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.

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.

Knowsy at Work

Knowsy at Work   

Serena Software Conquers the Complex Sale with Games


It’s no secret that serious games are conquering business problems across the enterprise — from market research to strategic planning — but did you know that games can also tackle one of the thorniest, the complex sale?

How Serena Software Uses Knowsy for SalesOur online game platform, Knowsy for Sales, was recently profiled in B2B Online for it’s role in helping Serena Software with just that problem.

Charlene Woolard writes in “How Playing Games Helps Serena Software Support Sales Reps”, “Serena Software’s sales pitch is not a simple one. When the company’s reps sit down with prospects, the conversation is about how to build an enterprise-wide plan to streamline IT development, operations and management.” The landscape is complex, Woolard continues, the technology solutions cross departments, divisions, and the decision-makers and stakeholders — even from the same team — may have different priorities.

The problem Serena Software wanted solve was how to frame that complex conversation, while uncovering alignment. And using Knowsy for Sales to build Serena Software’s Social IT Game was the perfect answer. The game, used in Serena’s marketing events and roadshows around the globe, asks participants to rank their priorities and then predict the priorities of other players.

Serena Software's Social IT Game: Myers-Briggs for IT Organizations
Serena Software’s Social IT Game: Myers-Briggs for IT Organizations

Playing the game starts the conversation, says Serenity Thompson, Director of Marketing-Americas for Serena Software. “In the end, they make a common list of priorities. It’s a non-confrontational way to have a conversation that can be difficult.”

To read more about the Social IT Game, check out the complete B2B Online article, or watch Kevin Parker, Serena Software’s VP and Chief Evangelist, discuss the game in detail at the IG Summit in January.

Want to know more about Knowsy? Check out PlayKnowsy.com or drop us a line.

Meet Conteneo

Meet Conteneo

You may have noticed the new header. The Innovation Games® Company is now Conteneo, but our mission remains the same: We bring people together to do real work through games.
Innovation Games® aren’t going away! It’s the name of our first game platform and is here to stay! But as we’ve grown and added new games and platforms, we found that we needed a new name to better reflect all of our brands.
We’re hard at work on our new look, and hope you’ll stay tuned for the big unveil this fall at the Innovation Games Summit in Amsterdam! Until then, we hope you continue to put Innovation Games® Online and Knowsy® to work.

Innovation Games as Story Listening

I recently completed an unusually fun project: Paul Mantey from NetApp invited me, and my colleague and Certified Collaboration Architect John Heintz from Gist Labs, to make a series of short, educational films for the NetApp sales team. John covered Agile and DevOps, Paul presented NetApp’s completely unique value proposition for Agile DevOps, and Paul and I discussed how NetApp’s Impact Discovery Workshops, which are powered by Innovation Games®, radically change the sales process. It was a lot of fun hanging out in the NetApp film studios–Green screens! Super cool video gear! “On Air” signs!

NetApp’s Cathie Staley moderated and helped produce our sessions. In one session, Cathie interviewed Paul and myself on the art of story telling in sales. Our focus was on helping strategic account managers use stories to connect NetApp value propositions and market differentiating features to customer needs. And I loved this session because it allowed Paul and myself to make a full-circle link between the storytelling that shares value propositions in a compelling way and the story listening that is the foundation of Innovation Games®.

Beware PowerPoint Paula and the What and Why? Guy

Two of my favorite negative salesperson stereotypes are PowerPoint Paula and the What and Why? Guy. PowerPoint Paula blows into your office, demands an overhead projector, and then proceeds to bore you to tears with her carefully rehearsed slide deck. Her carefully rehearsed stories (cue customer story 3 on slide 7) is what I call a “show up and throw up”. Paula shows up, throws up slides — and you simply want to vomit.

The What and Why? Guy is at the other end of the spectrum. He comes into the office with a notebook, a pen and a set of questions that always seem to end in Why: “What do you need? Why?” or “What are your strategic priorities? Why?” or “What can we improve? Why?” At best, the What and Why Guy is sincere (albeit creepily sincere). At worst, the What and Why Guy is merely interrogating you in an effort to close a deal.

In stark contrast to this, are the approaches that Paul Mantey is pioneering at NetApp and Kevin Parker is taking at Serena.

Changing Complex Sales Through Story Listening

A NetApp Impact Discovery Workshop is a structured workshop in which NetApp customers play tailored Innovation Games® to identify high impact business opportunities. In the process, the NetApp account team and NetApp partner sales and service teams gain a deep and thorough knowledge of customer needs.

The key is that these workshops are designed to allow customers to tell their stories. And when customers are telling stories, NetApp is learning what is really needed to serve them.

