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Book Review: Innovation Games
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Book Review: Innovation Games by Luke Hohmann

Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products through Collaborative Play

Written by: Luke Hohmann. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Addison-Wesley, 2007. 159+xxix pages.
Reviewed by: Christina Hepener Brodie

Innovation Games

In this brief paperback, Luke Hohmann outlines games that he developed for the software development industry and then later adapted for use in solution development across many industries. The author describes 12 games that will help companies uncover their customers' processes, perceptions, motivations, and needs by purposefully involving internal teams with their customers and potential customers. The intention of the games is to orchestrate customer engagements focused on an explicit goal, such as discovering hidden needs or prioritizing features; however, the games may be adapted for routine customer sessions like advisory council meetings. The author points out the benefits of employing an external facilitator to administer such techniques—and his firm offers such services. However, experienced internal facilitators will have no difficulty using the games and in fact will find these 12 games a useful way to stimulate innovative thinking.

The approaches described in this book appear to be evolutions of techniques used in the last 20 years by creativity and idea-generation consultants, ethnographers, and industrial designers. For example, “Remember the Future” is similar to a technique, “Scenario: Future Customer Experience,” used by consultants in helping teams depict customer experience at that point in the future when their solution concept would be developed and in use. Two of the games, “The Apprentice” and “Me and My Shadow,” are not games as much as they are brief descriptions of ethnographic research techniques, which are described in much greater detail in sources the author references (Burchill and Brodie, 2005; McQuarrie, 1998; Mello, 2002). By deploying these techniques in a game format, Hohmann creates a sense of play and provides enough structure and coaching so that other process facilitators can make use of some of them with the coaching provided. More specifically, the games are meant to help a team identify unmet or idealized market needs, to understand product andservice usage and relationships with other products andservices, and to shape future solutions. Results may benefit a wide range of areas: strategic planning, the discovery of new opportunities, the development of new solutions and their related road maps, marketing and sales effectiveness, and, ultimately, relationships with customers.

Part 1 addresses how the game approach fits with other market research techniques. It also outlines the process and describes frameworks for thinking about which game to use when and how to plan for a session. As presented, however, this discussion presents a chicken-and-egg challenge. The author describes each game in a sentence on the first two pages of Part 1 and then references them throughout the next 40 pages—but does not provide the information needed to understand the games until Part 2. This is extremely confusing for the reader.

The second section of the book is more clearly organized. For each game, the reader can quickly discern the degree of open-ended exploration a game will allow, the time horizons for putting the outcomes into action, scalability (i.e., the range in number of customers who can participate), and the amount of customer, market, and physical preparation required to execute the engagement. The reader is provided with a description of the game, an explanation of why it works, and what preparation entails—including a checklist of needed materials, an overview of how to lead the game, and an explanation of how to process the results.

The third section concludes with additional tools and templates—more details for planning an event, sample agendas, sample invitation and thank-you letters, additional materials checklists, and frequently asked questions. The last few pages outline more facilitator coaching to enable an individual to think carefully about facilitating such an event.

Experienced facilitators may well find several nuggets in this book to add to their repertoire of facilitation tools.

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