Give Them a Hot Tub

Goal: Use Outrageous Features to Discover Hidden Breakthroughs

Brainstorming is a process that attempts to leverage the creative power of a group of people who are trying to generate a solution to a problem by encouraging them to come up with as many different ideas as possible. When finished, the ideas are evaluated and one or more are selected as potential candidates for solving the problem, presumably in an innovative way.

When brainstorming is done well, it can be effective in generating breakthroughs. Consider, though, that traditional approaches to brainstorming are biased towards internal groups of people. That’s OK, but I’ve found that the real breakthroughs come when you work directly with customers. So, instead of generating and evaluating your own “crazy” ideas, the Give Them A Hot Tub game encourages to you to generate your crazy ideas and let your customers determine just how crazy those ideas really are!

The Game

Give them a hot tubWrite several features on note cards, one feature per card. Include several completely outrageous features. If you’re making a portable MP3 player, try adding features like “heats coffee”, “cracks concrete”, or “conditions dog hair.” If you’re making a system that manages payroll, try adding features like “plans family reunions” or “refinishes wooden floors.” If you’re building an office building, add a Jacuzzi in the lobby. What happens when a customer uncovers one of these outrageous features?

Why It Works

A truly outrageous feature induces cognitive dissonance. That’s fancy language for saying that an outrageous feature makes customers uncomfortable. So, they work (mentally) to get rid of the discomfort. The most common ways to deal with the discomfort are rejecting the feature outright, pretending that the feature was never really discussed, or transforming the “outrageous” feature into something that isn’t so outrageous. The magic happens during these transformations, for they are the things that can create breakthroughs in the product.

This game can also be extremely helpful if you need to build products that operate in various “extreme” environments because you typically can’t easily simulate or access the extreme environment. Examples of “extreme” environments include those that are physically demanding or dangerous or those where the risk of human, societal, or financial damage is high should a failure occur. In these situations the Give Them A Hot TubSM game enables you to generate the extreme solutions that are required for success in extreme environments.

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