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Innovation Games « plays-in-business.com/pibold

Innovation Games

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Innovation Games

Innovation Games

Aftter taking the “Trained InnovationGames® Facilitator” training by Maarten Volders in behave of Luke Hohmann, httppt://www.innovationgames.com, Michael became an official Trained Innovation Games® Facilitator.
The phrase Innovation Games® (IG) denotes a set of 13 games of primary market research oriented games, developed by Luke Hohmann. IGs are focussed on real-time collaborative games as means of engaging customers and stakeholders to reveal what really matters to them and to get breakthrough ideas.

Originally, IGs were a mean to get direct customer feedback about a product or service. Nowadays, IGs are used for such things as portfolio management, requirements management and any number of tasks that require innovative thinking, brainstorming and collaboration.
Most effectivly are IGs in cross-functional groups where participants are designers, delevopers, product management, marketing, and customers.

A related approch for brainstorming or prioriziation tasks to IGs is “Gamestorming”, promoted by David Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo. Whereas IGs are primarily product development and market research driven, Gamestorming covers a much broader application of games: games for any meeting, games for closing, games for decision-making, games for design, games for fresh thinking and ideas, games for opening, games for planning, games for presenting, games for problem-solving, games for team-building and alignment, games for update or review meetings, games for vision and strategy meetings, gamestorming experiences. Today, Innovation Games and Gamestorming collaborate: games fom htp://www.innovationgames.com appear on http://www.gogamestorm.comand vice versa.

Why Games

Whereas a well-designed and well-executed business process has standardized, repeatable, and scalable results, games shows different results every time and are a framework for possibility and creativity. Games involve a high level of participants emotion. Emotions help us to

  • Focus
  • Remember
  • Decide
  • Perform
  • Learn

Moreover, games

  • involves (cross- or dys-functional) people easier
  • have structure and goals
  • operate more like a real-world system
  • results are unpredictable
  • small changes in variables generate dramatic differences in the result.

Stuart Brown gave 2008 an inspiring talk from Serious Play ’08 “Why Playing is vital?”.

IGs are serious games solving a wide range of product strategy and management issues across the whole market lifecycle. They are alternatives to standard business meetings.

Innovation Games as Facilitated Workshops

Like Agile Games and LEGO Serious Play, innovation games are facilitated workshops. They are structured activities. A facilitator leads a group towards some goal by way of a game, that provides scope for thinking freely, even playfully. The most important part is the debriefing by the facilitator. Thus, Innovation Games,  are very interesting and therefore used as well in Agile Coaching and Agile Software Development. Innovation Games are directed by a facilitator. The facilitator leads the group of participants towards some goal by way of a game, that provides scope for thinking freely, even playfully. The facilitator responsibilities include:

  • explaining the participants the game(s) to be played;
  • controlling the pacing and tempo of each game;
  • monitoring participation levels; and,
  • managing time of the overall game-play event.
  • giving space
  • moderating debriefing for the participants game experience

The successful operation of an innovation game relies on collaborative play among the participants and a set of observers drawn from disparate functional groups within the product development organization. Crucial for the success is the debriefing by a trained moderator.

Description of Innovation Games

In his book of the same title Luke Hohmann listed 12 Innovation Games whereas the game “My worst Nightmare” was added on the website http://www.innovationgame.com. Thus I will describe “My worst Nightmare” here too.

Luke classified the 13 Innovation Games by five categories:

  • Purpose
  • Degree of Physical Preparation
  • Degree of open-ended Exploration
  • Degree of Scalability
  • Time Frame of Action


