Using Games to Help Your Group Create Amazing Products

Innovation Games for Product Managers and InnovatorsI attended a Center for Creative Leadership workshop where, over the course of a week, I experienced several scenarios, simulations, and role-playing activities. They were all essentially games, many of them designed to show how collaboration and working together lead to better outcomes. Games can also be applied to innovation, which is the topic of the book “Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play.” The book was published in 2006 and the games have had a significant impact on numerous companies, non-profits, and government organizations since then. I caught up with the author, Luke Hohmann, to learn more.

See the link below to hear the interview.


Luke is serious about the smart application of games to optimize decision making in innovation, product development, and market research. After being a successful competitive figure skater, he started his career in computer science and engineering at EDS, where his curiosity was stimulated and the seeds of innovation were planted.

He did not set out to create games for innovation but started as a product manager asking how to best understand what people are looking for. He used paper and pencil prototypes and through experience realized that he got better insights when his customer was holding the pencil and completing the prototype herself. Luke later discovered the application of games. They respond to our natural desire to play and collaborate. From a game theory perspective, games have a goal; a set of rules, resources, constraints, and interaction models; a feedback mechanism to tell you how you’re doing; and natural appeal that engages people. They could be used to gain even more insights from customers than just asking them to complete a prototype. They could be used to solve any number of business problems and innovation challenges.

An Example – Buy A Feature

Buy A Feature is an example of an innovation game. One application of the game is in portfolio management, selecting the projects that are most valuable and making the best use of their available resources. To illustrate its use, say there are 20 possible projects your group is considering. Eight decision-makers are responsible for choosing the projects. The total budget for them all is $20M but you only have $8M available for new projects. The situation could become competitive with the loudest voices and most important people getting their way, but this can result in sub-optimal project selection for the organization. Instead, create a collaborative environment by telling eight decision-makers that they each have $1M to allocate to projects.  Then, they must work together to determine the projects of highest value.

Buy A Feature is also used in the non-profit Every Voice Engaged to help cities create budgets and decrease the influence of individual political positions. Its value is in not only selecting strategic projects but also in how it develops alignment between senior leaders and managers.

Listen to the interview with Luke Hohmann on The Everyday Innovator Podcast.

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Chad McAllister, PhD is a product innovation guide, innovation management educator, and recovering engineer. He leads Product Innovation Educators, which trains product managers to create products customers love. He also hosts The Everyday Innovator weekly podcast, sharing knowledge from innovation thought leaders and practitioners. Follow him on Twitter.

Chad McAllister




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