My new favourite #InnovationGame – #Agile Science Fair


I was asked to do a session for the Agile Winnipeg User Group and the first thing that popped into my mind was Innovation Games. Innovation Games are a critical piece in Protegra’s offering to gain Customer Insight on all projects. Recently we have used Innovation Games to assist the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce in creating their strategy. It really confirmed in my head that Innovation Games are the best way to gain Customer Insight no matter what the ultimate end product of the project is.

Agile Winnipeg Users Group

So I was very excited to be able to talk about Innovation Games and try one or two games in the session.  But it many cases, Agile teams have used Silent Brainstorming and parts of Innovation Games already even if they didn’t call  them Innovation Games. I wasn’t sure they would get the maximum value out of the event if I just did the SpeedBoat Innovation Game.

So I thought it would be the most impactful and fun to do the Product Box game. The idea was to do a Product Box on Agile. The objective was to create a Product Box that would let you communicate what Agile is and then try to sell Agile to their imaginary manager who has never used Agile. Fair enough. Seemed like fun


Ultimately though, Staples would not comply with our devious plans. This had happened once before when Luke Hohmann had presented at SDEC in 2012. Luke had graciously offered to also do a workshop the following day and one of the games we were playing was product box. But when I was looking for the plain white cereal sized boxes that we would use for our game, they were nowhere to be found. Eventually we found some mailing boxes that we could use for the game, but it wasn’t optimal.

So I was hoping that the lack of white cereal sized was only temporary at Staples. Nope. They were nowhere to be found.

They had the same inventory they had before… 😦

Science Fair

With one huge addition. They had in stock tri-fold cardboard boards like the ones used for science fairs.

This, I thought, is freaking perfect!

The Game

We started off the session with a few slides on Innovation Games and then got into the Science Fair game. I had purchased stickers, colorful sharpies, and colorful 4″ letters. (Which I thought were stickers. They were merely punch-out letters. But our ingenuous teams managed in spite of me) 🙂

I posed to them the situation.

“Your manager knows nothing about Agile, but you know it is the only way to develop software. Use all the supplies to create a poster board to communicate what Agile is and to try to convince your manager choose Agile for the next project”

I then also had purposely bought some animals stickers. I wanted them to use the stickers as Metaphors for Agile. I would ask why they choose a certain animal and what the animal represented about Agile. By doing this, I was using additional metaphors to gain insight into additional aspects of Agile they may not have communicated elsewhere.

The Results

Like all Innovation Games, we had fun and the teams produced projects that were awesome and I had greater insight into what each team thought about Agile.

But I really liked two aspects of the Science Fair game as compared to Product Box.

1) Real Estate – The teams had much more space to use to communicate. This allowed for more messaging and content then I would have had on Product Box. It particularly gave them room to draw.

2) Animal Metaphor – This was a neat twist I thought, but the insight gathered was truly great. Some teams used all the animals to show how teams had to be diverse, some teams used Giraffes to show how visibility was crucial to Agile, and then two teams used multiple reptiles to show how the Minimum Viable Product would be created and enhanced in each iteration.


It was a fantastic event and I think I’ll try Science Fair again when we need to do Product Box. The additional space allows for additional creative elements in the game. I think I’ll also keep the additional metaphor I used. That provided additional context and insight.


Stanford Design School’s Design Methods #WpgIIBA #InnovationGames #Empathy

I attended the Winnipeg IIBA chapter meeting where we reviewed the Stanford Design School’s Design Methods. The presentation itself was quite well done. We ended up splitting into pairs and went through the nine steps in the process. For our session we used the ‘gift-giving’ experience as a situation we could explore with the Stanford Design School’s Design Methods.

The Nine Steps

The Nine Steps in the Stanford Design School’s Design Methods are:

1) Interview – Use your interview skills to discover information about last gift giving experience

2) Dig Deeper – Dig Deeper in your second interview and try to focus on motivations for the gift giving experience

3) Capture Findings – Review the Finding and try to document the needs and insights discovered

4) Define Problem Statement – Define the problem statement discovered

5) Sketch – Draw at least 5 radical ways to meet the user’s need and address problem statement.

6) Share – Share your radical solutions and gather feedback from the user

7) Reflect – Reflect based on the feedback gathered and generate a new solution

8) Build – Build a prototype of your solution physically that the user can interact with

9) Review – Learn from your user playing with the prototype. What worked? What should be changed?


I liked the process. In many ways the process reinforces the principles of short feedback loops in Agile and working in iterations. I have seen similar methods being used in Paper Prototyping and UX Design Studio. These hands on design methods work and engage the user.


