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Say What?

Humans live in language. It defines what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. Language is the bedrock of our cultures and societies. As with fish in water, we go about our daily business without paying much attention to the language around us and how it influences us. Information architect and author, Jorge Arango developed Semantic Environment Mapping years ago to make visible the everyday language through which we so naively swim.

 

A completed Semantic Environment Canvas
A completed canvas

Object of Play
The Semantic Environment Canvas will help you understand the language, rules, and power dynamics that make it possible for people to accomplish their purposes in particular situations—or hinder them from doing so.

Number of Players
1-6 players.

If you have more than six people, consider breaking them into groups and assigning separate environments to each group.

Duration of Play
20 minutes – 40 minutes

Materials Required
To run a good session, you will need:

  • A large print of the Semantic Environment canvas. Preferably on A0 size. A1 – A3 will do the job. Downloadable here
  • Flip chart paper with adhesive backing
  • Duck tape
  • Sticky notes of different colors
  • Markers and pens
  • Camera to capture the results
  • It may be helpful to read more about Semantic Environments in Jorge’s blog posts here and here

How to Play

  1. Print out the Semantic Environment canvas on a large sheet of paper and hang on a wall with the duck tape. (It’s easiest if you do this exercise using sticky notes — especially if you’re collaborating with others.)
  2. Inform the players we’ll be filling out canvas sections one-at-a-time. For each section we will individually brainstorm and then conduct a group conversation.
  3. Facilitation tip – if an insight or thought aligns better to another section of a canvas simply place it in the appropriate section and return to it at a later time, i.e. do not discard it because it was in the “wrong” section

The Environment

  1. Ask the players to take 2 – 3 minutes to brainstorm characteristics of the environment. As prompts, ask them to consider the following:
    • What is the general area of discourse we are designing for?
    • Does it employ the language of law? commerce? religion? Etc.
    • What are the intended purposes of this environment?
    • What are the environment’s key terms, including its basic metaphors?
  2. Discuss as a group and agree on a name for the environment. The name should be clear, but also compelling; you want the language to come alive!
  3. Write the name on the canvas.

The Actors

  1. Now let’s think about the actors in the environment. Inform the group these could be individuals, but they can also be roles or groups within an organization. (More than two actors can participate in a semantic environment. For the sake of simplicity this canvas focuses only on two. You can print out additional canvases to map other relationships.)
  2. Ask the group to individually brainstorm all the actors or roles they envision in the situation. Brainstorming prompts:
    • Who are the people performing within the semantic environment?
    • How well do they know the environment’s rules?
    • How well do they know the environment’s language?
  3. After 2-3 minutes, ask the group to discuss their thoughts. From the discussion, have the group choose and name Actor A and Actor B; fill in the canvas.
  4. Ask the group to discuss the relative power of each actor in the situation. Are they peers, or is one actor more powerful than another? How do the actors experience their power differentials?
  5. Fill in the Power Relationship section of the canvas.

Their Goals

  1. Move to the goals section of the canvas. Ask to the players to individually brainstorm why they think the actors might participate in this environment; write one thought per sticky note. Begin with Actor A. After a few minutes, ask the players to focus on Actor B. Some prompts for the brainstorm:
    • Why are they having this interaction?
    • What do they expect to get out of it?
    • How will they know when they’ve accomplished it?
  2. After the brainstorm, ask each player to present their ideas by placing their sticky notes on the canvas. After all players have presented their ideas, let the group discuss.

The Rules

  • Now let’s consider the rules that govern the situation. Explain to the players that these rules can be spoken or unspoken.
  • Ask to the players to individually brainstorm the rules for each Actor; write one rule per sticky note. Begin with Actor A. After a few minutes, ask the players to focus on Actor B. Brainstorm prompts:
    • Are the actors expected to behave in some ways?
    • Are there behaviors the actors are expected to avoid?
    • What happens when they don’t follow the rules? (Does the communication break down entirely? Or do they shift to another semantic environment?)
  • After the brainstorm, ask each player to present their ideas by placing their sticky notes on the canvas. After all players have presented their ideas, let the group discuss.

The Key Words

  1. Move on to the Key Word section of the canvas. Ask the players to consider the key words the actors use in the situation. Explain: All semantic environments have what Neil Postman called a technical vocabulary: words that have special meaning within this environment.
  2. Ask to the players to individually brainstorm the Key Words for each Actor; write one per sticky note. Begin with Actor A. After a few minutes, ask the players to focus on Actor B. Brainstorm prompts:
    • What are the environment’s basic terms?
    • What metaphors could apply to this environment?
  3. After the brainstorm, ask each player to present their ideas by placing their sticky notes on the canvas. After all players have presented their ideas, let the group discuss. Group discussion prompt:
    • Who controls the environmental metaphors?
    • Do both actors share an understanding of what these words mean?
    • Who or what is in charge of maintaining the definitions?

The Touchpoints

  1. Move on to the Touchpoints section of the canvas. As the players to consider the key touchpoints that allow the communication to happen.
  2. Ask to the players to individually brainstorm the touchpoints for each Actor; write one per sticky note. Begin with Actor A. After a few minutes, ask the players to focus on Actor B. Brainstorm prompts:
    • Do the actors meet in person?
    • If so, do they have to be in a special physical environment?
    • If they meet remotely, are there particular technologies involved?
    • What is the mood surrounding the touchpoint?
  3. After the brainstorm, ask each player to present their ideas by placing their sticky notes on the canvas. After all players have presented their ideas, let the group discuss.

The Analysis

  1. Now that the canvas is complete, you can analyze relationships between different sections and discuss their implications.
    Questions to help make sense of it all:

    • Is there potential for ambiguity over what sort of environment this is? What can create such confusion?
    • What are the purposes that are actually being achieved by the way this environment is currently organized?
    • Is there a difference between what is intended and what is being achieved?
    • Are there contradictions in purpose between the environment and its sub-environments?
  2. Tips for visualizing the analysis:
    • Draw arrows between sticky notes to clarify relationships around words, rules, goals, and so on.
    • Use colored stickies to represent whether certain words, goals, rules, etc. help (green) or hinder (red) the actor’s goals.
    • Identify and explore related semantic environments. In a single process (for example, a sales pipeline) one actor may transverse various environments as he or she interacts with other actors. Also, semantic environments can be nested: some environments contain sub-environments where language and rules become ever more specialized.
    • Pin up multiple semantic environment maps next to each other; this can help you spot situations in which the same words appear under different guises or with different meanings.

Strategy
When collaborating, people must be clear they’re using language in the same ways. However, they often take the words they use for granted; they don’t question their meaning. Other collaborators may understand them differently.
Mapping the semantic environment clarifies the language people use and the expectations they bring to an interaction. (In other words: always and everywhere!)

For example:

  • Your team may be struggling to communicate effectively with other teams in your organization; mapping the semantic environment may lead you to discover you’re unwittingly using similar words in both teams to mean different things.
  • You may be facing a difficult political environment. Mapping out the semantics of the situation can help you understand other people’s goals and trigger phrases so you can manage tensions more effectively.
  • You may be designing a complex software system and need to understand how the various parties involved — including the system’s users and stakeholders — use language to accomplish their goals. This understanding can then inform the system’s conceptual models and information architecture.

Credits
The canvas is adapted from Neil Postman’s semantic environment framework, and inspired by the canvases of Dave Gray and Alex Osterwalder.

The canvas was originally published on jarango.com

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Friend or Foe?

 

Any product change, project plan, change management initiative requires assessment of and approach to working with stakeholders, a term we use to describe anyone who can impact a decision. Stakeholders often slow or block change; in other cases, they bust obstacles and accelerate progress. To increase your likelihood of success, check out this activity from visual thinker Yuri Mailshenko and identify your stakeholders to understand how they feel about your work.

Object of Play
The object of this game is to create an organizational map of your stakeholders. In some cases this may look like your org chart. In other cases situation and context will dictate a unique shape — likely familiar but undocumented. In addition to mapping stakeholders’ organizational relationships, you’ll also analyze their contextual disposition regarding your initiative.

Number of Players
5 – 15

Invite players from across your project’s organizational spectrum to ensure thorough stakeholder mapping. Colleagues with experience from similar projects or relationships with suspected stakeholders may provide valuable information. Invite them, too!

Duration of Play
30-60 minutes

Material Required
Organizational Design Analysis works best on a whiteboard. Substitute a flip chart (or two) if necessary. To run a good session, you will need:

  • Dry-erase markers, we recommend using at least three colors (black, green, red)
  • Dry-erase marker eraser (or paper towels)
  • Sticky notes
  • Camera to capture the results

How to Play

Step 1: Map organizational structure

  1. Invite your players to a five minute stakeholder brainstorm, ask: Who are our project stakeholders? Ask them to consider teams and individuals both inside and outside your org or company. Have players write one stakeholder per sticky note.
  2. Once the brainstorm ends, have each player present their stakeholders by placing their sticky notes on a wall and provide to the group a brief description of their thinking.
  3. With all the sticky notes on the wall, ask the group to organize them into a rough org chart. This needs only to be an imprecise draft.
  4. With the sticky note draft org chart as your guide, create a cleaner version of the org using a whiteboard and dry-erase markers. Ask for a scribe to map the organisation top to bottom. When the scope is quite big (for example, you are mapping a large enterprise), map the parts of the org structure that are less relevant to the analysis with less detail, and vice versa.
  5. To help with navigation, label all stakeholders.
  6. Denote future parts of the organizations (ones that are missing at the moment but are important to be considered for potential impact).
  7. Draw a border around the areas that are affected by the change/initiative or are in the focus of the analysis.
  8. Your whiteboard map could now look something like these:
use dotted lines to identify matrixed teams
use dotted lines to identify matrixed teams

 

use colors to cleanly delineate multiple org dimensions
different colors work, too

Drawing considerations:

  • Avoid using prepared artifacts like your company’s official org chart. Create on-the-go with full engagement of the group.
  • Draw people. Draw a person as a circle and the upside down letter ‘U’. A group of people could be just three persons put close to each other; avoid drawing departments and teams as boxes.
  • Many organizations are matrices of different kinds. Introducing an extra dimension might create visual clutter. Try to avoid that by either using a different style of a line (dotted or dashed lines) or a different color for a weaker organizational component.

Step 2: Add insight

  1. Begin a group discussion with the goal of mapping stakeholder disposition and level of support regarding your initiative.
  2. Discuss each stakeholder one-by-one, try to uncover:
    1. Disposition towards the initiative: are they for, neutral or against? To what degree? Why?
    2. Level of impact: how much influence will this stakeholder have? High, medium or low?
    3. Relationship strength between stakeholders: who do they influence? who influences them? To what degree?
    4. Participation energy level: high, medium or low?
    5. If you are having difficulty dispositioning a particular stakeholder, move to the next one. Additional conversation may help you get unstuck and you can circle back to the troublemaker.
  3. As you near consensus, draw your findings using tokens or icons. Discover what works best for you, some examples:
    1. A green smiley face for a supportive stakeholder
    2. A battery with one out of three bars charged for a low-energy stakeholder
    3. A cloud overhead signals a confused stakeholder
use tokens and text to label different dimensions of stakeholder dynamics
Use tokens and text to label different dimensions of stakeholder dynamics

Strategy
Org charts are quite unambiguous and offer little room for opinion. This exercise’s value comes from mapping less obvious things like stakeholder influence, disposition and decision making power in relation to the initiative. Defined structures are rarely challenged but a necessary foundation. What is interesting is something that lies beyond the official org chart – people’s attitude to the topic of discussion, their real power and influence. Players will share their opinions openly — and surprisingly!–in a safe, structured and collaborative setting.

Complementary Games
You understand who your stakeholders are and the org design dynamics facing your project, now what?

  • Who do – identify what you need from each of your stakeholders
  • Empathy Map – get inside their heads to understand their pains and gains
  • Understanding Chain – create the story your stakeholders need to hear to contribute to your success!

Source

Activity developed by Yuri Malishenko – visual thinker, agile coach, product owner

Activity titled by Stefan Wolpers – agile coach and ScrumMaster.

 

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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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Mapping Organizational Culture

Are you struggling to break down organizational silos, increase creativity, engagement and collaboration? Do you feel like the people in your company are resisting change? Is your company’s culture holding you back?

Nobody denies the critical importance of culture to a company’s success. And yet, although everyone agrees that culture is of vital importance, culture still seems fuzzy, vague and difficult to grasp. Culture change initiatives are often well-meaning, but end up as a series of feel-good exercises. They create a feeling that progress is being made, but ultimately fail to deliver results.

Objective of Play
Assess, map and transform organizational culture via deep reflection. As a leader or manager in a large organization, you probably have a sense of the culture and people challenges facing you, but at the same time, you must also manage not only down but up and across the organization.

Culture Mapping gives you the intelligent information you require to make a business case for the interventions, executive support, and budget you will need to minimize risk and maximize the chances of success for your change initiative.

Number of Players
Use the culture map individually or with a group.

For group use, gather 5 – 6 people from the same function (IT, HR, finance, et al) who work together and know each other well. The goal of the session is candid and constructive criticism; the boss cannot come.

Duration of Play
Anywhere between 15 minutes for individual play (napkin sketch of a Culture Map) to 90 minutes for a group.

Material Required
Culture Mapping works best when players work on a poster on the wall. To run a good session you will need:

  • A very large print of a Culture Map. Ideally A0 format (1000mm × 1414mm or 39.4in × 55.7in)
    • Alternatively, recreate the canvas on a large whiteboard.
  • Tons of sticky notes (i.e. post-it® notes) of different colors
  • Flip chart markers
  • Camera to capture results
  • The facilitator of the game might want to read an outline of the Culture Map.

How to Play
There are several games and variations you can play with the Culture Map. Here we describe the most basic game, which is the mapping of an organization’s existing culture. The game can easily be adapted to the objectives of the players (eg, map your desired culture or that of another organization).

  1. Before you begin mapping, review with the group the Culture Map sections. A garden plays a useful analogy:
    • The outcomes in your culture are the fruits. These are the things you want your culture to achieve, or what you want to “harvest” from your garden.
    • The behaviors are the heart of your culture. They’re the positive or negative actions people perform everyday that will result in a good or bad harvest.
    • The enablers and blockers are the elements that allow your garden to flourish or fail. For example, weeds, pests, bad weather, or lack of knowledge might be hindering your garden. Where as fertilizer, expertise in gardening specific crops, or good land might be helping your garden to grow.
  2. Start with Behavior, it tends to be the easiest to discuss. These are the things we see everyday, the things we talk about when we ask someone if they “want to grab a coffee?” Use the guide questions to prompt ideas. Write a single behavior on a sticky note, put it on the map. Before moving to the next step, group similar behaviors and remove duplicates. Recommendation: be as specific as possible, use stories to elicit detail and specificity; avoid the tendency to be generic in describing these behaviors. Ask the players: how would you describe this behavior as a scene in a movie?
  3. Move to Outcomes. Go behavior-by-behavior and use the guide questions to prompt ideas, the most important being: What happens to the business because of the behaviors? Write a single outcome on a sticky note, put it on the map near its related behavior. Use a marker to draw a line between a behavior and its direct outcome.
  4. Move to Enablers and Blockers. Go behavior-by-behavior and use the guide questions to prompt ideas. Enablers and blockers describe why we behave the way we do: a listing of organizational incentives. Write a single enabler or blocker on a sticky note and place it near it’s related behavior. Use a marker to draw a line between an enabler or blocker and its resulting behavior.
  5. Once you have taken a pass at each section, examine the map and discuss with the group. Do the relationships make sense? Are the behaviors as detailed as they could be? Has your discussion sparked any other thoughts? If so, add them to the map. Recommendation: Keep relationships as direct as possible. For example, a behavior should have only one outcome and one enabler or blocker. It is likely this will not happen without discussion, editing and refinement. For clarity and communication, keep the relationships as simple as possible, for example:

Strategy
Depending on who you ask, 60–70 percent of change initiatives fail to meet their stated objectives, and the primary source of that failure, according to a Deloitte study, is resistance to change. So if you’re embarking on a change initiative, the last things you want to skimp on are risk-awareness and risk management.

Culture Mapping surfaces information that, as far as we know, cannot be collected any other way. It gives the C-suite access to frontline culture in a way that they could never get through their own efforts, because the water-cooler conversation always shuts down, or significantly shifts, when the CEO or senior leader walks by.

Variation
Map the Culture of industry competitors or an aspirational company

The Culture Map was developed by Dave Gray and Strategyzer AG.

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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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Elevator Pitch

Sky

Note: This approach is meant to be pretty flexible- other idea generating and prioritizing techniques may be substituted within the flow to suit the circumstances. Would like to hear how others approach this challenge. -James

Object of Play: What has been a time-proven exercise in product development applies equally well in developing any  concept: writing the elevator pitch. Whether developing a service, a company-wide initiative, or just a good idea that merits spreading, a group will benefit from collaborating on what is- and isn’t– in the pitch.

Often this is the hardest thing to do in developing a new idea.  An elevator pitch should be short and compelling description of the problem you’re solving, who you solve it for, and one key benefit that distinguishes it from its competitors. It must be unique, believable and important. The better and bigger the idea, the harder the pitch is to write.

Number of Players: Works as well individually as with a small working group

Duration of Play: Long- save at least 90 minutes for the entire exercise, and consider a short break after the initial idea generation is complete, before prioritizing and shaping the pitch itself. Small working groups will have an easier time coming to a final pitch; in some cases it may be necessary to assign one person follow-up accountability for the final wording after the large decisions have been made in the exercise.

How to Play:

Going through the exercise involves both a generating and forming phase. To setup the generating phase, write these questions in sequence on flipcharts:

  1. Who is the target customer?
  2. What is the customer need?
  3. What is the product name?
  4. What is its market category?
  5. What is its key benefit?
  6. Who or what is the competition?
  7. What is the product’s unique differentiator?

These will become the elements of the pitch. They are in a sequence that follows the formula: For (target customer) who has (customer need), (product name) is a (market category) that (one key benefit). Unlike (competition), the product (unique differentiator).

To finish the setup, explain the elements and their connection to each other.

The target customer and customer need are deceptively simple- any relatively good idea or product will likely have many potential customers and address a greater number of needs. In the generative phase, all of these are welcome ideas.

It is helpful to fix the product name in advance—this will help contain the scope of the conversation and focus the participants on “what” the pitch is about. It is not outside the realm of possibility, however, that there will be useful ideas generated in the course of exercise that relate to the product name, so it may be left open to interpretation.

The market category should be an easily understood description of the type of idea or product. It may sound like “employee portal” or “training program” or “peer-to-peer community.” The category gives an important frame of reference for the target customer, from which they will base comparisons and perceive value.

The key benefit will be one of the hardest areas for the group to shape in the final pitch. This is the single most compelling reason a target customer would buy into the idea. In an elevator pitch, there is no time to confuse the matter with multiple benefits- there can only be one memorable reason “why to buy.” However, in the generative phase, all ideas are welcome.

The competition and unique differentiator put the final punctuation on the pitch. Who or what will the target customer compare this idea to, and what’s unique to this idea? In some cases, the competition may literally be another firm or product. In other cases, it may be “the existing training program” or “the last time we tried a big change initiative.” The unique differentiator should be just that- unique to this idea or approach, in a way that distinguishes it in comparisons to the competition.

Step One: The Generating Phase

Once the elements are understood, participants brainstorm ideas on sticky notes that fit under each of the headers. At first, they should generate freely, without discussion or analysis, any ideas that fit into any of the categories. Using the Post-up technique, participants put their notes onto the flipcharts and share their ideas.

Next, the group may discuss areas where they have the most trouble on their current pitch. Do we know enough about the competition to claim a unique differentiator? Do we agree on a target customer? Is our market category defined, or are we trying to define something new? Where do we need to focus?

Before stepping into the formative phase, the group may use dot voting, affinity mapping or other method to prioritize and cull their ideas in each category.

Step Two: The Forming Phase

Following a discussion and reflection on the possible elements of a pitch, the group then has the task of “trying out” some possibilities.

This may be done by breaking into small groups, pairs, or as individuals, depending on the size of the larger group. Each given the task of writing out an elevator pitch, based on the ideas on the flipcharts.

After a set amount of time (15 minutes may be sufficient) the groups then reconvene and present their draft versions of the pitch. The group may choose to role play as a target customer while listening to the pitch, and comment or ask questions of the presenters.

The exercise is complete when there is a strong direction among the group on what the pitch should and should not contain. One potential outcome is the crafting of distinct pitches for different target customers; you may direct the groups to focus in this manner during the formative stage.

Strategy:

Don’t aim for final wording with a large group. It’s an achievement if you can get to that level of finish, but it’s not critical and can be shaped after the exercise. What is important is that the group decides on what is and is not a part of the pitch.

Role play is the fastest way to test a pitch. Assuming the role of a customer (or getting some real ones to participate in the exercise) will help filter out the jargon and empty terms that may interfere with a clear pitch. If the pitch is truly believable and compelling, participants should have no problem making it real with customers.