Deanna Konrath is an Innovation Design Manager based at the Sidney R. Garfield Healthcare Innovation Center with the Innovation and Advanced Technology team at Kaiser Permanente. In this session Deanna asks: Why is it so hard to innovate? How might we make the journey easier for innovators? And so began our journey to create an immersive experience for 75 leaders and innovators to explore this dilemma, while attending Kaiser Permanente’s annual Innovation Retreat in 2011. After following the innovation lifecycle to ideate, prototype and field test our concept in less than six months, we landed on the unexpected. By developing a game, we changed how teams could learn and discuss what it really takes to innovate. Leading Innovation is an immersive experience designed to help leaders and innovators better understand and plan for challenges they might face. We continue to spread and gather stories of how the game is being utilized in a variety of ways. In this interactive session participants learn how we are using this game in different ways and get some real game play experience.
The French love Innovation Games®. Case in point? Our newest partner Object Direct — our only certified partner in France — which boasts three Innovation Games® Qualified Instructors and Trained Facilitators among its employees. Object Direct has incorporated Innovation Games into its client work, finding (like many other organizations) that the games often improve and enhance agile techniques.
Earlier this year, Object Direct began working with Weleda Laboratories, a global pharmaceutical company with a presence in more than 50 countries. Weleda wanted its e-commerce and online presence revised and restructured and tapped Objet Direct for the project. The Object Direct team would follow agile practices for the Weleda project and started with a “0” sprint to allow Weleda to define and describe the project’s vision document, as well as the product backlog.
Object Direct wanted to gain as complete an understanding of Weleda’s needs as possible. They wanted to use a technique that wouldn’t just uncover apparent needs, but unknown or less obvious requirements. Enter Product Box, along with stickers and markers and glitter glue.
During the initial meeting, held using the workshop format, Weleda’s team built Product Boxes illustrating their requirements concerning the orientation and makeup of their future websites. How did it turn out?
“Bravo Innovation Games,” extols Weleda’s E-commerce & Digital Marketing Manager Carrie Mass, “for creating such a useful and enjoyable series of games to support active learning! As new adopters of the Agile methodology, the exercises we’ve experienced so far have made a world of difference in learning [to be Agile]. The games employed to learn and introduce the method have been insightful, engaging and effective.”
Object Direct tells us that using Innovation Games in tandem with Agility is bringing success to not just Weleda, but several other clients, as well. “We want our partnership with Innovation Games to allow other companies in France experience this innovative toolkit for project development, in their native French,” writes Objet Direct’s Cory Casper.
Collaborative play for problem solving has hit the mainstream! Businessweek recently profiled our work with the city of San José, CA, highlighting how we and the Every Voice Engaged Foundation have been working with local governments and nonprofits to apply Innovation Games to the difficult problems many communities are facing.
The inspiration for the 2011 and 2012 Budget Games for San José, CA, emerged from our work with organizations like Cisco, Qualcomm, Yahoo!, Adobe and others. Tackling complex problems in prioritization, strategy, new product development is all stock and trade for us, and many of those techniques are applicable for communities as well.
“One Saturday morning last year, about 90 leaders of neighborhood associations in San José gathered in small groups to play a game. Each person had a roll of fake money, from which he or she could pay for city services—like beat cops or libraries. Each group lacked enough money to cover the city’s budget. “We intentionally, just like reality, gave them far less money to buy the things they wanted,” says Kip Harkness, San José’s senior project manager.
By morning’s end, all the groups had agreed to run the city’s fire trucks with one less fireman each to save money. City council members adopted that change in San José’s actual budget last summer. At the same meetup this year, residents agreed to eliminate paid overtime for city managers, and six of 10 groups were willing to raise their sales tax by 0.25 percentage points, which the city is now considering. “I really haven’t had anyone tell me this is a waste of time,” says Harkness. “That’s pretty incredible when you’re talking about budgets.”
The panel discussed the nuances of the topic: How invention and innovation in today’s high-tech sectors are simultaneously driving competition and technology convergence — devices once meant for a single function are now complex machines that can contain thousands of patented inventions. The result is a growing gap between the invention rights companies own and the intellectual property or patent assets they use.
The panel was a rousing success and Luke appreciates being part of it. Thank you to the Licensing Executive Society and the Moderator Greg Kisor!
Our very own IGQI (that’s short for Innovation Games Qualified Instructor) Ant Clay presented at SHARE 2012 in Atlanta this past week. His presentation was on how to use Innovation Games in gathering SharePoint requirements and was a rousing success. Check out some of the pictures below and make sure to read Ant’s blog post.
Monica Zinchiak of Z. Research Services recently wrote to tell us about how she used Prune the Product Tree, while facilitating a series of focus groups for a client. The client was developing a new product resources website focused on the academic market; they had the concept and features, but needed input from their target audience to know which features to implement right away, which to postpone and which ones to abandon. She writes, “I just used my second collaborative game, Prune the Product Tree from Innovation Games® and it was a huge success. A slight modification of the game gave me the stand-out features, along with input on the not-so-appealing features, for a client’s in-development website.”
