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Navigate your market opportunities

Photo by Felix Pilz

Any innovation or technological invention can be applied to serve different types of customers. Understanding your set of market opportunities increases your chances of success: It not only allows you to focus on the most promising market, but also helps you to avoid a fatal lock-in. The Market Opportunity Navigator, developed by Dr. Sharon Tal & Prof. Marc Gruber in their book Where To Play, is a tool that helps you to map out your market opportunities and adopt a broad view of your options, so you can set your strategic focus smartly.

Object of play
Unleash the power of new market opportunities by stepping back from your current product and customer assumptions. The Market Opportunity Navigator offers a structured process for identifying, evaluating and prioritizing potential markets for innovation; examine and rethink your strategic focus or plan your future roadmap. This game provides a shared language to discuss, debate and brainstorm with your team and stakeholders.

Number of players
1-6 players (depending on objective).

You can work individually to sketch out your initial perceptions, but a diverse team is recommended if you want to broaden your view and map out your landscape of opportunities more accurately.

Duration of play
Anywhere between two hours (for a ‘quick and dirty’ process), to two days (for a thorough discussion). In general, the game includes three steps:

Step 1 – Identify Market Opportunity Set
Step 2 – Evaluate Opportunity Attractiveness
Step 3 – Depict Your Agile Focus Dartboard

Material required
To run a good session, you will need:

  • A large print of the Market Opportunity Navigator, preferably on A0 size. A1 – A3 will do the job. Downloadable here
  • Printed copies of Worksheets 1, 2 and 3 preferably on A1 size. A3 – A4 will also work. Downloadable here
    • If you can’t make large prints of the worksheets, it’s OK! You can easily reproduce all the worksheets on flip charts.
  • Flip chart paper with adhesive backing
  • Sticky notes of different colors
  • Markers and pens
  • Camera to capture the results
  • The facilitator of the game can learn more about the process at: www.wheretoplay.co

How to Play
Room Setup: Place the A0-sized Market Opportunity Navigator somewhere in the room. If you don’t have an A0, draw the templates on individual flip charts and hang.

Step 1: Identify a Market Opportunity Set

  1. Begin the game with a clear definition of what a Market Opportunity means. Write on the board: A market opportunity is any application of your abilities for a specific set of customers.
  2. Inform the players we will now explore each.
  3. Ask the players to take five minutes for an individual brainstorm to describe and characterize the core technological elements or unique abilities of the firm in their own right, detached from any current or envisioned application. Write one element or ability per sticky note.
  4. Once the brainstorm is done, have the players to put their notes on the wall. Ask for volunteers to sort the notes into meaningful categories (see Affinity Map). Once finished, ask the sorters to describe their process.
  5. Summarize the unique abilities of the firm and list their functions and properties on the upper part of worksheet 1.
  6. Repeat this process to brainstorm customer problems that can be addressed with these unique abilities. Ask the players to take five minutes for an individual brainstorm and describe customer problems, one per sticky. To broaden their horizon, ask them to think about who else beyond the current customer set might have these problems. What other problems might they have? Encourage players to think wide and broad. There are no ‘wrong ideas’ at this stage.
  7. Once the brainstorm is done, ask the players to put their notes on the wall. Ask for volunteers to sort the notes into meaningful categories (see Affinity Map). Discuss what these categories might mean for your company and products.
  8. With a strong understanding of both the firm’s capabilities and potential customer problems, discuss with the players different applications stemming from these abilities, and different types of customers who may need them. Summarize these on the lower part of Worksheet 1.
  9. At the end of the brainstorm, pick few market opportunities that seem interesting for further consideration. ask the players to briefly describe their idea as they place it on the Market Opportunity section of the Navigator. Use colored sticky notes to represent each of these market opportunities, and place them on the market Opportunity Set section of the Navigator.
  10. Your Market Opportunity Set is now ready.

 

 

Step 2: Evaluate Opportunity Attractiveness

At this step, players will assess the potential and the challenge of each opportunity in their set, to compare and prioritize options. Market opportunities are not born equal- some are more attractive than others.

