Luke Hohmann was in Dallas recently on business and had a little time to kill. Being easily one of the most driven/productive people I have ever met, he scheduled a session during that time with our mutual friend Russ McClelland over at Perot Systems to discuss how Perot might be able to apply Enthiosys' Innovation Games in their own business, and they invited Todd and me to join them and help facilitate.
Luke chose to use Buy a Feature, which is a really interesting way to understand what features your customers care about. The basic idea is that you create a list of typically upcoming features for your product, and you assign a price to each feature. Then you round up a group of your customers for a session. The customers are each given some play money and a list of features. They then proceed to buy the features. The magic really comes when people start to run out of money and have to start negotiating. This is underlying goal of Buy a Feature -- get your customers to negotiate with each other rather than having you negotiate with each of them individually and attempt to rationalize the results.
A few notes that I took away:
- There is a bit of an art to assigning that price.
- note the plural "customers." This is one of the most important parts. You should invite multiple, different customers to your innovation games.
- I offered to bring a video camera, but Luke said that video cameras can creep people out, so he avoids them, but he uses a "Bad wedding photographer" and observer roles to capture the interesting parts of the conversations during the games.
Being a bit of an agile junkie and husband to a [stunningly beautiful, brilliant] elementary school teacher, I value the use of manipulatives in communication. I took the liberty the night before of printing up the features and roles that people played in Luke's canned problem for the demo on 3x5 cards. Luke ribbed me a bit, but he played along, and in the end, I think I won him over on using the cards for Buy a Feature.
I actually printed up a set of feature cards for each individual, which I think in hindsight was overkill, as well as a lot of work. But I think it would be useful to have a deck of features per group of people, primarily because it makes it possible for the people to easily sort what is bought and what isn't. Additionally -- and this is one of the main reasons that people like me like using cards -- there is a real tactile experience when using the cards. The negotiations can reveal information in the body language associated with manipulating the cards. Another nice thing about having the cards is that you could very quickly work through another Innovation Game, 20/20 vision. Whether you use the cards or not, I think you will be happy with the way that the game helps you better understand your customer. And that makes Luke happy.
Luke has a new book coming out on Innovation Games in the summer- to late-year timeframe. Having had the priviledge of reading the early drafts, I think it is a really good, really practical book. Ping him over at Enthiosys, and I am sure he would be happy to keep you in the loop about the publication date.