A few years ago, a colleague and I traveled to the Middle East to meet with a very large, very conservative oil & gas client. They wanted our product line to develop a suite of new technologies but nearly choked on the projected price. The problem was our development team made a lot assumptions but really didn’t understand our clients’ needs relative to this technology. We knew we needed a better approach.
We arrived a day early and met with our local sales team. Our company’s local Account Leader was horrified to hear we intended to play an Innovation Game®. “You can’t do this! (Client) is extremely conservative! You’ll ruin the relationship!” We did it anyway.
When we met with the client, both teams gave traditional overview presentations. Then I pulled out art supplies and we played a game called Product Box where everyone in the room built fictional packaging for a dream solution. I showed consumer packaged goods (diapers, snacks, cereal) as professional examples. The Account Leader sat in the corner with crossed arms, glaring at me. After an hour, each person stood up and “sold” their product package to the rest of the group. The results were amazing, leading to several hours of open discussion. At the end, we had a list of specific benefits needed, prioritized features, measures of value, potential product/service names, rough pricing requirements, specific applications… and a series of artifacts to take back to my own product development team and product line leadership.
Everyone involved enjoyed the event, better understood root needs and built a stronger relationship. Afterwards the Account Manager walked up, gave me a bear hug and said he learned more about this client in one morning than he had learned in the previous four years.
Perhaps you're thinking we got lucky, or that this was a "one-off" event. It wasn't. Once I started to use serious games and other collaborative frameworks in innovation, commercialization and marketing efforts I never looked back. I’ve used them for years, as an employee and as a consultant. And the results are fantastic.
But it isn’t like I woke up one day and said “let’s play a game!”. I found and read a book titled “Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaboration” by Luke Hohmann. The book introduces a series of games, each designed to drive specific action or understanding. Even better, the book provides guidance on setting up, executing and acting on the game. Great stuff. Great enough that I usually have a stack of books to give to colleagues or clients.
I was lucky enough to meet and consult with Luke and his team a few years ago. His company, Conteneo, provides both training and software platforms that allow collaboration at scale and with participants distributed around the world. Great stuff.
If your team needs to increase engagement, discover Voice of X* or make better decisions, try playing serious games that have serious outcomes.
Contact us to learn if innovation games are right for your program.
* Voice of Customer, Voice of User, Voice of Employee, Voice of Partner, Voice of X