  1. To begin the evaluation process, explain first what an attractive option is. Write on the board: An attractive option is onethat offers high potential for value creation, and limited challenge in capturing this value.
  2. Divide the group into small teams, and assign 1-2 market opportunities to each team.
  3. For each opportunity, ask the teams to assess the overall potential and overall challenge of each option, using the criteria described in Worksheet 2. If you do not have an A1 sized worksheet, recreate the template on a flip chart or use smaller prints.
  4. Once done, let each team present their evaluation to the group, discuss it with the others, and reach agreement. Then placeeach market opportunity (using colored sticky notes) in the mid part of the Market Opportunity Navigator. Your Attractiveness Map is now ready.

 

 

Step 3: Depict Your Agile Focus Dartboard

Having multiple options at hand is important for maintaining your agility. In the last step of the game, you can design your Agile Focus strategy.

  1. Begin with a clear explanation, write on the board: An Agile Focus strategy clearly defines your primary focus, the opportunities that you will keep open for backup or future growth, and those that you put aside for now. It will help you balance the ongoing tension between focus and flexibility.
  2. Players should pick attractive opportunities from step 2, and assess their relatedness to the currently pursued market(s),using Worksheet 3. If you do not have an A1 sized print, recreate the template on a flip chart or use smaller prints.
  3. Discuss and pick at least one backup option and one growth option that you want to keep open. Depict your decision (using colored sticky notes) in the right part of the Market Opportunity Navigator. Your Agile Focus Dartboard is now ready.
  4. Discuss the implications of this strategy to your company: How keeping these options open will influence the technology you are developing, the patents you write, the marketing messages you choose etc.

 

 

 

Strategy
This thought process is extremely powerful for companies seeking to understand and leverage their landscape of opportunities. The ‘big picture’ that it provides is especially valuable for:

  • Startups seeking their initial strategic path
  • Companies in need for pivot
  • Companies searching for new growth engines
  • Companies wishing to leverage existing IP

You can play this game to advance solid strategic decisions, but also to nourish and nurture the cognitive flexibility of your team, or simply to develop a culture that is more flexible and receptive to adaptations.

If you use this tool as a structured decision-making process, more time is required for market validation. In this case, you can map out your opportunities, state your assumptions while doing so, and get out of the building to support or refute them. You can then update the Market Opportunity Navigator and reflect on your learning.

Complementary Games
Finally, use the Navigator in combination with other great tools to set a promising strategic path:

  • the Empathy Map will help you to more deeply understand your stakeholders; play this game before exploring new opportunities
  • A quick ride on the Carousel will put players in a brainstorming mindset before exploring
  • Use the Business Model Canvas to further and more managerially flesh out the viability, feasibility and desirability of your newly discovered Market Opportunities

Variations
You can use each step of the Market Opportunity Navigator as a separate game, depending on your objectives. For example:

  • Use step 1 as a game to uncover different applications and target markets
  • Use step 2 as a game to assess the attractiveness of a specific business opportunity that you have in mind, and check out if it’s worth betting on.
  • Use step 3 as a game to develop possible roadmaps for your venture

Source
Prof. Marc Gruber and Dr. Sharon Tal created The Market Opportunity Navigator in their book, Where to Play: 3 Steps to Discovering Your Most Valuable Market Opportunities

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How-Now-Wow Matrix

When people want to develop new ideas, they most often think out of the box in the brainstorming or divergent phase. However, when it comes to convergence, people often end up picking ideas that are most familiar to them. This is called a ‘creative paradox’ or a ‘creadox’.

The How-Now-Wow matrix is an idea selection tool that breaks the creadox by forcing people to weigh each idea on 2 parameters.

Object of play: This game naturally follows the creative idea generation phase and helps players select ideas to develop further.

Number of players: 1 to 30

Duration of play: 10 to 40 mins

What you’ll need: Flip-chart sized paper, some markers, lots of voting dots in 3 colors (blue, yellow, green)

Preparation:

  1. Draw a 2-by-2 matrix as above. The X axis denotes the originality of the idea and the Y axis shows the ease of implementation.
  2. Label the quadrants as:
    1. Now/Blue Ideas – Normal ideas, easy to implement. These are typically low-hanging fruit and solutions to fill existing gaps in processes. These normally result in incremental benefits.
    2. How/Yellow Ideas – Original ideas, impossible to implement. These are breakthrough ideas in terms of impact, but absolutely impossible to implement right now given current technology/budget constraints.
    3. Wow/Green Ideas – Original ideas, easy to implement. ‘Wow’ ideas are those with potential for orbit-shifting change and possible to implement within current reality.

