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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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Mitch Lacey Team Prioritization

Object of Play
Overwhelming backlog lists are paralyzing, making it seemingly impossible to take the first step in conquering accumulated assignments. Not only do these intimidating to-do lists constantly grow, but they lose efficiency as more important tasks are added without any order. How do you know the best place to start conquering this debilitating beast? How can you determine the most productive sequence for the assignments? Fortunately, the innovative Agile and Scrum expert, Mitch Lacey, has developed Mitch Lacey Team Prioritization: a revolutionary technique to manage backlogs. As described in his book The Scrum Field Guide: Practical Advice for Your First Year, this game provides a painless way to prioritize tasks, making your backlog list less daunting and more effective.

Number of Players
5 – 8

Duration of Play
1 hour

How to Play
1. To begin, draw a graph on a large poster or white board.

    • X-axis = “Size.” This charts the complexity of the backlog item
    • Y-axis = “Priority” to designate the urgency of the task. This can be measured by anything the players agree is important, such as ROI or business value.
    • Divide the graph into three vertical sections to help your team organize the assignments based on the amount of effort needed to complete them.

2. Pass out notecards and pens for players to write backlog items on and post on the chart according to their size and complexity.

3. When all participants are finished, look at the arrangement of the notecards and collaborate to rearrange them as needed. The top-left section of the chart will be at the top of your work/product backlog, as they are high priority and low-effort tasks. In contrast, the items in the top-right are high priority and large.

4. When all the notes are in their appropriate places, order them in a to-do list by starting with those in the top-left corner and moving clockwise.

Strategy
Examine the note cards in the upper right region of the chart. Is there any way to divide these items into more manageable tasks? These smaller assignments may then be separated to different areas depending on their size and priority level. This will make your to-do list less daunting and more efficient.

Play Online

You can instantly play Mitch Lacey Team Prioritization online with as many members as you would like! Clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com; simply email the game link to your team to invite them to play. In the game, the image to the right will be used as the “game board.” As with the in-person version, this graph measures the size and complexity of tasks. Assignments that players think of are represented by the note card icons found at the upper left corner of the chart. Players simply drag the icons to the game board and describe what they represent. Participants can then edit the placement and description of each notecard, which everyone can view in real time. Use the integrated chat facility and communicate with your players throughout the game to get a better understanding of each move. After the game, the results will be organized in a spread sheet to maximize the benefits of the game.

Key Points
This game gets team members thinking differently about backlog items. Rather than making a scattered list of debilitating tasks, Mitch Lacey Team Prioritization arranges your accumulated undertakings according to the level of priority and effort needed to accomplish them, allowing for productive advancements.

References
Mitch Lacey describes this game in his book The Scrum Field Guide: Practical Advice For Your First Year.

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Question Balloons

Object of Play
Planning to accept and respond to questions is one of the most difficult parts of running a meeting, a workshop, or a presentation. Will there be enough time for Q&A? Is the audience willing to ask questions? How many questions will they ask? Do I take questions at the end or throughout? How do I know if questions were answered in a useful way?

To address this challenge, the Question Balloons game allows attendees to ‘float’ their questions throughout a meeting or presentation; providing a visual status that helps manage group energy.

Number of Players
4 to 40

Duration of Play
Any length

How to Play

  1. Start by providing a marker and one or two helium-filled balloons to each attendee. The balloons must have strings that will allow the attendees to float the balloons and then retrieve them (from the ceiling, if necessary) when needed.
  2. Ask each attendee to write their questions about the scheduled topic on a balloon and then float the balloon. Only write one question per balloon. It’s okay to save balloons for later. Question Balloons can be floated at any time during the presentation or meeting.
  3. During any free time (pre-meeting, breaks, or lunch), the speaker or leader should walk around and read the Question Balloons, getting a feel for the questions that will arise.
  4. Inform all attendees that they should pop their Question Balloons – loudly – whenever one of their questions is answered sufficiently. This answer might come from meeting materials, slides, a speaker, or a casual conversation. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the session, any remaining Question Balloons will be addressed.
  5. When a question is answered, the corresponding balloon will pop. Some people will jump. That’s okay. The leader/facilitator should acknowledge that we have answered a question and lead applause. Some participants will float new Question Balloons throughout the session. That’s good.
  6. When the content or topic is completed, there will usually be two types of Question Balloons remaining. The first type is informational (When is the product being released? Who wants to share a ride home? How much is that service?). Answer these first. If there is no answer available, assign the question to the responsible party. The second type of question you’ll see is opinion (What is the best approach? How should I handle my customer?). These should be posed to the room. Instruct the person who floated the question to pop their balloon when they received information, from anyone, that will help them move forward.

