Games are fun. That’s why we play them. Well, that, in addition to feeding competitive appetites and gaining recognition for the win. That’s qualitative. The flip side of games is all about the numbers. Statistics. Chi squares. Significance and confidence. Risk analysis.

By their very nature, games are not only fun in a qualitative way, they are highly quantitative. The numbers gleaned from play help us to improve, advance, and innovate. We realized that from engaging in games designed by Luke Hohmann in his book Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play.

Recently, we engaged our customers, both internally and externally, to play the Innovation Games and see if our game results provided good feedback. My last post described the qualitative side of this experiment, which was surprisingly valuable. Applying the game strategies to the quantitative side, we used some of the same game strategies that ended up reminding us of something important: We didn’t know what we didn’t know.

You’ve probably experienced the wince that comes from taking a traditional survey with directed answers, none of which accurately describe your true responses. After playing innovation games, we decided not to do that. We created a survey based on things we found out from games we had played a week earlier. After outlining what we expected our players’ game strategies would be, we chose our words carefully to ensure divergent thinking would find a comfortable niche. Survey participants were encouraged to customize their survey responses to accurately reflect their experience.

We went in with two objectives:

  1. We wanted to know what marketing professionals felt were the major pain points in their responsibilities, similar to the book’s Speed Boat game we had played. Budget? Technology? Processing?
  2. We wanted to know what tools were valuable in building a successful marketing plan for their companies, in line with the rank and effectiveness information gleaned from playing the 20/20 Vision game. Email? Website? Telemarketing? Mobile?

We knew we couldn’t think of everything our customers really want us to know. Open-ended, divergent questions would help us uncover that elusive bank of things we didn’t know that we didn’t know. The results were predictable, to a point, but the value of what we learned is just beginning to sharpen our edge.

We learned that by more than a 2:1 ratio, our customers felt paid mobile advertising was either not effective or not applicable. One additional surprise? Interest in paid mobile advertising had proven low in our earlier game playing. In fact, nearly negligible. While higher in the survey responses, it was still a little surprising to learn where our customers were putting their resources. Even in our high tech field customers, as many felt that mobile was not applicable as felt it was effective. We also found that the pain of limited budgets formed a sort of U-shaped curve: most painful at both the smallest and largest firms. Also a surprise? Marketers are still using QR codes.

I will give you some actual numbers in my next post, where we’ll compare and contrast the qualitative and quantitative bounties for you, as we continue to engage in Innovation Games. Come along if you’d like to play. Especially if you’d like to win.