For example, in one workshop NetApp customers played Speed Boat to identify the anchors that would prevent them for rapidly deploying a new production system. By asking customers to draw their own boat, describe their destination, and then identify the anchors that might prevent them from moving quickly, NetApp was able to create an environment that allowed customers to tap into their true goals. By simply asking customers to share stories about their anchors, NetApp was able to identify a significant number of opportunities.

Creating Alignment on Priorities Through Knowsy®

Every salesperson involved in a complex sale will tell you that to close a complex sale you must do at least two things: You must determine the priorities of the each person, and you must create alignment on a shared set of priorities that will drive the sale. While most successful salespeople go about this process a bit more effectively than the “What and Why? Guy”, the reality is that determining decison-maker priorities in a complex sale is not all that much fun. Until now.

The Social IT Game is Serena’s game to identify IT buyer priorities in a complex sale. Powered by the Knowsy® platform, The Social IT Game turns the act of identifying and understanding the degree of alignment that exists within a team a super fun game. And once a salesperson has a group of decision makers talking with each other about their shared priorities, they know that a deal is in the making. Check out Kevin Parker’s video explaining this game.

Becoming a Better Story Listener

Everyone who has taken a Certified Collaboration Architect course featuring Innovation Games® from one of our qualified instructors learns that one of the most important aspects of an Innovation Game® is the way that a game induces the participants to tell stories while playing the game. More precisely, we strive to teach Facilitators how to induce stories during games, we discuss how Observers should be listening to stories, and we even lightly explore what kinds of stories each game is likely to produce.

And while there are a lot of articles and books about becoming a better story teller, to build truly innovative products and services, you need to become a better story listener. Here are some suggestions on how to improve your story listening skills.

  • Match the game you’re playing to the stories you want to hear. If you want stories that explain relationships, consider Spider Web. If you want stories of an uninhibited future, or stories that capture the passions of your customers, consider Product Box. Stories of how adversity was overcome can be motivated by Remember the Future.
  • Listen for stereotypic story structures. Here are some common structures: I need (feature or capability) {so that, in order to, because} I want to accomplish (goal). My friends in the Agile community will recognize this as the User Story format, which is a great way to capture and communicate requirements. The key difference, however, is that in this post a Product Owner isn’t just sitting down and generating a lot of user stories. Instead, the user stories are generated directly by your customers through game play.
  • Let the rules of the game you’re playing help you draw out stories from your players. Consider a common scenario: Branden, a Product Manager for a car company, is playing several online Buy a Feature games with customers to help them prioritize their product backlog. During one game, Branden notices that Susanne has made a significant bid on a new feature which allows the car to be configured so that it can automatically send signals to devices like garage doors to open them when the car is within a preconfigured distance of a specified location. This bid positions Brendan to learn more about the reasons this feature is so important and the conditions or requirements of acceptance by using the structure of the game to drive get the stories that drive requirements.

Branden: Susanne, you’ve made a substantial bid on the automatic arrival feature .What can you say to the other player’s to convince to join you?
Susanne: C’mon everyone — get the automatic arrival. It’s cool.
Ming: Susanne, don’t put your money there — buy the MPG monitor instead. We all need to save gas.
Satish: I agree — gas savings are really important.
(Brendan, whispering to Susanne): It looks like the other players are interested in saving gas. You’re going to have to work a bit harder to convince them.
Susanne: I agree that saving gas is important.
Susanne: But I live a kinda bad neighborhood so I installed an alarm system. Sometimes I forget to turn it off properly when I get home, so we get false alarms. If my car could somehow tell my home when I’ve arrived, I’d feel safer.

The important point is that it was the rules of the game that motivated Susanne to tell a mini story on why a feature was important to her. This information can be used in a number of ways: determining the requirements of home alarm system interactions, improving marketing messages, developing more compelling personas, building patent fences around novel technologies, and so forth.

Making Your Move

While the popular press is motivating you to tell better stories, we think you might find that listening creates even better results. What’s your take? Let us know at info@innovationgames.com

Speed Boat meets SWOT, Innovation Games & Scrum, ScrumKnowsy and more…

One of best parts of putting this newsletter together each month is unearthing how Innovation Games are changing how people do work, all over the world. This month we have reported on Speed Boat, including a mashup with Swot Analysis, details on using Innovation Games in ScrumMaster training, the ScrumKnowsy iPad app, and more… 


Speed Boat meets SWOT

Show me someone in the working world who hasn’t used SWOT Analysis? Raise your hand if you’ve played Speed Boat. Ever mashed the two together?

