May 072015

SG-Summit1sThis Monday, on the first day of the Cutter Summit 2015, it was my great privilege to moderate a session about serious games as tools of disruptive innovation. By changing the normal rules of interaction, we can have more productive interactions during the innovation process, including the all-important collaboration with the customer. Serious games also help in the education process, driving home lessons in a way that words alone often cannot. They also provide an opportunity to “try before you buy,” simulating new innovation strategies, such as adopting Agile or managing your portfolio differently.

During the session, we played three games, one representing each of these potential benefits that serious games offer. (There are others.)

  • Product Box. The attendees had a quick introduction to this technique for getting to the core value that a project or product might provide. If you’re interested in the all-important minimum viable product, but are unsure how to get closer to defining it before delivering it, then you should consider using Product Box before you write one user story or line of code.
  • Multi-Tasking Mayhem. This short exercise shows how expensive multi-tasking really is, even when you’re dealing with relatively simple tasks. If you ever need to demonstrate the value of maintaining flow, in the sense that Lean practitioners and psychologists use the term, this game provides a dramatic illustration.
  • Dice Of Debt. I recently developed this game so that people could simulate the effects of reducing technical debt for the long-term delivery of value. In the short term, the frantic pace of software innovation makes it hard for people to justify taking the time to invest in technical debt-reducing measures. Sometimes, until you can see the effects of these investments, technical debt reduction remains something that you’ll do later…By which you mean, never.


Many thanks to all the participants in these exercises. As is often the case when you get people playing a game like Product Box or Dice Of Debt, it’s hard to get them to stop when you reluctantly give the Time’s up! signal. My apologies to those of you whom I had to interrupt. No worries, the games will be there for you to use.

Equal thanks to the Cutter staff who helped with the session, especially with the quick set-up and take-down of all the boxes, Sharpies, hand-outs, and dice.


Tom Grant

Tom Grant is the former Practice Director of Cutter Consortium's Agile Product Management & Software Engineering Excellence practice. His expertise lies in software development and delivery, with a particular focus on Agile, Lean, application lifecycle management (ALM), product management, serious games, collaboration, innovation, and requirements.


  One Response to “Seriously Gaming At Cutter Summit 2015”

  1. Tom,

    If available – could you please include a link to the description / script of “Dice of Debt” game that you have developed?

    Thanks and With Best Regards


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