How to Play:

  1. List down the ideas that emerge from the creative ideation phase on large charts of paper stuck around the room.
  2. Give each player 3 sticky dots of each color – that is, 3 blue, 3 yellow, 3 green. 9 dots per person is typical, but go ahead and reduce/increase that number based on the time at hand and number of ideas generated.
  3. Ask each player to step forward and vote for 3 best ideas in each category.  They need to do this by sticking a colored dot in front of each idea they choose.
  4. In the end, count the number of dots under each idea to categorize it. The highest number of dots of a certain color categorizes the idea under that color.
  5. In case of a tie:
    1. If blue dots = green dots, the idea is blue
    2. If  yellow dots = green dots, the idea is green
  6. You now have a bucket of Now/Green ideas to work on further. Make sure you also collect the low-hanging blue ideas for immediate implementation and the yellow ideas to keep an eye on for the future.

Note: Check your yellow dots in advance to ensure that they can be seen from a distance. If not, go ahead and replace them with another color. FYI, in the original matrix, WOW ideas are red.

Online How-Now-Wow Matrix

How-Now-Wow MatrixHere is another image of the How-Now-Matrix. But this one is special – clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at www.innovationgames.com. In this game there are 20 light bulbs that you can drag on your matrix. We’ve organized this game into a set of regions that match the How-Now-Matrix described above. As you’re placing these items, use these regions to help you keep track of the most important ideas.

Keep in mind that that this is a collaborative game. This means that you can invite other players to play. And when they drag something around – you’ll see it in real time!

How-Now-Wow MatrixHere is another version that based on Martien van Steenbergen’s comments, in which he recommends flipping the y-axis.


The How-Wow-Now Matrix is adapted from work done by The Center for Development of Creative Thinking (COCD). Information about the COCD Matrix was published in the book, “Creativity Today” authored by Ramon Vullings, Igor Byttebier and Godelieve Spaas.
 
 
 
 
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Party Invitations

This game is credited to Cyd Harrell and has been used by Bolt Peters in several client brainstorming meetings.

Objective of play: Improve the onboarding process of a product or service.

Number of players: 5-30
Duration of play: 30-60 minutes

How to play:

  1. Everyone is handed a piece of paper and a marker.
  2. Participants are asked to imagine that the product/service being designed is a party or event and to create an invitation.
  3. Invitations should be as detailed and realistic as possible — they might include an inviting statement (“Join us for…”), what to bring, what the host (company) will provide, time, dress code, directions, RSVP info, and any other information guests might need to enjoy the party. It could also be done in the form of a Who, What, Where, When, Why invitation.
  4. Participants are encouraged to refine their invitations in multiple iterations. Allow at least 10-15 minutes for invitation writing.
  5. Once everyone has completed their invitations, the facilitator calls for ideas on each element of an invitation in turn:
    • What did you call the party?
    • Did anybody have a dress code?
    • What did you say about refreshments?
    • What do guests need to bring?
    • What is the party actually for?
    • How will guests get there?
  6. Next, participants read through their invitations in turn. The facilitator takes notes and posts the themes on a white board.
  7. After everyone has presented, participants jointly narrow and refine the ideas, keeping in mind things like:
    • What metaphors have emerged? How might they contribute to ideas for the onboarding experience?
    • Which elements are crucial to the invitation?
    • Which ideas represent the right feel for the brand and offering?
  8. Finally, the facilitator engages the group in sketching or another idea generation process to implement the refined invitation as a draft of the onboarding process.
An example party invitation.

Strategy:
This is essentially a metaphor-generation game that allows participants to imagine how they want to engage their audience. Detail is good, and players who go whole-hog with imagining their party as anything from a white-tie gala to a potluck are likely to be successful as long as they carry it through. Interesting discussions will ensue when participants go for different versions — are we a come as you are party or do we have a festive dress code? Must you RSVP or can you just show up?

Why invitations?
At
Bolt Peters, we often think of successful technology products as being more than just friendly. They are literally inviting — asking their audience to use them, rewarding them when they do, and asking again for higher levels of use and engagement. When deploying a conversion funnel, especially for gradual engagement, an enticing and escalating invitation is a critical piece of the puzzle.

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Air Time Mastermind

Air Time Mastermind with Maverick Business Adventures members


Object of play:

Brainstorm multiple solution and answers to participants pressing problems…while feeling like a 7-year old again.