I’m not sure if having a separate step to focus on Empathy and motivations result in greater client empathy though. Empathy is a personal relationship. Sometimes a 1-1 interview is a hard place to build empathy. Some users may not feel comfortable sharing their motivations face to face. Some users may not even be aware of all their motivations. Just telling people to interview to determine motivations probably won’t be successful.

So what to do?

Luckily we have the methods of Silent Brainstorming and Innovation Games to help uncover empathy and motivations. Unlike interviewing, these are different methods that allow lateral thinking to get to the motivations easier. I like to say they get you to the ‘why’ instead of the ‘what’

Innovation Games does this by the use of different metaphors. The metaphors use the psychological concept of projection. Projection is the process of people finding it easier to transfer their thoughts and feelings to another object instead of talking about themselves. This was typically done for the first time in Kindergarten when we had Show and Tell. Show and Tell is a great method to learn more about kids and their thoughts and feelings. With Show and Tell, kids will share how the toys makes them feel and not just describe the toy. This helps us get to the ‘Why?’

It is also a great exercise to get kids comfortable with talking in front of other kids as well. 🙂

Designing too early?

In fact you may say that by asking what people want without asking them why we may be jumping to solution mode. If we know why, the what could be changed. Maybe the what they asked for is just one possibility.

Next Steps

Shameless Plug – I will be presenting on Innovation Games at the next Agile Winnipeg User’s Group on May 14th. Register and come check out other methods to discover Empathy. We will play 2-3 Innovation Games and hopefully learn about each other. 🙂

When #Lean isn’t enough – #novel

We all know about Lean. At least most of us do. We need to Lean our processes and organizations. We need to make them more efficient and less wasteful. But the problem is that Lean is only for incremental improvements. Given an existing process, how can we make it 5%, 10% more efficient? But the problem is that many opportunities for business aren’t just about incremental improvements in processes, we need to develop the new opportunities and products. Does Lean help with this? Absolutely not.

So what are we to do?

Novel Innovations

It is all about Innovation Games and Empathy Maps. With these tools and methods we can actually build customer engagement and try to develop Novel Innovations. With Novel Innovation we can discover new innovation that deliver new markets and services. No longer are we talking about 5%-10%. Now we are taking with total green-field opportunities that can offer 100%-200% growth. We are suddenly moved from a discussion of cost cutting to growth.

So how do we move from Lean to Novel? By changing our focus from internal to external. Instead of looking internally on how we can help to improve the internal working, lets look externally and see what the clients actually want and will pay for. No longer can we just look internally, incremental improvements are not enough.

If you aren’t looking at your customers. your competitors are.

I can’t stress this enough. Innovation is not an internal exercise. Many innovation frameworks look internally and discuss how to propose and gather innovation feedback internally. Without the involvement of the client and the building of client empathy, it is an unfocused effort that is not likely to succeed.


Read Innovation Games. Learn how to build Customer Engagement and Empathy.These methods will highlighted Novel approaches that will change your business and create the next generation of the business.

Why #Winnipeg needs #InnovationGames

After another week of reading people shouting into the wind, I was again reminded of why Innovation Games are important.

I came across the Elephant Talk website the other day that provided the pro-union stance. Now I’m not aligned with any political party, but it again illustrated how society seems to shout rather than discuss.

Everyone seems to be shouting out their points without first seeking to understand the entire complex situation.

Why I Love Innovation Games

Innovation games and specifically the “Buy a Feature” game requires people to have a discussion. It forces people to realize that there isn’t an endless amount of public money. It requires people to work with each other to set priorities and to make compromises.

It never is as easy to just say we need to fund Education or Health Care. Where are we taking money away from? How much money, for how long? Do we all agree on the priorities? The “Buy a Feature” game encourages these discussions.

Come on Winnipeg!

San Jose just recently completed the third annual Budget Games where citizens participated and provided feedback to their councillors on what they felt were the civic priorities for the next year. This type of engagement is rarely seen in politics nowadays and has resulted in San Jose citizens saying they both love and respect their councillors.

Now when have you heard that locally?

If you are intrigued and would like more information on how these budget games can work, please check out this following link.


I wonder how we can get the civic and provincial governments interested in Innovation Games? I will be volunteering on Parent Council at my children’s school and I know I will be bringing Innovation Games with me to better understand parents needs, wants, and desires.

I only hope we will see their use on a broader scale in the near future.

My Innovation Games Project Box experience

I was lucky enough to attend an Innovation Games workshop facilitated by Luke Hohmann at SDEC12. If you get a chance to attend a workshop facilitated by Luke Hohmann, I encourage you to jump at the chance. I learned as much about facilitating workshops and sessions as I did about Innovation Games. It was fascinating and impressive seeing the attention to detail that Luke gave to every facet of the session. Everything in the session was well-prepared and all the activities reinforced the principles and concepts taught.

