Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Innovation games to feed the fuzzy front end

I’m in the Middle East this week to meet with a client to discuss a potential technology project. Part of our workshop included playing innovation games to explore their root needs and rank their priorities. While we have tested this method with internal customers over the last year, this is the first time we’ve used this method with an external audience. I had some concerns about cultural differences and how they might impact acceptance, participation, insight generation… and the relationship with our customer team.

What I found was…

  • The game participants were more reluctant at the beginning of the games than participant groups in the US.
  • Once they became engaged in the process (about five minutes in) their participation, enthusiasm and outcomes were very similar to my previous internal participant groups.
  • The hardest sell I had was to my colleagues that were there to support and observe the games at the workshop. Our local team was very skeptical of the process and feared the games would damage their credibility.
  • Both the client team and our local team were surprised and excited by the openness of discussion and level of collaboration generated by the workshop structure and games.
    Our local technology manager stated he felt the event built more trust and taught us more about our customers’ needs in a few hours than the business development team would be able to accomplish in months of meetings.
  • Our local team was so enthusiastic about the innovation game process and outcomes that they began planning their own games for internal and external events.
  • We gained tremendous insight into our customers’ technical and change management challenges, priorities, perception of our proposed technology’s value and measures of success. Secondary benefits came from insight and ideas on how we can market our technology to a broader market.

All in all, it was a very productive and fun week…

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