Curious about how Innovation Games can help you solve real-world business problem?

Join us every Friday at 10 AM Pacific and 2 PM Pacific for an hour long Innovation Game, facilitated by the Innovation Games Team!  The hour-long session is limited to eight players and will allow you to experience how businesses large and small are using Innovation Games Online everyday in their work.

Games played will include Visual Collaboration games such as Speed Boat, Prune the Product Tree, Empathy Map and others, and the ever popular Virtual Market Game Buy a Feature Online.

Sign up to play today.  And we’ll see you in the game!

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 or drop us a line.


The comprehensive program rewards skill and experience in using Innovation Games, Gamestorming and related techniques to solve business problems.

April 12, 2013 — Mountain View, CA. The Innovation Games® Company, the leading producer of online and in-person serious games for business, today announced the launch of its “Innovation Games® Certified Collaboration Architect Program”. Built around skill and experience with planning, playing and facilitating serious games to accomplish business goals, the program connects organizations needing Innovation Games services with experienced Innovation Games Certified Collaboration Architects (CCAs).

“The Certification program has evolved from direct requests from our largest customers to help them identify and hire qualified facilitators. We’re also seeing companies list Innovation Games® as prerequisites for employment, which matches the increasing demand we see in the business world, as more and more companies integrate serious games into their business processes,” says Luke Hohmann, CEO and Founder of The Innovation Games® Company.

“With more than 1,000 people trained in our methods—both inside and outside of corporations—-and a growing user base for our online software,” Hohmann continues, “it was time to create a program to connect Collaboration Architects with the organizations putting serious games to work.”

The “Innovation Games® Certified Collaboration Architect Program” enables individuals who facilitate and produce Innovation Games® and similar techniques to more effectively market their services to potential clients. Through the program, Certified Collaboration Architects earn “Belts” for facilitating and producing both online and in-person games using Innovation Games®, Gamestorming and other approved techniques within the community.

CCAs can be ranked at 9 belt levels, designating them as Apprentice through Master Certified Collaboration Architects. In the months ahead, CCAs will be able to also earn and be recognized for special achievements or skills, such as being an excellent discussion leader, or possessing unique knowledge of a given domain or industry. Higher-ranked CCAs get more options to promote themselves in the community.

Organizations needing serious games expertise win big with this program. They can search the “Find an Expert” database to find Certified Collaboration Architects with the right mix of skills and experience for their research, collaboration and strategic planning needs. This allows companies to get the best insights from their serious games engagements.

For more information about how the Innovation Games® Certified Collaboration Architects Program can help you succeed, check out our website or contact us at


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 Knowsy for Sales, our sales enablement game, visit

To learn more about the Certified Collaboration Architect Program, please visit:

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!


Fun with Focus Groups

From Breaking Barriers to Better Focus Groups 

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 an interview with Luke Hohmann in, Product Boxes and Meetups in Chicago, and comments on improving focus groups and more …

Collaboration, Innovation & Decision-Making 

Kathleen Goolsby, managing editor of, interviewed CEO & Founder Luke Hohmann recently, covering how the games are applied in market research, collaboration, civic engagement and more. You can read the entire interview here, but first, some highlights.

Games Eliminate Barriers:  Hohmann revealed how online games helped HP involve more than 600 people from around the world and they each had equal voice:  “In the game,” a participant revealed, “I was playing with three people from China, two people from India and three from places scattered around the U.S. It was the first time that we came together in real time, without a phone call,” [which puts people who are not native English-language speakers at a disadvantage]. “And the game structure gave me equal power with the other players.”

Decisions Around Innovation:  “Yahoo! tapped into the games approach for a market research initiative seeking to understand the best way to ensure its Yahoo! Finance home page redesign addressed worldwide users’ needs and wants. We assembled a global team of game facilitators who speak the languages native to each location Yahoo! wanted to research.”


