Preparing for the Game
Use the best possible imagery that you can to keep the mood playful. Buy pictures of boats and stickers of fish at stores that stock school or craft supplies and post them on a whiteboard. Print anchors on your index cards. Keeping the mood playful helps everyone deal with the potentially stressful content of the feedback. Aladdin Knowledge Systems, Inc., the world's leading provider of hardware-based software antipiracy solutions, went so far as to merge a fast boat with a USB dongle to create vivid imagery that helped set the proper tone for their session (see Figure 2.23). You can also go "lo tech" for your boat, which the Greater Boston Chapter of the ACM did when they played Speed Boat. In this game, Tobias Mayer simply drew a speed boat on a chalk board (see Figure 2.24).
Figure 2.23. Aladdin Knowledge System's Speed Boat Design
Figure 2.24. ACM's Simple Speed Boat Design
Steve Peacock of Air Transport IT described a variant of this game he played with customers at an annual users conference. Instead of using anchors, they referred to complaints as barnacles. Barnacles were of three sizessmall, medium, and largewhere the size represented the strength of the complaint.
Although you want customers who can, and will, contribute, avoid including any customers who are likely to be overly dominant or negative. If you must invite such customers, consider running two Speed Boat sessions: one for the unruly crowd and another for the quieter, more thoughtful crowd.
It helps to review your service and support systems to identify any specific items that may exist for customers coming to the event, because they use this opportunity to ask pointed questions about the status of reported problems. It also helps to make certain you're aware of any plans to address known problems. Although it is important to try to avoid addressing issues during the game, there are times that you will have to do this, so be prepared.