I especially appreciated the insights Luke gave into the psychology behind serious games and the methods behind them.

Product Box

In the workshop we were able to try out the Product Box game. We used the idea of Google’s Internet-enabled glasses as a case study for the workshop. We had three separate teams that each designed their product boxes collaboratively and then presented them to everyone else to ‘sell’ them on what they felt was important.  The insights and innovations that were captured from that session were very powerful and impressive.

After the session I was very interested in trying the Product Box game in a real situation.

Project Box

I am currently on a major systems integration project and I thought it would be interesting to use the Product Box game and combine it with the Remember the Future game to hold a retrospective on the current project. We had about 15 attendees that all were on the project in different roles. I spent quite a while trying to frame the question that I thought would allow for the most open thinking and ideas related to the project. I eventually settled on:

“Imagine we have completed the project and it was a huge success. The company is now trying to re-sell the solution we developed. Imagine that the solution could be sold on a store shelf. Design the box that would communicate the strengths and functionality of the product”

The Results



Just like we saw in the workshop, the ideas that were presented we truly original and delivered some insights that were unexpected. Here are a list of some of the capabilities the teams thought were important:

  • Business Rule Based
  • No Assembly Required
  • Made in Canada Solution
  • Low Monthly Fee
  • Low Risk
  • Industry Standard
  • Strategic Partnerships
  • Compatible with SAP
  • Easy Integration
  • Cost Effective
  • Standard Interfaces
  • Increased Automation

While some of these items were expected, I was surprised by some of them and also by the items that weren’t there. There was no mention of cost at all. One observation that Luke was that cost usually isn’t one of the first things people focus on, it is usually just about the functionality and capability.


Everyone that attended thoroughly enjoyed the session and they felt they benefited from the ideas generated. Everyone also agreed that this activity would be great to do with the business users at the start of every project to confirm/validate the business requirements and the relative importance of those business requirements. I can’t wait for the opportunity to use the Project Box game as part of a Project Charter meeting. I think it would generate excitement, enthusiasm, ideas, and a shared vision as part of a project charter.

When is the last time a Project Charter Meeting could say that?


More #Agile and less #computers in the classroom

As a parent whose children are entering grade 1 and grade 2, I find myself being more and more interested and concerned about the trends and proposed practices that are being used in the educational system now and in the future. One aspect I find myself having concerns with is the addition of computers to the classroom. My concern is not related to the use of computers in general, but more to how computers are being integrated into the classroom activities themselves. As we have seen in Agile and in Software Development in general, adding technology to a system rarely improves the system by itself. In fact I have had experiences where the introduction of technology to an existing system has made the system much worse.

I find it ironic that as we are re-discovering new ways to collaborate in Agile, the educational system seems to be going in a different direction. In Agile, we are looking at non-technology solutions as a better way to collaborate and communicate. From User Story Mapping to Innovation Games to Silent Brainstorming to Paper Prototyping to UI Design Studio, we in Agile have discovered that getting the person-to-person communication maximized has an immediate and impressive effect. In addition, we have also discovered the incredible increase in communication and comprehension when moving from textual to visual communication.

The science behind Silent Brainstorming as a means to generate new ideas and innovate is startling. Steve Rogalsky made an excellent presentation at both Agile 2012 and SDEC12 on the topic. You can find the slide deck by following this link.

More Stickies less Texting

I understand that the computers will be used for educational research purposes and this makes perfect sense. Everyone I know consults the Oracle of Google daily. I feel the more concerning use of technology is to use technology to replace basic mathematical and communication skills. For example, I have heard that exercises will require the answers to be texted or emailed to the teacher. I understand that this is being done to increase the engagement of the children. Although this may very well increase the engagement of the children, I fear that the value of the skills being taught is being lessened. I also believe that any use of technology to perform mathematics that the individual cannot do without the computer is fundamentally wrong. The computer should be an aid for execution, not a replacement for learning.

More importantly, where are we teaching the critical thinking skills, creativity, innovation, and problem solving skills? These are the skills that will drive the economy in the future. I honestly can’t see how the addition of computers to the classroom will help in this regard.

I sincerely hope that group activities and group projects are still a critical component of the education, but how much better would the curriculum be with exercises in Silent Brainstorming? Teams would experience how to self-organize, facilitate, and that the best ideas don’t always come from the loudest or best speakers. There is an excellent TED Talk on the Power of Introverts by Susan Cain that you can find by following this link.


