe at Agile Camp

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.AgileCamp14

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:

  • Pre-Camp Workshops

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

  • Agile Camp Sessions

May 3, 2014

Luke Hohmann, Founder and CEO of Conteneo

Power of Play
Matt Brown, Chief Gaming Officer for Conteneo

Gorilla Talk: Are you talking with your team, or at your team?
Joel Bancroft-Connors, Sr. Program Manager for EMC

Team Performance Model for High Performing Teams
Susan Berry and Randall Thomas, Aligned for Results, LLC, with Thomas Sibbet, The Grove Consultants International

Your Plans meet Reality with LeanCanvas
Dennis Britton, Agile Coach & Collaboration Architect for Lean Dog

Agile Improvisation
David Chilcott, Agile Coach, Outformations and Owen Walker, Inside Outside Improvisation

Enterprise Transformation Scaling Patterns & Anti-patterns
Monica Yap, Agile Coach for SolutionsIQ

Retrospectives for Team Engagement and Continuous Learning
Monica Yap, Agile Coach for SolutionsIQ

Luke Hohmann Speaks on Improving Lean Kanban in Large Distributed Teams

See Us at Lean Kanban 2014

Conteneo Founder and CEO Luke Hohmann has joined the faculty of Modern Management Methods Conference, Lean Kanban 2014  in San Francisco, presenting a talk on the main stage, “Improving Lean Kanban in Large Distributed Teams,” on May 7, 2014. Modern Management Methods Conference is the latest interation of the Lean Kanban Conference series, bringing together an international roster of thought leaders in the Lean Kanban community to focus on new ways to manage today’s creative and knowledge worker businesses, especially around better decision-making and risk management.Lean Kanban 2014 Speaker Badge

Luke’s 90 minutes session will cover new and complimentary techniques for collaborating at scale, focusing on improving Lean Kanban in organizations with large, distributed teams–including methods for improving portfolio prioritization and organizational (not team!) retrospectives.

For more information and to register, go to



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

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.


Innovation Games® Playcamp

We are holding our third Playcamp on May 31, 2014. Location will be announced shortly and you can register for Playcamp  here.

Playcamp is an unconference event designed to talk/discuss/innovate with all types of Serious Games, including Innovation Games. Come with a topic or idea you would like to discuss!

You can learn more about the goal of Playcamp on our Playcamp site.

Innovation Games® Certification in Dallas, Texas

Co-founder of Tasty Cupcakes and VP of Learning Solutions at Improving Enterprises, Don McGreal will be hosting an Innovation Games® workshop for Agile Teams on May 19, 2014 in Dallas Texas. This one-day intensive Innovation Games® for Agile Teams course will enable agile practitioners to put Innovation Games® to use to identify customer requirements, improve retrospectives, prioritize backlogs, create better release plans and much more. As a Professional Scrum Master Trainer and certified practitioner, Don has over 15 years producing enterprise software as: Process Coach, Mentor, Architect, Developer and Business Analyst.


For more information on the course and registration go to: