Innovation, Design, &
Nancy Frishberg & Kaliya Hamlin
Internet Identity Workshop 2009
Any of a dozen structured activities, such as those suggested in
Luke Hohmann’s book
Or, custom designed activities, such as participatory design,
paper prototyping, “prototyping with junk”, etc.
(or User or Target)
- neutral party in context with customers
- helps to focus the question
- POV? Listening with care
- target for purchase of product or service (=customer)
- target for use of product or service (=user, possibly several categories)
- peers or teammates with different perspectives or tasks
- Stakeholders who make decisions (policy, price, features, timing, etc) about product & service
- Task during game: Take notes about what’s said, not said, and what responses players give each other (verbal
- No-no: Do not address players directly in this setting during game play
For software development projects
Early in process for products. At any of several junctures. Works well with
Agile software development processes, because customer data can inform
schedules of features and releases.
For team building, insert games before team communication problems
Or use them when you can identify the right mix of customers and users.
Image from http://www.cooper.com/journal/agile2008/
Synchronous play (whether co-located or distributed/remote)
encourages maximum interactive experience, responses to one
another and effectiveness for observers.
1-2 hours per event, depending on size of group and which
game/activity is chosen.
1-2 games in a half-day session; 3 per day is probably limit for all
Observer brieﬁng (required) can be held within the previous week.
Just reminders happen during registration.
How to decide which games to choose?
Match goal of activity to product needs, plus amount of effort to produce each game.
Luke’s 6 dimensions for games (with 3 levels for each) help selection.
Other dimensions also may matter, such as whether a game is suitable for team play
(collaboration), vs. a group (several players competing) vs. individual (each person completes
the task alone, then shares work).
(This diagram and its companion on the next slide are an alternative view of the information in
Hohmann’s book. It was developed with the support of Vinq, LLC.)
Here’s how those dimensions play out for Hohmann’s 12
Other games might target additional dimensions.
And as more serious games & design games come online, there
will be the additional factors of remote/distributed play,
synchronous and asynchronous play.
Variety of beneﬁts
• Engages participants quickly
• Triggers appropriate discussion
• Rapid results for product team
Games are both like & unlike focus groups
Like focus groups, games involve a group of people recruited for a speciﬁc time to consider an
organization’s products, goals or schedule.
Unlike focus groups, the activities in games sessions are directed toward the other participants (rather
than a discussion moderator), the questions are not scripted, but are obliquely part of the game play,
strategy or tactics, and the observers are in the room with the players. It’s easier to reduce the impact
of a single assertive participant and increase the impact of those who politely wait their turn.
Range of responses
Teamwork Groups Individual
responses from Team or Group or Individuals, depending on
which game is chosen, and how the game is implemented.
Taps forms expression from participants that are often hidden at
• fewer bullets, fewer spreadsheets
• more physical materials, more attitude, more values, more
preferences, more behavior data
...based on customer and user behavior, ideas and preferences
avoid “religious” or “political” disagreements within the product
Here various ideas yield an ordered list of features, with customer
motivations for each choice.
Breakthrough results that surprise the stakeholder teams and
energize customers with FUN!
Illustrations of artifacts created in sessions of Spider Web, 20:20,
and Product Box.
Innovation, Design & Serious
Games Exchange 2009
San Francisco • June 26
nancyf (at) acm (dot) org
kaliya (at) mac (dot) com