No, well, Joshua Arnold of CostofDelay.com has and writes, “I’ve run a few SWOT analysis with senior managers and teams, to help them identify and share strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What would be great to do is combine the boat metaphor [from Innovation Game’s Speed Boat] and the safe environment — and add to it a bit by identifying both negatives and positives, as well as make more explicit what is inherent to the organization itself and what is beyond their locus of control.”

Arnold’s combined game is covered in detail on his website. Do you have a game mashup to share? Let us know!


Speed Boat Short Takes. 

Arnold wasn’t the only person posting about Speed Boat. Check out these posts as well on how folks are putting the game to work:

Russian Speed Boat

  • The product manager blogger behind Tisquirrel.com writes about how Speed Boat can ease the most uncomfortable and most important part of retrospectives, what went wrong and what went right.
  • David Koss writes about attending an Innovation Games workshop at PaloIT in Paris in April, where he explores how to use Speed Boat to solve organizational problems.


Innovation Games + Scrum = Awesome 

Qualified Instructor and Enthiosys President Jason Tanner recently teamed up with Carlton Nettleton to co-teach a Certified ScrumMaster class. Innovation Games have long been used in the Agile community; the techniques work really well with common agile practices, but it’s still cool to hear about how the games are being put to use.

Changecamp treeIn this post, Carlton details how he and Jason incorporated both online and in-person games into the class, including 20/20 Vision, Prune the Product TreeSpeed BoatBuy a Feature and Knowsy (ScrumKnowsy, of course).

Carlton writes, “The online games are really powerful. During our course, Jason demonstrated how to use the online games for retrospectives, market research and release planning. Seeing the new and interesting ways that Jason had used the online games as a collaboration tool intrigued me.”  Read more about how Carlton and Jason incorporated Innovation Games here.

ScrumKnowsy: iPad or Browser-based? 

ScrumKnowsy is now available as an iPad app, allowing you to play the standalone, personal version withoutScrumKnowsy Personal a wifi connection and discover how your Scrum practice stacks up against such Scrum luminaries as Jeff Sutherland, Jim Coplien, Jens Østergaard and Jeff McKenna.

Want to play online, alone or with your team? Save and export your results as you improve and grow your Scrum practice? Register and play online at www.scrumknowsy.com.

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!


The Social IT Game: Myers-Briggs for IT Organizations

The Social IT Game: Myers-Briggs for IT Organizations

Kevin Parker, Serena Software’s VP and Chief Evangelist, spoke at the Innovation Games Summit about how Serena Software is using Serena Software’s Social IT Game. The game is powered by Knowsy, and is an iPad-based 90-minute workshop that uses gamification to reveal cross-functional priorities within enterprise IT organizations. These revelations allow IT leadership teams to move forward with a new clarity about how common challenges are prioritized across the organization. In one recent game with a large retail chain, the entire IT management team had uniform consensus that Delivering Measurable Value to the Business was everyone’s number one priority. But there was clear division between the DEV and the OPS communities over the relative importance of More Rigorous Controls versus More Timely Execution in the release management process. And from this an informative debate ensued. Find out what Serena has learned about their target market, and how the company is using the Social IT Game powered by Knowsy to create dialogue, solutions and revenue.

Watch Kevin Parker’s The Social IT Game: Myers-Briggs for IT Organizations.


[vimeo width=”450″ height=”360″ id=”58927563″]


The latest Knowsy® game from The Innovation Games® Company and ScrumTide help teams and individuals discover, challenge and improve their Scrum practice.

Mountain View, CA – August 13, 2012. The Innovation Games® Company, the leading provider of serious games for business, today announced that it has released ScrumKnowsy®, the latest game built on the Knowsy® platform.


ScrumKnowsy, produced in partnership with ScrumTide, is a browser-based serious game that allows an individual and organization improve their Scrum practice. Players can “challenge” Scrum Oracles like Scrum Creator Jeff Sutherland, or leading Scrum trainers like Jim “Cope” Coplien or Jens Ostergaard to discover how their Scrum practice compares, or play multiplayer games to track alignment on Scrum practices, roles, and responsibilities.

Jim Coplien Introduces Scrum Knowsy from Conteneo Inc. on Vimeo.


“The key to successful, high performing teams rests in alignment. Not just alignment of goals, but the alignment of roles, responsibilities, methods of work and communication,” Said CEO and Founder Luke Hohmann. “While there’s been a lot of discussion about of the importance of alignment and team integrity, a way to effectively test (and improve) team alignment hasn’t emerged. Until now.”

