Playing the Game

Preparing for the Game

Show and Tell requires a lot of work from your customers to prepare for the game. Do everything you can to make this easy for them. Give them detailed instructions on what to bring and plenty of time to prepare the materials. Ask them in advance if you can keep whatever they bring so they aren't surprised during the game. One way to do this is to offer a new product in exchange for the old product.

There are times when customers will want to bring examples that are private or that contain sensitive information. In this case, offer a private audience with just you and your customer to review these private objects. You won't gain the benefit of other customers' comments and reactions, but you will gain a more complete and thorough understanding of how your customers use your products and services.

Open-Ended Exploration

Time Frame of Action


Customer Preparation

Market Preparation

Physical Preparation

When playing this game with multiple customers, be certain to find a way to identify which customer provided which artifact. If you're having trouble with this, ask your customers to sign or personalize what they bring after they've finished presenting.

You need to create and bring a full set of materials created by your product because your customers will usually bring only the subset of materials that they actually use. For example, suppose your product is a software program that generates 40 standard reports. Chances are good that some reports will be perceived as more useful than others, and your customer will typically bring only the subset of reports that they normally use. By bringing a standard set of all of your reports, you'll also gain the advantage of asking them to comment about what they don't use.

Although this game is best played with a small group of customers who can ask questions and elaborate further on what is being presented (and therefore help you learn more about how your product is used), it is a great game to run during a single customer visit.

Products that don't produce much in the way of directly tangible results are not good candidates for this game. Business-oriented software systems that produce various reports, charts, and graphs are a good choice for this game. Software that doesn't produce much in tangible results, such as games or the embedded software that controls your microwave oven or antilock brakes, are not. Many items in the physical works are also not good choices for this game. Chairs are used for sitting, cups for drinking, and tape for holding things to walls. If you want to learn more about how customers use these products, consider Me and My Shadow or The Apprentice.


  • Sample copy of "standard" things created by your product or service

Anything You Can Do with a Single Customer Is Likely to be More Interesting with Multiple Customers

Like most Innovation Games, Show and Tell is a game that you can play with a single customer. For example, suppose that you're a vendor of high-end machining equipment and you're visiting your customer to upgrade their control software. During the trip, it is very natural to play Show and Tell and learn more about how they use your products and services. Learning more about your customers is always a good thing and should be encouraged.

However, a key tenet of the design of the games is that anything you can do with a single customer is likely to be more interesting with multiple customers present. Play Show and Tell with a customer and you'll learn how one customer uses your product. Play Show and Tell with other customers present and you'll not only learn how they use your product, you'll learn how other customers react to the presentation. You'll be able to observe rich conversations where customers question, challenge, extend, and modify product usage, often sharing best practices, heuristics, and "never do this" advice. Perhaps more importantly, your customers will do the questioning, which can itself be a source of rich insight. What questions do they ask? Why did they ask these questions?

Ultimately, it is not a question of the right or wrong way to engage your customer. Instead, it is about the degree to which you can gain powerful insights into customer needs, and you should feel comfortable using any number of customers that you can to realize this goal.

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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