#Metaphor Games

Recently I was invited to participate in a focus group by Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries. The focus group was for people who were ‘collectors’ of wine and scotch. For my time I would be handsomely rewarded with a crisp new $100 bill. Naturally I was looking for cameras to see if anyone was playing a joke on me. My only disappointment was that I would not be sampling scotch.

Professional Curiosity

I never have participated in a Focus Group. Being a fan of the collaborative nature of Innovation Games, I was very interested in the methods and practices that would be used by the Focus Group. Initially there were the introduction exercises to get to know one another. The one we used was sharing the memory of our favourite meal – Where did it occur, what did we eat, what did we drink, and who was with us.

Then we did some ‘traditional’ brainstorming on characteristics of our favourite meals. I call this traditional because we all started yelling out ideas. I personally would have welcomed the use of stickies and Silent Brainstorming, but it did work ok as most of our group were pretty comfortable shouting out ideas.

The third exercise and most interesting one was where we had to imagine the ultimate new Liquor Store and then we each had to choose three pictures that best symbolized that store. There were over 30 pictures that we could choose from. Very interesting, the Focus Group was using Metaphors in a similar way as Innovation Games.

Why Metaphors?

So why metaphors? Simply put, metaphors get to the heart of the desires and needs. They get to the important whys. Instead of us throwing out ideas about displays and inventory in the new store, we talked about how we wanted the new store to make us feel. Those requirements tend to be more profound and lasting then whether the shelves are 2 tiered or 3 tiered or whether the red wine should be at the front or back of the store.

In Information Technology I see the correlation in getting the clients to think about the problem first and not jump to solution. Metaphors allow the free flow of ideas and prevent us from prematurely talking about aspects on the solution. It grounds us in the Why and not the What.

So in Innovation Games we ask where you want your company to go and what pains you are currently having. We purposely don’t talk about a potential solutions

It was very interesting to see the Metaphors being used in Focus Groups as well as Innovation Games though. There was more in common than I expected.


Author: Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

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