… by Purpose

What do you want to understand? Games
Unmet and/or idealized market needs. Although all Innovation Games provide insight into market needs, these games are specifically designed for identifying unmet and/or idealized market needs, which can then be used as input to strategic planning and the identification of new business opportunities. Product Box, Me and My Shadow, Buy a Feature, Give Them a Hot Tub, Remember the Future
Products and services usage and relationships. Successful products evolve over time, typically becoming richer and more customized to meet the needs of increasingly diverse markets. A key aspect to managing this evolution and tapping into new markets is gaining a better understanding of how customers use existing products and services and how they are related to other products and services. These games will help. Spider Web, Start Your Day, Me and My Shadow, Show and Tell, The Apprentice
Product and service functionality. As Theodore Levitt wrote in his seminal work “The Marketing Imagination”[1] customers don’t want a drill, they want a hole. Clayton Christensen echoes this theme in “The Innovator’s Dilemma”[2] by reminding us, “We hire products to do jobs. “These games will help you better understand the jobs your customers are striving to accomplish. Product Box, 20/20 Vision, Me and My Shadow, Speed Boat, Start Your Day, The Apprentice, Buy a Feature
How to shape your product for the future. Every company spends a lot of time thinking about the future of its products and services. Unfortunately, all too often they don’t explicitly include their customers in the conversation. These games provide a way for your customer to join you in shaping your future together. Remember the Future, 20/20 Vision, Buy a FeaturePrune the Product Tree


… by Degree of Physical Preparation

Degree Games
High Buy a Feature, Start Your Day, Show and Tell, Prune the Product Tree, Product Box
Low Spider Web, Remember the Future, Speed Boat, Give Them a Hot Tub
Medium The Apprentice, Me and My Shadow, 20/20 Vision


… by Degree of open-ended Exploration

Degree Games
Low Buy a FeatureThe Apprentice, 20/20 Vision, Give Them a Hot Tub
Medium Prune the Product Tree, Me and My Shadow, Start Your Day, Show and Tell
High Speed Boat, Product Box, Spider Web, Remember the Future


… by Degree of Scalability

Innovation Games are designed for relatively small groups, typically between 4 and 24 people. However, they can be scaled to be used for greater groups (more than several hundred people). The two key tricks in scaling the games to large groups is leveraging the natural structure of the games to subdivide larger groups into smaller groups that can play the games and changing the degree of facilitation within the games.

Degree Games
Low Speed Boat, Buy a Feature, Show and Tell
Medium Product Box, 20/20 Vision, The Apprentice, Prune the Product Tree, Me and My Shadow, Start Your Day, Give Them a Hot Tub
High Spider Web, Remember the Future


… by Time Frame of Action

The games also vary by the time frame for putting the result of the game into action.

Degree Games
Low Buy a Feature, Show and Tell, Speed Boat,
Medium Product Box, The Apprentice, 20/20 Vision, Give Them a Hot Tub, Prune the Product Tree, Me and My Shadow, Start Your Day
High Spider Web, Remember the Future

All Innovation Games at one Glance

  1. Product Box : customers work individually or in small teams to create and sell their ideal product.
  2. Me and My Shadow:: discover hidden needs by carefully observing what customers actually do with your products.
  3. Buy a Feature:: customers work together to purchase their most desired features.
  4. Give Them a Hot Tub: customers provide feedback on outrageous features to establish what is truly essential.
  5. Remember the Future: understand your customers’ definition of success by seeing how they shape their future. (This game is in a way related with Future Perfect from Agile Coaching)
  6. Spider Web: participants work individually or in small teams to create vivid pictures of how your products and services fit into their world.
  7. Start Your Day:: participants collaboratively describe when, how, and where they use your product(s). Participants describe their daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly events related to their use of a product.
  8. Show and Tell: customers describe the most important artifacts produced by your system to you and other customers.
  9. The Apprentice:: an engineer or product developer uses the product as an end-user.
  10. 20/20 Vision: customers negotiate the relative importance of such things as product features, market requirements, and product benefits.
  11. Prune the Product Tree: customers work in small teams to shape the evolution of your products and services.
  12. Speed Boat: customers identify their biggest pain points with your products and services.
  13. My Worst Nightmare: discover hidden and/or unconsidered worst-case scenarios to develop better understanding and planning. Participants imagine and draw a caricature of their “worst nightmare” related to the product or service that you’re researching.

Ideas into Action™

The 13 innovation games can be clustered by their usage as well: getting new ideas, problem solving, creating agreements, unraveling complexity, planning, getting a deeper understanding. To put it short: to Discover, to Shape, to Prioritize, and Act.

Clustering Innovation Games ™ by usage

You find more details in my presentation on Slideshare:

Further Readings

  1. Levitt, T.: “The Marketing Imagination”. New York, NY: The Free Press, 1986.
  2. Christensen, C. M.: “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1997

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