Fun with Focus Groups

Check out Nancy Frishberg’s two-part series on the
Designing Interactions for Fun
Designing Interactions for Fun
importance of Focus Groups and how integrating Innovation Games and other techniques into them can make them even more useful. Using the recent Budget Games for San Jose as an example, Nancy writes, ” The same general techniques can be used to help make decisions about new product features in a corporate setting, and equally well for other decisions where there are too many choices, not all of which require the same amount of resources or effort.


Product Boxes & Landing Pages

Folks in the Chicago-area won’t want to miss this April 1 Meetup on Product Boxes & Landing Pages. (And no this isn’t an April Fools Joke). Hosted by Sue Kim and 8th Light, the meetup features two experiments: Product Box for an early stage startup, and a Landing Page test. Details are here. (And if you go, let us know how the Product Boxes turn out!)

Blue Cross Blue Shield Puts Innovation Games® to Work

Leon Sabarsky’s Scrum team has been using Innovation Games for a while in their work on Claim Automation.The Raleigh, NC-based team at Blue Cross Blue Shield has used Speed Boat for project retrospectives and Prune the Product Tree for backlog prioritization—both common ways agile teams put Innovation Games to work. But recently he introduced the games to the market research team at Blue Cross Blue Shield—with interesting results.

How did you discover Innovation Games?

Word of mouth. I heard about the games from colleagues and through sessions at conferences I attended. I started trying out the games at work, and eventually took the two-day class taught by [IGQI and Enthiosys President] Jason Tanner.


Can you tell me more about how are you using Innovation Games at Blue Cross Blue Shield?

I’m the manager of a Scrum team in Durham, NC. We work on claims automation, and I also serve on the Innovation Committee here at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

We use Innovation Games in our Scrum practice—Speed Boat for retrospectives and Prune the Product Tree for backlog prioritization—but have started using them in other ways as well, such as in our market research work on our insurance products.


How did the market research work come about?

It was Jason Tanner who first suggested we use Innovation Games for market research, instead of just internally with our Scrum team. I bought the book [Innovation Games for Understanding] and invited the market research lead to lunch. After some discussion, we decided to try it.


What was the project?

The target market was college-age consumers, and we wanted to determine what type of insurance products and benefits they would be interested in purchasing—and how much they would be willing to pay. In essence, we wanted them to produce a list of benefits and prioritize which ones were most valuable to them.


How did you structure the event to get those results?
One of the Product Boxes created by the summer interns at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

We recruited 20 of our summer interns as the subjects for the market research project and decided to do two phases in July 2012.

First, to get the benefits, we had the interns build Product Boxes outlining the insurance products they would most be interested in. This was face-to-face, of course. And each intern presented his or her box and then the group voted on the best one.

Second, we used Buy a Feature Online to prioritize the benefits that the interns had developed through their Product Boxes. The interns logged into the game from their different offices on the Blue Cross Blue Shield campus. We had priced the benefits and gave the interns 40% of the total budget to spend on the insurance products they most wanted. We were surprised and pleased with the quality of chat and negotiations during the game. At the end, we got a prioritized list of insurance products that college-age consumers would want to buy.


What did you learn from the games?

Price was an issue for many of them. They are buying insurance for the first time and wanted it to be reasonably priced.

Any surprises?

Yes, we had some unexpected results. The market research team had done a series of focus groups on the same topic and they had got different results than our project using Innovation Games.

Also, during the Buy a Feature game I facilitated, the game didn’t stop when the interns had spent all their money. The chat and negotiation continued, and the interns decided to un-purchase an insurance product to buy one concerning healthy benefits. It took 5 minutes of chatting to decide after I had thought the game was done.

I was impressed with the depth of thinking during the game. The interns were really serious; we thought half would not be engaged since the game was online and they weren’t together, but they surprised us. The game results went beyond what we expected.


Are you planning on using Innovation Games again?

We have a “FedEx Day” coming up in October. We’re inspired by Daniel Pink’s Drive, and want to create and deliver something overnight. Basically, you drop whatever you’re doing for a day and present a product at the end.

