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
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
- 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.
- Inform the players we will now explore each.
- 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.
- 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.
- Summarize the unique abilities of the firm and list their functions and properties on the upper part of worksheet 1.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Divide the group into small teams, and assign 1-2 market opportunities to each team.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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
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
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