When my child’s teacher requires computers in the classroom, I know I will be asking for a description of how they plan to be used. I’ll probably even take the opportunity to discuss principles recently presented by both Steve Rogalsky and Susan Cain.

Our children are worth it. Spread the word.

#SDEC12 Conference Review #Agile

Well another Software Development and Evolution conference has come and gone. (You’ve always wondered what SDEC stood for didn’t you?) It was a lot of work and effort to make it all happen, but in the end it was very enjoyable. I learned an immense amount and cant’t wait until next year.

My Highlights

      • The Joe Justice/Wikispeed Keynote on day 1 was entertaining and inspiring. If you aren’t familiar with the Joe Justice and Wikispeed story, I highly recommend you doing a search on YouTube or Google. Inspirational stuff on what can be accomplished when you ask why not? WikiSpeed
      • The Luke Hohmann/Innovation Games keynote on day 2 was energizing. I have been a fan of Innovation Games for a long time and it was energizing to hear Luke speak and provide the context on how and why Innovation Games are successful. InnovationGames
      • Adam Yuret @AdamYuret brought Lean Coffee to SDEC12. It was a highlight of mine to attend his session on Lean Coffee and learn how we can have our own Lean Coffee discussions. Although I must admit, I would prefer an afternoon coffee instead of an early morning one.
      • Chris Dagenais @MDChris had a couple of engaging and informative sessions on team building and peer feedback. Great sessions and audience was very engaged and interactive.
      • Lightning Talks made their first appearance at SDEC and were very well attended. There were great talks and tons of practical information compressed in 5 minute chunks.
      • Best presentation I attended was presented by Mark Kulchycki and Alyson Teterenko of Manitoba Hydro International. It was a real life tale from the trenches on how their team evolved and incorporated Agile principles into their PSCAD product development team. Awesome presentation, pragmatic approaches that everyone can use.
      • My personal highlight of the conference was the Innovation Games workshop with Luke Hohmann after the conference. It was an excellent session where Luke not only covered the Innovation Games themselves, but also the science and psychology of the games and the art of facilitation. Probably learned more in one day than I have for a long time.
      • I loved presenting my Agile Data Warehouse talk. I’m hopeful that I can have a follow-up presentation at SDEC13 that illustrates more how we used Innovation Games and show the actual models that were created.
      • It was great being able to just talk and share with everyone at the conference on what worked for them and what people are still struggling with.


It was a great conference with over 200 attendees. This was a new record for SDEC and caused us to be flexible to modify the lunch process for Day 2 to be more efficient. 🙂

I can’t wait for next year. We are gathering the feedback forms and listening to our Advisory council to assure the content and structure is even better next year! Thanks for your support and see you at SDEC13!

#Innovation Games – Rapid Discovery Event

We had our second Innovation Game meeting earlier today and it was very interesting. This meeting was more of a standard application of Innovation Games unlike my previous two posts. It was a meeting that we at Protegra call a Rapid Discovery Event. A Rapid Discovery Event is a Discovery meeting with Innovation Games combined with a User Story Mapping session to quickly gain an understanding of the true business problems and potential solutions.

All the people that attended had never done Silent Brainstorming before.

Here was the agenda for the session:

Two Things – This is a very quick Silent Brainstorming warm up activity where we ask the participants for two things about the proposed solution. One thing that the solution MUST do, and one thing the solution MUST NOT do. This was a good warm up session and quite well received.

Who/What/Why – Silent Brainstorming exercise to start to get everyone to think about Who is going to use the solution, What are they going to do, and Why are they going to do it. Very good exercise and the group started to build up momentum and throw out a lot of ideas. We had an excellent diversity of styles and opinions in this group. Very nice to have and it is making this session very productive. We also had a good diversity in the two facilitators. My co-worker has more of a Business Performance Consulting focus while I have a technical background. I think this is an excellent match and allows for us to ask more of the right questions.

Personas – We take a break from the Silent Brainstorming and have an interactive session on the Personas or people that will use the solution. While we did not capture all the attributes about Personas that would normally be done in a standard Persona session, it was still a very valuable session. This session generated the most discussion and new ideas of any session. The amount of information we captured on the separate Personas and how they would use the solution was incredible. We easily captured at least 4-5 new Personas and ultimately functions of the solution that we were totally unaware before we started. Easily the best session. I think varying Silent Brainstorming with Interactive Sessions also helps to generate more feedback. Need to remember this.