Our past “FedEx” Days haven’t been structured, but we’re hoping to use Innovation Games this time to help us get an outcome.We’re still planning, but think we’ll use 3-4 games, maybe Buy a Feature, >Product Box, Speed Boat, and Spider Web.

I truly believe there’s a different dynamic when you get people moving. You get much more robust idea generation with activities like Innovation Games, than sitting down around a conference table. There’s just something about Innovation Games, the moving around and collaborating, that you don’t get from focus groups.

Announcing The Innovation Games Summit!

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

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

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

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

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

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


Call for Papers Open!

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


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

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

Introducing Scrum Knowsy!

Available on an Internet near you on August 13.

There’s no denying the popularity of Scrum. Thousands of organizations and individuals around the world have gone agile, using Scrum every day to build working software. But how does their Scrum practice compare with their co-workers and teammates? Are they in alignment? Does their Scrum practice align with their boss? Or with Scrum Leaders like Jeff Sutherland, Jens Østergaard or Jim “Cope” Coplien?

The answer is Scrum Knowsy®, the latest Knowsy game from Innovation Games. Scrum Knowsy excels at helping individuals and organizations improve their Scrum performance by aligning teams on roles, responsibilities, and practices–all through a fun and easy-to-play game. (Check out Cope’s take on Scrum Knowsy in the video intro.)

Agile 2012 Debut
We’ve got a great coming-out party planned for Agile 2012 in Dallas next week, including limited edition t-shirts (and a sweet price on subscriptions) for the first 500 who sign up before August 17.

Luke Hohmann will be handing out shirts all week at Agile 2012 — and holding a Scrum Knowsy and Innovation Games Game Fest on Wednesday, August 15 from 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM in Texas 6 at the Gaylord Texan Hotel and Convention Center. (Thanks a million to VersionOne for hosting the shindig!)

Be sure to follow Luke (@lukehohmann) and Scrum Knowsy (@scrumknowsy) on Twitter for the latest info on the launch. And be sure and check out for info about getting your chance to play Scrum Knowsy!

Innovation Games® Online Improvements

Innovation Games Online Improvements

Version 2.9 Released into the Wild

We’re happy to announce a bunch of improvements to Innovation Games® Online, which include the release of one big new feature and series of important refinements and bug fixes.

Buy a Feature Online: Excel Import of Game Definition

You can now import features for a Buy a Feature Online game directly from Excel, using our new template or any ‘.xls’ or ‘.xlsx’ file–just make sure to include the column headers and item data in the spreadsheet. You can give as much or as little information as you would like; only a name is required, as long as you have at least three items.

Once you have created your file, go to your project organizer. When you have a project selected, click on the “Import Game” button next to the “Create Game” button. Select your file, click the “Import Game” button below, and that’s it! Your game will be created with the name “Game Imported On: ” and then the date and time.

The new Buy a Feature Online Import format is very flexible and has been designed to be tolerant of errors and extraneous data.

Buy a Feature Online Game Play

Hit the delete key without fear. Some players would occasionally be kicked out of a game if they hit the delete key, but no more.

Game Invites

Copy and paste to your heart’s delight. Adding text via copy/paste to the game invite template no longer results in “error in email template” messages.

Game Results Export

Reports for Visual Collaboration games now include the type of item on the Item List. The End Items List also now includes the Item Creator.

The Game Results Export for Buy a Feature Online include the following improvements:[list style=”disc”]

  • The final total balance is now correct on Game Board sheets.
  • The AnyBid column is now set correctly
  • The percent of players total bid now updates correctly.
  • The Players tab now shows if player was on invite guest list.
  • Many calculated values have been replaced with in-line Excel formulas.
  • You can now select the game plays that you want to be exported.
  • Self documenting headers are back.


Project organizer Improvements

The “Last Modified” column has been changed to “Scheduled On” to reflect the date and time a game was scheduled on.