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Lots of average consumers may have never heard of an innovation game, but some businesses are engaging in this sort of creative market research to help with a consumer marketing plan, or overall strategy. An innovation game is a type of activity where a focus group, or other single or group of customers, interact with staff in creative ways. In many of these "games," customers are actually providing useful information on the company's consumer base. This research model was developed by Luke Hohmann, founder of The Innovation Games® Company.
Innovation game market research is referred to as primary market research because the information gleaned with these exercises is both direct and not previously known. Innovation games give companies information that they could not get from their client database or other indirect methods. Professionals from the company act as facilitators for innovative games to give customer focus groups or other customer teams creative challenges that will reveal clues about what they think of the company and its products or services.
The facilitator of an innovation game has to be a true leader and a good problem-solver, as well as a creative thinker. This individual has to monitor the tempo of the game, explain the rules to the group, and give consideration to specific principles that will support the effectiveness of this type of interactive market research.
Some of the major principles for designing good innovation games are much like those for an educational curriculum. Designers of interactive game research look at scalability, or how many customers can interact at the same time. They also look for open-ended interaction, where customers are less led and more likely to offer their own proactive opinions or feedback. In terms of the "costs" of innovation game research, designers also look at how much in terms of physical materials must be provided to support the game, as well as how much background work has to be done before the interactive game can be implemented.
Innovation games are seen as a kind of qualitative market research. Qualitative market research commonly refers to market research that rests more on in-depth responses from a low number of individuals, rather than on the relatively shallow data that online or print surveys or other tools provide from a wide number of individuals. Although many businesses find simple quantitative market research to be effective, some consider qualitative market research, such as innovation games, to be a critical part of crafting the right consumer marketing strategy for the future.