When I read “modification”, I knew I had to find out more, and Monica graciously agreed to tell us about the project.
Tell us about how you used Prune the Product Tree?
My client is building a new website aimed at teachers. It’s a new product for them, and they were really looking for a way to
understand what features they needed to start to develop and which ones they didn’t need to spend time on. Despite having a list of 18 possible features for the website, they had no idea which ones would be most valuable. They really needed a process to prioritize them.
We decided to conduct a series of focus groups using the game, though I called it “Shaping the Tree” since we were not working with existing features. Instead, we were working with feature concepts (ideas for features and functionality).
What were your goals for the focus groups?
Our overarching objective was to learn which features would be the most valuable to middle school and high school teachers. We wanted to know how this website would stack up against the plethora of other resources that teachers currently have at their disposal.
How did you structure the games?
I facilitated six games with three players each and preprinted the 18 proposed features on Post-It notes. I also included three blank
Post-It notes of a different color for any new ideas or features. I also added a cloud, our “Cloud of Confusion,” created from a white 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. This acted as a parking lot for features that the teachers found confusing, or didn’t know how they would use them.
The metaphor of the tree was typical. Core features went on the trunk or stronger internal branches. Features that weren’t as critical were placed on the canopy. Features that weren’t useful or wanted were placed on the ground.
Why did you limit the number of participants to three?
I purposely kept the number of participants small so that the teachers could interact with each other as peers as they worked through the features instead of having a teacher/researcher dialogue. The small group also made it easy for me to sit on the sidelines and better observe the discussion.
What I had hoped would happen did: The groups self-organized their thoughts about the features and could talk about the pro and cons more effectively. We were also able to complete each game in just under 90 minutes, with 20-30 minutes for the game and the rest of the time for debrief.
Would you use Innovation Games again?
I would definitely use Prune the Product Tree again in the same way. The client was tickled with the results and so was I. The game worked so much better than card sorting or driving through the potential features in a Q&A manner.
On January 21, 2012, more than 100 community leaders from San José, CA, played a specially designed version of Buy a Feature, dubbed Budget Games, to reveal their priorities for the City of San José’s 2012-2013 budget. This is the second year that the city of San José, CA, has worked with The Innovation Games® Company to bring citizens, community leaders, and city officials together for a priority setting session to kick off the six month budgeting process. (Read about last year’s results here.)
San José, CA, like many cities across the U.S., is facing another year of budget shortfalls, with an anticipated deficit in the General Fund for 2012-2013 of $80.5 million. The city faces difficult choices as it starts the budgeting process and wanted input from its citizens on what city programs and services matter, along with feedback on cost-savings and revenue-generating proposals to fund those services. Not satisfied with surveys and other traditional market research techniques (click here to read about Feedback Fatigue), the Mayor’s Office asked The Innovation Games® Company to once again create and produce a serious game that would enable the city to get actionable, rich information from its citizens.
Budget Games vs. Buy a Feature
The Budget Games played by San José citizens work much like a typical Buy a Feature game — with one difference. In a traditional Buy a Feature game, players have a set and limited budget and reveal their preferences through purchases during gameplay. The Budget Games adds in the ability to increase the budget for all players through unanimous votes for cost-savings or revenue-generating proposals, such as a 1/4 cent sales tax increase or a reduction of staffing at fire engine companies. This mechanism allows city officials to gauge the community’s priorities for city services, along with their tolerance for initiatives to fund those services.
During the event, community leaders from across San José gathered at City Hall, along with 30+ Innovation Games Trained facilitators, San José, CA, council members, the Mayor, City Manager and many subject matter experts, such as the Fire Chief, members of the Police Department, Budget Office and others. Across the room, a dozen tables debated, negotiated and ultimately came to a consensus on what their priorities were.
The conversations were often difficult and not always fun–not surprising since the game’s topic is so important. As Innovation Games Trained Facilitator Robert J. Stephenson observed after the event, “What struck me is the earnestness of the citizen volunteers. The general collaboration and civility did not come easily … It was not all fun-and-games, but it was done cheerfully for a good cause.”
The Innovation Games team is currently post-processing the game results for the city and will be publishing more details about the event and the game results in the coming weeks. The San Jose City Council will begin studying the budget in mid-February, and the mayor’s budget message will be released in March.
Who hasn’t shuddered when you get the email about required attendance at an all-day strategy meeting? In common parlance that translates to 8 hours trapped in a conference room with PowerPoint, coffee, and catered lunches—if you’re lucky. Strategy meetings don’t have to be death by PowerPoint, though. They can be engaging, profitable and energizing—especially if the participants are actively involved. Our recent experience producing a two-day strategic planning meeting for Adobe Systems’Globalization team is proof of that day-long meetings don’t have to be boring.