Number of players: 10-50

Duration of play: 30 minutes – 1.5 hours

How to play:

1.    Everyone is handed a piece of construction paper.
2.    At the top of one side, participants are asked to write their biggest, most pressing problem the group can assist with and then their name on the reverse side.
3.    Ask participants to be as specific as possible with the question. (i.e. “What low or no-cost ways can I increase referrals for my service business?”)
4.    Make sure participants leave enough space below their question for multiple answers.
5.    Have people start folding their paper airplane with the question ending up the inside of the folds.
6.    Recommend each person decorate their plane individually to be able to find it later on.
7.    Once everyone has completed their airplanes it’s time to fly! Have everyone stand up and toss their planes into the wild blue yonder!
8.    Each participant grabs an airplane that doesn’t belong to them and unfolds it.
9.    Next, participants read through the question inside the airplane and provide their best answer. Make sure participants place their name or initials (for smaller groups) next to their response.
10.    Allow 3 minutes for answers and then call time.
11.    Participants (hopefully) re-fold their paper airplane and re-launch them.
12.    The cycle repeats for as many rounds as time available or until someone pokes an eye out.
13.    If a participant gets the same airplane twice they should switch with a neighbor.
14.    At the end of the flying time – each participant retrieves their winged worksheet.
15.    Facilitator asks for volunteers or selects individuals to present questions that have universal appeal to the audience and start group discussion.
16.    (Optional) Silly prizes given for best flying plane, sorriest looking plane, best design, etc.

Strategy:
Questions dictate your answers and getting answers from an assortment from different people gives participants another vantage point to their ideal solution. Also, instead of a group setting, some quieter participants with good ideas are now ‘heard’ since they have introspective time to come up with responses. What’s more, since everyone has signed their name or initials to their answer, participants will naturally engage in private conversations later on.

Refinement:
You can customize the game based on a particular meeting theme. Recently for a Maverick World Cup adventure & business excursion, we used inflatable soccer balls and had participants tape index cards to the soccer ball before kicking them. We called the game “Kickin’ It!” (Like kicking their biggest business problem.)

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Video Card Family Game

Video capture

Object of Play:  Co-create products or services using design insights gained from collaborative analysis of key frames of peoples’ activities from video clips recorded during ethnographic field work.

 Number of Players: 6 – 12

 Duration of Play: 7 – 8 hours

Required Resources: The Video Card Family Game requires use of a video camera (perhaps a smartphone), video editing software, graphics software, desktop publishing software, index card printing stock paper, and a printer (preferably color).

 Preparing to Play: The Video Card Family Game is a research technique useful in promoting collaboration among design team members and people engaged in the front-end design process. It uses video recording as a visualization resource for ethnographic fieldwork, especially participant observation among stakeholders (typically a product innovation team) and people who will use the product or service. The preparation time depends on the nature of the project as well as the logistics of the field work.

Ethnographic field work, in the simplest terms, means going to where the people of interest gather to share in their experience and analyze it. Designers use participant observation to co-create insights for product and service design by experiencing the peoples’ activities involved, such as working in their own context, or staging an environment in which people perform the activities of interest using mock-ups or prototypes.

1. To prepare for the Video Card Family Game, the facilitator edits the video into segments of no more than two minutes each. The importance of participant observation comes into play during the selection of video segments. Participant observers select video segments using insights about what is significant that they gained during the field work.

Note: It is important to select video segments in which actions, rather than conversations, are primarily occurring. You want, predominantly, to see what people do rather than hear what they say they do. In other words, focus on video where people are involved in physical action.

2. Save each video segment with a unique file name.

 3. Select a key frame from each video segment and give it a unique identifier.

 4. Create a video card by copying the key frame for each segment and pasting it into two corresponding index cards in your stock paper template. Give both cards the same title. Number both cards with the same unique identifier. Leave a comment area either below, or beside, the picture depending on how you layout the index cards.

Note: The image from the key frame may need resizing in a graphics editor before pasting it onto the index card stock paper template. You paste the image on two index cards to produce duplicate video cards.

5. Print  the duplicate video cards and place each in a separate stack.

 6. Repeat steps 2-5 for each video segment.

Note: The number of video cards created from the two-minute segments provides a degree of objectivity in the selection process. Ideally, each game player receives a stack of 10 video cards.

How to Play:

 (Allocate one hour for Steps 1 – 5 of playing the game)

1. Explain the rules of the game by providing a synopsis of steps 2 – 10 in the game play.

2. Provide players with instructional guidance on the difference between observing action in video and interpreting action.