“ScrumKnowsy gives teams a fun and effective way to explore how well they are aligned with their mission.” Hohmann continued. “By formally testing, sharing and discussing the results of Scrum Knowsy® games, teams will explicitly reduce the degree of ambiguity and equivocality of the shared outcomes they seek to create.”


Key features of ScrumKnowsy are:

  • It’s a game, not another boring meeting. Discovering where teams are and aren’t aligned through collaborative play means improved engagement and more accurate feedback.
  • Access to experts. Through Challenge and Discover play individuals and teams can compare their Scrum practice with leaders in the Scrum community.
  • Individual or Multiplayer games. ScrumKnowsy lets you play on your own or with teams, tackling such topics as retrospectives, sprint planning, backlogs, impediment lists and more.
  • Real-time database. Playing ScrumKnowsy allows individuals and teams to track their game results over time, providing real-time information on improvement and performance.
  • Individual or Enterprise Licenses. Players always play for free, but Individuals or organizations can upgrade for additional features and capabilities like custom topics, game analytics and more. The individual can sign up for Starter accounts (individual play only) for free, or pay $19 for an annual Standard license, which includes the full range of capabilities, including multiplayer games.


“ScrumKnowsy is designed for ongoing self-assessment,” said ScrumTide partner Jim “Cope” Coplien, “because that’s what Agile is about. The goal is to have fun and create value, and ScrumKnowsy helps agile teams meet that goal.”

Forrester Analyst Tom Grant recently profiled ScrumKnowsy and it’s role in facilitating Agility at Scale, writing, “Clearly, the approach that ScrumKnowsy takes is a lot less obnoxious than the Agile standards star chamber and a lot easier to use for regular reinforcement than training classes.”

The Innovation Games® Company and ScrumTide will showcase ScrumKnowsy at Agile 2012, the leading conference for agile adherents, hosting a launch party on Wednesday, August 15. The first 500 standard account holders will get limited edition ScrumKnowsy t-shirts. For more details about the launch party, go to https://www.innovationgames.com/2012/08/scrumknowsy-launch-party/.

The Innovation Games® Company’s portfolio includes the Knowsy® platform of products, along with Innovation Games® Online, which launched in July 2009, and was highlighted in a recent Forrester report as a leader in the serious games industry for helping businesses “do work.” Innovation Games® Online includes both real-time visual collaboration and virtual market games, such as Buy a Feature Online, Prune the Product Tree Online, Speed Boat Online and Design Your Own Visual Game. The online games are based on Luke Hohmann’s book Innovation Games®: Creating Breakthrough Products through Collaborative Play. (For more information about ScrumKnowsy®, go to http://playknowsy.com/p/scrumtide.)


About The Innovation Games® Company
The Innovation Games® Company is the leading producer of serious games—online and in-person—for business. Innovation Games helps organizations large and small get actionable insights into customer needs and preferences to improve performance, through collaborative play, having worked with such companies as Cisco, Reed Elsevier, Yahoo!, Qualcomm, SAP, Emerson Climate Technologies and more. To learn more about Innovation Games® Online, our online game platform for real-time, distributed collaboration and our Knowsy® games, visit http://innovationgames.com.

ScrumKnowsy® Launch Party!

We just launched the newest member of the Knowsy® family, Scrum Knowsy®, and are throwing a party at Agile 2012 to celebrate.

So what is ScrumKnowsy®?
ScrumKnowsy® is a fun and interactive online game that helps individuals and organizations improve their Scrum performance by aligning teams on Scrum roles, responsibilities and practices.

We partnered with the good folks of ScrumTide to bring you the game; it includes Challenge Play, where you can test out your beliefs about Scrum Practice against such leaders in the Scrum community as:

  • Jeff Sutherland
  • Jens Ostergaard
  • Jim “Cope” Coplien

For more about ScrumKnowsy®–why play, how to play and more–check out this introduction from Jim Coplien.


Come to our Party!
Join our CEO Luke Hohmann for food, drink, and fun! Not to mention those limited edition ScrumKnowsy® t-shirts! (Thanks to VersionOne for hosting!)

What: Scrum Knowsy® & Innovation Games® Games Fest!
When: Wednesday, 15 August 2012; 7:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Where: Texas 6, Gaylord Texan, 1501 Gaylord Trail, Grapevine, TX 76051


Now about those t-shirts …
The first 500 folks to sign up for a Standard subscription get a limited edition Scrum Knowsy® T-Shirt.

Standard subscriptions ($19) give you the ability to set up multiplayer games (that your team members can join for free!), track your progress and improvement, play “against” the Scrum Oracles to compare your Scrum Practice and more. Starter subscriptions are free and are for individual play.

Hope to see you at the party!