Three Adobe team members—Francis Tsang, Senior Director of Globalization; Jean-Francois Vanreusel, Director of Localization; and Janice Campbell, Sr. International Program Manager 2 – recently shared with us their perspectives on how and why using Innovation Games® was crucial to the event’s success.
Why did you decide to use Innovation Games for your strategy meeting?
Janice: We had read Luke’s book, Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products through Collaborative Play, in our Globalization Book Club, and decided to find a way to “put into play” our learnings from the book. Much to our delight, Luke was already working with some product teams at Adobe. What if Luke could help us drive the creation of our 2012 localization roadmap and three-year strategy?
Can you tell us a little bit about the strategy meeting and how you used Innovation Games?
Francis: It was a two-day meeting, with 40 participants, focusing on Adobe’s Localization Strategy. We used the games to help us do short-term and long-range planning around localization and long-range infrastructure needs—not only which languages and problems we may face in our globalization efforts, but also what kind of new localization experiences we want for our end users.
Janice: Along with members of our Globalization team, we invited internal stakeholders closest to the international customer. They represented CSO, e-commerce, product marketing, field marketing, developer relations and CHL, and regions such as APAC, EMEA, and LATAM. The event took place during two full days at the end of August.
Sometimes people are concerned about the concept of serious games and whether the techniques can really be used to do “real work”? Did you have any reservations about the games?
Francis: To be honest, I was kind of skeptical in the beginning—how can we do this with 40 people over two days, but after the two days, I found the experience extremely useful. It was much more useful than a cut-and-dry strategy planning session with PowerPoint. The games force you to come down from a conceptual level to an experiential level.
Jean-Francois: We were a little bit nervous before the event because we had never experienced this approach. We had also invited senior managers from other teams, and they wouldn’t have shown much patience if things had gone wrong. We took a risk, but it definitely paid off. The energy level during all event was high. We addressed very serious problems. Using games helped us change our perspective on these problems and generate more creative solutions
What about Innovation Games made the event a success?
Francis: Putting 40 people together for two days is a huge commitment of time for a company. It’s hard to keep people engaged during 16 hours of strategic planning. Thanks to Innovation Games, 90 percent were in the meeting the entire time. With traditional presentations, you would lose half the people, but the games kept the participants engaged.
Janice: We found that participants built better relationships with each other and communication channels opened up. We gained valuable insight into how an international customer interacts with our products — from the web to software purchase/download to documentation. Using games was a fun way of extracting serious ideas and it allowed people to be more creative and free in their thinking; they were less fearful of peer pressure in vocalizing their ideas.
Which game played during the event had the most impact? Why?
Prune the Product Tree, for example, forced us to think about the sequence of events. It helped us understand benefits and costs. Speed Boat is always good to help understand what is slowing you down. Planning is often a one-way street, but Innovation Games counteract that. The gameplay forces you to visualize the possible anchors. The metaphor helps you understand the big picture/visualize the problem. The most revealing aspect of Buy a Feature was learning what assumptions play a part in ranking options. Specifically, it lets you see what a participant’s self-imposed limitations are.
What really stood out for me, though, is that the act of playing these games gave us insight into how different people look at problems, the different kinds of thought processes in play. We saw this thanks to the debrief process; the act of presenting the game results to the larger group meant other participants got to see how others thought. With other methods, it’s hard to get to the true story.
Jean-Francois: The Show & Tell game helped create a friendly, playful mood while helping us highlight critical issues in the way we localize our products. After the event, many participants still referred to the game to justify more investments in certain areas. The Prune the Product Tree game is a close second for me as it generated some very innovative ideas.
Janice: Stories from the field, in the form of the Show & Tell game. While often poignant or funny, the gameplay helped us experience first hand the hoops international customers sometimes have to jump through when using our products.
Were there any unexpected benefits?
Francis: The game mechanism helped us look at strategy from a different perspective. We gained unique insight. For example, in strategy, you need to look at what could happen, what would happen. The games helped us visualize these scenarios; they helped us model the future.
Jean-Francois: The game-oriented approach really helped build stronger relationships between all our participants. People flew in from around the world to attend the event and didn’t always know each other. Games are an effective way for people to quickly “gel” together, collaborate and deliver great ideas.
Would you hold the event again? What would you do differently?
Jean-Francois: Yes, we would definitely conduct such event in the future. However, I would make the point to include International customers. It would be priceless to hear their stories (Show & Tell) about how they use our products and have the opportunity to collaborate with them on building solutions they seek.
Tami Carter, VP of Marketing, interviews Steven Dodds, Quova’s VP of Global Sales and Services about Innovation Games’ use for Sales Training.
Steven Dodds, VP of Global Sales and Services at Quova, recently shared how Quova incorporated Innovation Games into sales training to encourage the sharing of best practices. Click on the image above or this link to hear how Quova used Spider Web and Remember the Future to explore relationships between and inside account and improve sales performance.
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