User Story Mapping – The last Silent Brainstorming exercise was a User Story Mapping exercise. This exercise generated some excellent new ideas on what the solution needs to do. I think this session really benefited from having the three sessions held previously. With the results and discussions from those three sessions in hand, people were able to come up with the User Stories very easily. If anything, we had to end some discussions prematurely due to running out of time. It was fantastic to be in a 3 hour meeting where people are passionate and energized to continue talking. I’ve seen User Story Mapping sessions take 20 minutes. Everyone had their stories up in 5 minutes.


I’m an Innovation Games convert. It was a great session and we captured much more information than I had hoped. We have a larger group schedule next week and I am very excited about the information we will gather from that session to combine with this one. If you haven’t checked out Innovation Games online, I recommend that you go there and try out some games as soon as possible. You won’t be disappointed! Don’t be afraid to customize then to your specific circumstance….

#Strategy #Innovation Games – Recap

In my last post I described some customized Innovation games I was going to try in a Strategy Meeting. So I guess the obvious questions is how the games worked?


The games were met with a good level of skepticism and optimism. The group was about 20 people very familiar with different types of Silent Brainstorming. So they were not new to the method or process. They was a lot of feedback and ideas generated and at the end of the day we generated the initial problem statements that the session was intended to generate.

Overall, I’d give the session a B+.

Whole Product Game – The game was a great, repeat great, ice-breaker. It really worked well as an introduction exercise to get everyone thinking about what the company is and what the clients expect from the company. I would definitely use it again. Solid B.

Company Report Card Game -Probably the best game. People really liked the metaphor about being able to grade areas in addition to stating what was working well and what could be improved upon. There was some discussion on whether we needed guidelines for the letter grades. At the end, I think I am comfortable that we don’t need guidelines because it isn’t the absolute grades that matter. Rather, it is the relative grades of each area that are important. By looking at these relative grades, it becomes quite apparent what areas people think are the highest priority. I also created a plus/minus score for each area. (Good old Canadian hockey influence) The plus/minus just tracked the votes on positive items minus the votes on items needing improvement. Another data point that indicates where people believe there is a problem. The relative grades and the plus/minus scores were very consistent. Solid A.

20/20 Game – We adapted quickly and did not do this game as we were running out of time. I’d still like to try this game and maybe the next time we can see about the feedback we can gather using this game. No Grade.

So overall, I feel it was a very good session and I looking forward to more chances to play games at work.

#Strategy #Innovation Games

I don’t know when I have been more excited to be facilitating two sessions in one week. The reason is that both sessions are using types of Innovation Games. Now both sessions are using some unique customizations of Innovation Games and I am very interested in seeing the results. The meetings are drastically different. One is a Strategy meeting and the other is a Rapid Discovery Meeting.

Strategy Meeting

In the Strategy meeting, we are using three different and customized Innovation Games. We were going to take a somewhat traditional approach to this Strategy session until we sat down and thought about the process we should use to present current state. The question was then asked about whether we should present on current state, or let the group tell us what the current state is from their perspective. We loved the idea. Instead of he traditional approach of presenting the opinion of what current state is, why not get the team to create the current state through Silent Brainstorming. We were assuming that everyone would agree as to what the current state is.

So the three games I am proposing to get us to review current state and start to think about Strategy are:

Whole Product Game – To get us to start thinking about current state, we are going to use a slightly altered version of the Whole Product Game. It will be changed to solicit input on the entire company rather than a product. I believe this game will provide some interesting insight as to what people view as the company’s differentiators.

Company Report Card Game – I based this game based upon the ‘Grade a Feature’ Exercise. I believe the grading metaphor is something that we all can relate to and can allow for excellent insights. Instead of grading features, I have customized the game so that we will be grading the company according to the following categories:

  • Locating Opportunities (Sales)
  • Satisfying Opportunities (Offerings and Products)
  • Delivery Opportunities (Delivery and Manufacturing)

For each category a person will do the following on a stickie:

  • Provide one overall grade per category on how they think the company is doing in that category – denoted by circling it
  • Provide an item or items which they feel the company is doing well in that category – denoted by a plus sign in a circle
  • Provide an item or items which the company needs to improve to be able move up to the next higher grade – denoted by a minus sign in a circle

20/20 Game – I based this game on the 20/20 game contained in Luke Hohmann’s excellent Innovation Games book. There is also an excellent website available with online games. (although the 20/20 game is not one of the online games) This game will be based upon the results of the Company Report Card Game and each person will be asked to asked if the company is better or worse for each of the items that came out of the Company Report Card Game as compared to two years ago. This will be done by using stickers for voting. Each person will get 5 green stickers for voting for the items the company has improved and 5 red stickers for voting for items the company has  regressed on.

I’m very excited to gather the groups ideas and also for the ability to capture trends.

I’ll save the Rapid Discovery Innovation games I will be using for my next post…