Strategy
Question Balloons are very effective for meetings loaded with content, like reviews and status meetings. For organizations that might be too conservative for balloon popping, sticky notes on a wall will also work. We recommend using balloons for special events, not for a weekly status meeting.

Key Points
The Question Balloons game gives power to meeting attendees, control to the facilitator, and feedback to both. It leverages visual and kinesthetic information through balloon floating and popping. It uses the mechanism of elimination to score how many questions get answered. Attendees can see that their questions will be answered. Play Question Balloons when you want to better manage group energy.

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Coriolis Effect

corporate team building

Materials:

  • One plastic pipe per person
  • One ball (bouncy ball, marble, wooden ball) per team
  • One team handout per team
  • One timer per group, one person on each time needs a timer function on their watch or a timer function on their cell phones (I have found that all groups have at least one person with a stop watch function on their cell phones)

Team Size:

4-15 people per/team

Objective:

Offers insights into the needs that different team members have for information and detail, how people like to work in either a structured or unstructured approach to problem solving and change, and how quickly and slowly people are willing to move ahead with a plan based on how much they know and understand about the solution.

Preparation:

Each team of 4-6 people will need sufficient space to spread and work independently of the other groups, if it is a nice day I always recommend going outside.

When the teams are established hand each team member one pipe per person and one to three balls per team, additionally hand each team one to two team handout sheets.

Instructions and Facilitator Script:

It is all on the team handouts.

Ensure that each team has a team handout – inform each group that they will have 30 minutes to develop the fastest and most efficient process to reach customer satisfaction and project completion. Following the 30 minutes of project time, you will ask the groups to review and answer the team processing questions on the back of the handout.

If the teams ask you (the facilitator) for clarification be a stickler and say, “everything you need to know is on the team handout; as long as you are following the guidelines set by the handout you are being successful.” This will annoy some people, just stick to the script.

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Coriolis Affect Team Handout.

Equipment: One team sheet, one gutter for each person on your team, 3 bouncy balls, one stopwatch, and a pen

(Do you have everything? Does it work?)

Time: You will have 25 minutes of project time, during the 25 minutes you may make as few and as many attempts as your team wishes.

Directions: Make a human circle then give each person a gutter (one gutter per person).

Hand the bouncy balls to the tallest person in the circle.

Assign a timer for the attempts – the timer is allowed to participate in the activity.

You are ready to begin.

Objective: Move one bouncy ball around the circle using only the gutters and following the guidelines, as quickly as possible.

Guidelines:

  • Starting with the tallest person use the gutters (and only the gutters) to transport one bouncy ball to the person to their left then all the way around and back to the tallest person.
  • Try to send the ball through the process as fast as you can, beginning and ending in the tallest persons gutter, here are the constraints;
  • No one’s gutter can be skipped, the ball must pass through all team members gutters
  • Gutters cannot touch each other
  • Gutter per person method – Your own pinkies must be touching each other all the time.
  • You cannot touch any other gutters besides your own
  • People cannot touch the ball as it travels from beginning through the process and back to the beginning.
  • If the ball falls from the gutter, the process must be restarted.

Coriolis Affect Team Processing Questions:

Directions: Choose a volunteer willing to read the questions and write some responses. Discuss as many of these questions as you can with your group in the time allowed. Jot down key responses in the margins. Be honest with yourself and others. Honesty will bring out understanding. Understanding will lead to learning.

Looking back on the activity, consider the idea of Communication.

1. Determine what types of communication took place during the activity.

2. In each of your opinions, which was the most powerful form of communication during the activity? What made them powerful?

3. What were some successful communication moments?

4. At what points were you having difficulty communicating?

5. What might each of you want to remember about communication?

Consider who is on the team & their talents…

1. What were some of the ideas that were generated?

2. How receptive was the group to new and different ideas?

3. How did you add structure to the ideas?

4. What were some of the roles that were proposed for people in this project?

5. Which ideas were seen as unrealistic / realistic? what made those ideas unrealistic / realistic?

6. Describe how the plan was developed and evaluated?

7. Explain the action steps of the project. Describe the results and outcomes of the action steps.

8. How do you feel about what was done? ideas for improvement?

9. What was the key moment in the teams’ success? where did the ideas come from? who was the ideas champions?

10. Where do you feel were the gaps in this project? how did or did you not work to fill those gaps?

If you have Time…

1. How mindful were you of your preferred team role?

2. Describe how that impacted your part in the project.

Michael Cardus is the founder of Create-Learning an experiential based consulting, facilitation, training and coaching organization. Leading to successful results in retention of staff talent, increased satisfaction with work, increased collaboration and information sharing within and between departments, increased accountability of success and failures, increased knowledge transfer, increased trust as well as speed of project completion and decision making of Leaders, Teams and Organizations.