Using Innovation Games with Customer Advisory Boards

A Customer Advisory Board (CAB) is a specially selected group of customers, executives, and/or industry professionals who meet regularly with a company to provide in-depth feedback, guidance, and support for matters of tactical and strategic importance to a company. They are given considerable influence on the direction of products and services and are often compensated for their services.

One of the ongoing challenges of managing CABs is making certain that they don't become "rubber stamp" committees whose members sit and listen to predigested presentations without any real opportunity for substantive feedback. In other words, the amount of time you spend listening to your CAB should be far greater than the amount of time you spend talking to your CAB. Fortunately, Innovation Games are a powerful way to engage your CAB and generate fresh insights for youand for them.

Innovation Games breathe new life into existing CABs by helping your CAB members find creative and fun ways to express themselves. Instead of sitting through a boring set of PowerPoint presentations and discussions of strategy, CAB members playing Innovation Games are actively engaged in sharing their knowledge. They also provide a powerful way to safely experiment with the games. For example, you might try a different version of a game with your CAB before playing it with other customers. And you can focus quantitative market research based on the qualitative feedback you receive from the CAB.

Table 1.5 provides specific suggestions for games to try at your next CAB meeting.

Table 1.5. Suggested Games for a CAB Meeting


Choosing Innovation Games for a CAB

Product Box

Product Box is consistently ranked as one of the most fun Innovation Games. The open-ended and sometimes silly nature of Product Box sets a great tone for a CAB and lets you gain powerful insights into what customers value from your products.

Buy a Feature

Normally, customers playing Buy a Feature purchase features according to their interests. CAB members, on the other hand, are often able to "act as if" they are a different kind of customer, allowing for a richer discussion of features.

Start Your Day

Start Your Day is usually played using calendars and other materials that you create. In a CAB, you can explain the game to your customers and ask them to bring calendars that they can share with other customers. This enriches the game on multiple dimensions, including providing you with valuable insights into how your customers manage time.

Show and Tell

One of the drawbacks of Show and Tell is that it ranks relatively high on customer preparation requirements. CAB members, because of their strong commitment to the CAB, can be counted on to do the preparation work necessary to make this game a success.

Give Them a Hot Tub

One of the concerns that product teams express over playing Give Them a Hot Tub is that they might look too "silly" or "crazy" if they share so-called outrageous features with normal customers. This fear may at times be justified with normal customers, but not with CAB members, who typically look forward to pushing product boundaries. Don't be surprised if they become disappointed when you don't push them hard enough!

Remember the Future

The core element of Remember the Future is projecting yourself forward far enough to create meaningful strategic discussions. Who better to help you do this than your CAB?

No matter what game you play, keep the rest of the Innovation Game process the same. This should be relatively easy because you will likely have someone managing the planning function of the CAB meeting. To this you may need to add a greeter, a facilitator, a helper, observers, and an event photographer.

Ways to Refer to Customer Advisory Boards

While the specific responsibilities of a customer advisory board may vary, they are united in creating a forum for in-depth, qualitative market research. There are many ways to refer to a customer advisor board. Here are a few.



QUALCOMM Wireless Business Solutions

Product Strategy Council

Aladdin Knowledge Systems

Security Council

Emerson Climate Technologies

Technology Advisory Council

Wyse Technologies, Inc.

Customer Advisory Board


Technical Advisory Board


Customer Council

It is also important to share with your CAB the results of your report. You may want to consider a more open and direct approach in writing the report, including providing CAB members with access to observer notes. Finally, make certain that you provide a way for CAB members to provide feedback to youand other CAB memberson any reports that you send. Sometimes the conversations after the CAB meeting are even more important than the conversations at the CAB meeting because you and your CAB have had time to think more carefully about what was discussed.

Innovation Games(c) Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play
Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play
ISBN: 0321437292
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 144
Authors: Luke Hohmann

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