Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here is list of common questions and their responses, in no particular order:
Games? How Do I Win?
This question can be asked by people preparing for an Innovation Game or by someone who is playing a game. If you're preparing for an Innovation Game, relax. Although we use the terminology of a game, the goal isn't "winning." It is understanding. You'll win in the marketplace when you understand how to create more innovative, profitable, and sustainable products and services.
If you're a facilitator and you receive this question from a customer, treat it as a rare gift, because it is a signal that they are buying into the process and that they want to "play" the game the right way. Simply say that the goal of the game really isn't winning, even if you're offering a prize for the best product box or the most interesting spider web. Instead, the goal is to have fun exploring and discussing how they see your product.
Do You Really Expect Me to Do This with Customers?
Yes. And you won't regret it. If you're really worried about playing a given game, choose a game that provides for less open-ended exploration (such as Buy a Feature), geared for relatively small numbers of customers (such as Show and Tell), or focus on product-related knowledge (such as Start Your Day). As you gain confidence, choose games that increase the degree of open-ended exploration and play the games with more customers.
Will My Customers Participate?
Our experience is that most customers enthusiastically respond to these games and participate with an open mind and a strong commitment to your success. The key word is most. There are customers who don't like the format of a given game or are uncomfortable working in small groups. The best way to handle this is through your selection process. Provide customers with enough information on your plans for using these games so that they can opt out if they are uncomfortable with the idea of participating directly with other customers in a form of qualitative market research.
What if Something Goes Wrong Before or During the Game?
Unexpected events often occur during a game, and sometimes they can be somewhat scary. Materials aren't delivered on time, and you have to make a midnight run to Walgreen's or Kinko's to scrape together whatever you can. An irate customer demands that you address their issues in real-time. Competitors refuse to participate because of concerns that they might inadvertently divulge confidential and/or proprietary data.
Although it is impossible to plan for every possibility, it is true that these unexpected events can cause real problems. The best approach when something unexpected happens is to maintain your professionalism and focus on your primary goals for playing the game. Then, adjust in real-time as necessarychange the game, ask another member of your team to privately handle an irate customer, put competitors into different groups, and so forth. Although the situation may be tense, at Enthiosys we have found that the majority of participants want to help you produce a good outcome and will be quite understanding and helpful when something does go wrong.
I'm Not a "Creative Type" and I'm Somewhat Shy. Can I Use These Techniques?
Absolutely. The primary criteria for using these techniques is a sincere desire to understand your customers. More importantly, a well-structured Innovation Game team has many roles where being shy is a virtue. Two that come to mind are the helper and observer, as neither of them require direct interaction with customers.
Our Company Has Never Run a Customer Event or User Group. What Happens if Customers Talk with Each Other?
In the modern world of the blogosphere and Web 2.0, chances are good that your customers are already talking about your products and services. That said, if you really are worried about what your customers might say when they get together in a group, you've got bigger issues than developing better customer understanding. Handle these issues before engaging an Innovation Game.
I've Identified People to Invite. How Do I Invite Them?
We recommend contacting them in a manner that works for your organization. If you're dealing with a small number of large accounts or major customers, chances are good that you can leverage your customer service and/or account management organization. If you're dealing with a large number of small accounts and/or customers, we recommend traditional phone solicitation techniques to invite customers who meet your target profile.
Do I Need to Offer Participants Money to Attend?
This is a tough question with no clear-cut answer. The primary reason for offering money is that it is a clear signal that you respect your customers' time and participation in your event and that you want to make it easy for them to attend. The primary reason against offering money is that you want your customers to participate in the event because they are motivated to help you improve your products and services because doing so helps them do their job better. We tend to see companies paying for customer participation more frequently in business-to-consumer markets (B2C), for low-cost products or services, or for commodity services. We tend to see less of a need to pay for customer participation in business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-professional (B2P) markets, when the products are high cost, or when they are highly specialized.
We recommend giving participants a small token of your appreciation for their participation upon completion of the game. This "small token" is often relative to the amount of money customers spend on your products and services. In the B2C market, a small token might be an inexpensive clock or nice golf shirt. In the B2B market we've seen "small tokens" worth several hundred dollars (a golf bag with custom embroidering was perhaps the most expensive item I've ever seen). In some of the games, such as Product Box, you may consider offering a prize for the most innovative box.
The key trick to making a gift work for your customers is tailoring the gift to their interests. One book reviewer commented that he thinks clocks are "cheesy" and that a golf-related gift would be "useless" as he doesn't play golf. He's right. If you're going to give a gift, it has to be thoughtfully chosen and have meaning.
I've Just Finished an Innovation Game and I'm Overwhelmed with the Amount of Data I Collected. Help!
Don't panic. We've found that people who are new to Innovation Games usually underestimate the amount of data that will be generated and the time necessary to postprocess the results into a useful format. If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of data you generated, consider processing it in two steps. Do a quick pass over the results to gather the most important themes. We typically do this immediately after a session. Then do a second, more thorough, review of the data to confirm the themes that you have identified.
Do I Have to Be a "Cool Creative Person" to Use Innovation Games?
No. You do not have to be a "creative type," a "smooth talker," or an unusually outgoing, extroverted person to use Innovation Games. The only requirement for playing Innovation Games is a sincere desire to better understand your customers and a willingness to try a new approach.