Note: Observations come from descriptions of who is engaged in the action, what they are doing, where they are doing it, when they do it, and how they do. Interpretations involve assertions about why particular people do what they do when and where they do it. At times though, how they do it applies to interpretation when it relates to why the action occurs.

3. Group the players into pairs and provide each group with duplicate stacks of video cards.

4. Play the video segments corresponding to each video card in the duplicate stacks provided to each pair of players.

Note: Instruct the game players in each group to review the video segments in their group but not to discuss them with their partner.

5. Ask players in each group to take observational notes regarding what happens in the video segment corresponding to a video card. The idea here is for each player to personalize their video cards through writing notes on them, making them tangible research artifacts to handle and use in design discussions.

(Allocate 30 minutes for Step 6)

6. Ask each pair of players to discuss what they saw in the video segments and arrange their video cards into “families” that share a theme, before placing them on a table. Any theme is appropriate as long as it makes sense for the design focus of the game.

(Allow 1 hour for Steps 7 – 8 )

7. Ask each player to choose a favorite “family” of video cards from those they identified with the other player in their group. Doing so makes that player responsible for relating the design focus to user input as exhibited in the resulting “family” of video cards.

8. Attach each favorite “family” of video cards to a poster and write a heading for the theme it represents. Organize the video segments corresponding to each “family” for easy review.

(Allow 3 – 4 hours for Step 9)

9. Bring all the players from all the pair groups back together with their posters. Ask each player to describe and show their favorite “family” of video cards and invite other players who think their video cards fit, or resemble, the theme to add them to that family.

Note: The game property of the play comes to bear at this step, since the idea of the game is to pass as many cards from your stack to others as possible. The player describing their favorite “family” attempts to avoid further additions to their theme by playing the relevant video segment and explaining why the proposal to add another video card does not fit. No single player has seen all the video segments. Therefore, accepting or rejecting a video card for each theme depends on all the players reviewing the video segment from which the video card proposed for addition is drawn.

 (Allow 1 hour for Step 10)

10.  Document the themes by having members of each group write a structured description using the following format:

  • Describe the theme
  • Describe why it belongs in the family you assigned it to
  •  Provide at least two examples
  • Describe the way the action occurs in context
  • Describe the way people employ the action in the context

Strategy

Video of people’s activity is one of the most challenging resources used in design research. Playing and replaying video segments for review is time consuming and, depending on the number of people involved and the type of activity recorded, difficult to distill into agreed upon insights. The Video Card Game’s design provides a collaborative structure for interaction between designers and users to co-create insights for product and service design from video sources.

When playing the Video Card Family Game, facilitators need to remember that, even though the video cards give the video a tangible mode of expression, the images remain on relatively small cards, whether on the surface of a table or attached to a poster on the wall. One can imagine an interactive wall display like Microsoft’s Surface that minimizes the legibility problem. Short of such a solution however it is important to keep in mind the logistical limitations imposed by rendering video representations of action onto video cards.

Provenance

The Video Card Family Game draws from the “Happy Families” children’s card game, a game in which players collect families of four cards as they ask one another in turn for cards of a particular archetype. The goal of “Happy Families” is to collect a family of four cards, forming a stack. Collecting the most stacks makes you the winner.

Werner Sperschneider, a user-centered designer, at the Danish industrial manufacturer, Danfoss A/S, created the initial version of the Video Card Game as a method for combining ethnographic and visual research methods using video.  Design researchers, Margot Brereton, Jared Donovan, Stephen Viller, at the University of Queensland, as well as Jacob Buur and Astrid Soendergaard, of  the University of Southern Denmark, and the University of Aarhus, respectively, also provide case studies of its use.

The rendition of the game offered here refers to it as the Video Card Family Game for the explicit purpose of making it clear that Ludwig Wittgenstein’s concept of family resemblance is a key criteria in the gaming process for deciding to which themes a video card belongs.


Larry Irons is a Principal at Customer Clues, LLC. Larry practices Experience Design — translating strategic business goals, and the complex needs of people, into exceptional experiences for those who provide products and services, and those who consume them, whether the latter are customers, users, learners, or just plain people. He writes the blog, Skilful Minds, which blogs.com listed as one of the top ten Customer Experience blogs in 2009. Skilful Minds is also listed in the top 99 Workplace eLearning blogs by eLearning Technology.