Innovation Games for your Agile UX Toolbox

A few months ago, Luke Hohmann visited Cooper to teach a special session of his Innovation Games class. Alan Cooper, Steve Calde, Tim McCoy, Jeff Patton and I and spent two days with Luke learning about the games and practicing how to apply them in different situations. Since the class, I’ve often found myself reflecting on what I learned. I’d like to share with you how I’ve adapted some of the techniques in my User Experience consulting practice:

  • I look for opportunities to make all my meetings more engaging and participatory. A collaborative process generates a different kind of results than a meeting run by a single facilitator. When people work together to create an artifact (as you do in “Spider Web,” “Start Your Day”, and several other games) they are more engaged in the conversation and it’s easier to get participation from the entire group. You also have a useful record of what you talked about for future reference. My meeting room “kit” now contains large newsprint pads, sticky notes and thick black markers so we can jump into an Innovation Game at any time it becomes relevant.
  • At our ChiFoo workshop, Jeff Patton and I used a variation of “Speedboat” to guide a group discussion about blending Agile and User Experience (UX) techniques. We asked people to tell us what “anchors drag them down” and what “winds support them.” You can see a picture of the results on flickr. We budgeted about 45 minutes for the exercise, and people wanted to keep going well into lunch. The process of sharing our thoughts visually and verbally created a sense of community and shared direction in the room that surprised and pleased me.

  • I found the Innovation Game role of “observer” and the process of recording one observation per index card useful in another context. While teaching interviewing skills at Atomic Object. We grouped the interviewers in pairs (main interviewer, backup interviewer) and had the rest of the people sit behind the interview subject and act as observers, taking notes on index cards, one observation per card. After the interview, we did a group debrief of the observations and found that we had excellent coverage of what we’d learned. Even though none of the student interviewers caught all the details, as a group they covered everything. Another benefit; we quickly reached a shared understanding of the key insights from the interviews. I can imagine this would be equally as useful during usability testing, either behind glass or with silent observers.
  • And, for my personal and professional planning, I’ve found “Remember the Future” valuable to help me clearly articulate my long term objectives, and the specific measurable steps I need to follow to accomplish them.

Thanks again, Luke, for a memorable class, and some useful additions to my UX toolkit! For more information about the Innovation Games event, please see the Cooper Journal post about the event, and the full set of photos on flickr.

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