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Marketing strategy: New ways to brainstorm

The toughest part of innovation? Accurately predicting what customers want, need, and will pay for. Even if you ask them, they often can't explain what they want. In this chapter download, you'll begin to understand how. Author Luke Hohmann created twelve games that help you uncover your customers' true, hidden needs and desires in Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play.

Innovation Games -- Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play


This chapter excerpt represents an installment from the book, "Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play, " authored by Luke Hohmann. Copyright 2007 Luke Hohmann. Published by Addison-Wesley Professional, September 2006, ISBN 0321437292. All rights reserved.

Prune the Product Tree: Shape Your Product to Market Needs

Gardeners prune trees to control their growth. Sometimes the pruning is artistic, and we end up with shrubs shaped like animals or interesting abstract shapes. Much of the time the pruning is designed to build a balanced tree that yields high-quality fruit. The process isn't about "cutting," it is about "shaping." Use this metaphor to help create the product your customers desire.

The Game
Start by drawing a large tree on a whiteboard or butcher paper or printing a graphic image of a tree as a large format poster. Thick limbs represent major areas of functionality within your system. The inside of the tree contains leaves that represent features in the current release. Leaves that are placed at the outer edge of the canopy represent new features. The edge of the tree represents the future. Write potential new features on several index cards, ideally shaped as leaves. Ask your customers to place desired features around the tree, shaping its growth. Do they structure a tree that is growing in a balanced manner? Does one branch, perhaps a core feature of the product, get the bulk of the growth? Does an underutilized aspect of the tree become stronger? We know that the roots of a tree (your support and customer care infrastructure) need to extend at least as far as its canopy. Do yours?

Why It Works
One of the greatest challenges in creating and managing a product is creating a balanced picture of everything that must be done to be successful. The problem can be complicated by overly linear, inorganic representations of product road maps, which tend to represent product evolution as linear over time. By tapping into our understanding that products must grow in a planned way, and that products are supported by a variety of mechanisms, Prune the Product Tree allows customers to shape all aspects of the product, instead of just providing feedback on a selected set of features in a road map.

You and your customers both know that features vary in importance. We tend to want to put our efforts behind the most important features—those features that provide the greatest value to customers. Unfortunately, sometimes this means that we put too little effort behind the features that are needed to complete the product. The Prune the Product Tree game provides your customers with a way to provide explicit input into the decision- making process by looking at the set of features that compose the product in a holistic manner.

Prune the Product Tree also gives product teams the rare opportunity to identify, and potentially remove, those product features that are simply not meeting customer needs.

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Prune the Product Tree: Shape Your Product to Market Needs
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