After a successful first round of user-studies, I chose to shift my focus for the second round away from the design audience, and invited my colleague Kelvin Ho to participate. Kelvin received his MBA from UCLA, is the Executive Director of My Own Business Inc., and is a Board Member of the Social Enterprise Alliance.
Because it is in a designer’s nature to think in the speculative realm, I was not surprised that my initial series of user-studies did in fact produce these kinds of results. I became curious if these outcomes could be replicated across disciplines, taking it into the business world itself. A bit to my surprise, I found that, while the results were still interesting, the imaginative qualities produced by the designers in the first round of user-studies were not replicated. Regardless, the study lead me to a series of discoveries that will greatly influence a second prototype of the decks.
The following are a list of changes that I will be exploring in the second prototype, which is currently underway:
- Re-frame “horizon element” as “opportunity.”
- Eliminate point system / competitive aspect. While this may be re-introduced, the system as it is does not work, and is not desired.
- “Opportunity” deck should not include opportunities that already exist, but instead focus on concepts with more layers of interpretation.
- “Scenario” deck should not include “transformation,” but instead should include more instances of collapse or constraint.
- Make the user independent. The cards each require explanation – this should not be the case, as the system will eventually require an independent understanding from the participants.
- Initial framing of the system needs work. How much time should be spent? How many people should work together? One-on-one is not the only option.
This post is a tiny bit overdue, but a full prototype of the Serendipitous Business Model Generator has been completed! After a series of experiments, the deck is ready to be tested on users. A diagram explaining the anatomy of the playing cards can be seen here. The rules are as follows:
The generator consists of three decks:
- Scenario: the conditions in which our business is being started
- Opportunity / Horizon Element: the emerging technologies / phenomenons that will be leveraged in our venture
- Modify Element: the existing business, product, or industry that will we modify / develop
Draw one card from each of the three decks to form your business. While the generator can be used by an individual, it is recommended to play with an advisor / partner. The key / rule is that your generated business be made tangible in some way – example: business plan.
Fun fact – each of the 90 cards in this full prototype were hand drawn. Yeah, it sounded like a good idea in the beginning… I figure that if I decide to run a kickstarter campaign to fund the production and distribution of the end result I can use these original hand made prototypes as incentives for the investors.
My initial experiments in designing a Serendipitous Business Model Generator (SBMG) brought up a lot of interesting questions for further exploration. In this iteration, I explored the following:
- What does the interface of these cards look like?
- What kind of content should be provided on these cards?
- What competitive element can be injected into the mechanic? Is there a space for failure / success?
To begin this exploration I visited Game Empire, and purchased a series of card games in order to take them apart and analyze their structure. I became interested in the conditions that made these games challenging, addicting, fun, and satisfying. I soon learned (and remembered from middle school) that there are various different kinds of card games. However, the most attractive mechanic that I found in my research was CCG, or “Collectable Card Game.”
What I found intriguing about this particular genre is that a high degree of strategy is required of the player as they customize there own deck to play against others. This got me thinking about two new possibilities for the Serendipitous Business Model Generator game mechanic:
- Users of SBMG could contribute to the authorship / crafting of the deck’s contents. No set of decks are alike – this will allow for more serendipitous Business Model Generation.
- The act of building a deck will require strategy – this will inject the competitive aspect that I felt was missing from the previous iteration.
But how does the strategy play a part? This is where I introduced the idea of incorporating points into the mechanic – some cards, perhaps the more obscure / seemingly difficult to create pairings from, would be worth more points where as others, the seemingly simpler connections, would be worth less. The following are some interface sketches / prototypes for the cards.
I am currently working on iterating on this further, to nail down a set of rules that can help guide the process of actually creating a full deck that will allow for the beginning stages of user studies. I anticipate these user studies revealing interesting insight into the remainder of the game – the actual formation of business proposals that results from the set of draws.
To begin a further exploration into making the Defiant Devices project a participatory experience, I quickly generated a prototype of a simple workbook. My goal for this 2 page mock up was to take an initial stab at inviting others to experience the process of defiance.
10 participants were given a set of 2 worksheets. Each worksheet had a different machine. The participants were given the simple instruction (on the sheet) to “
Draw Invent a Defiant Device that beats the above machine.” The rest of the process was up to their own interpretation – I was interested in giving very minimal instruction to better witness the participants’ inclinations and assumptions. The results were very interesting, and varied. Overall I received positive feedback from the participants about the experience of defying the machine, however, I discovered that the participants all shared similar confusions and hesitance to the project.
Over half of the participants claimed they felt overwhelmed and intimidated because the illustration of the machine they were to defy was extremely detailed (gosh, thanks guys), and they felt as though they were expected to draw at the same caliber. This intimidation sparked a bit of a lag in the participation, and resulted in the desire by some of the participants to explain through writing, as opposed to illustration, their invention.
Another discovered flaw in my worksheet was a confusion about the assignment’s goal. 50% of the participants interpreted “defiance” and “beat the machine” as “optimize the existing system” where as the other 50% interpreted the instructions as “invent a new device that is designed to break the system.” The latter is what I was hoping for.
Moving forward / other user comments:
- How can the workbook get progressively harder from start to finish?
- What language can be used to make the goal fo the assignment clearer to the participants? Perhaps an example should be in the first page?
- How can the experience be less intimidating for the participants without compromising the detailed imagery?
- What kind of reward system / conclusion could be given besides the gratitude of finishing the set of assignments?
- What would happen if this was a collaborative effort as opposed to an individual effort?
My initial experiment in designing a Serendipitous Business Model Generator (SBMG), inspired by my experience as a Foursquare Situationist, yielded quite interesting results in terms of spontaneity and humor, but was not quite getting at my thesis interests.
After this initial development of SBMG, I realized that what was missing was a speculative / critical dimension. The method, instead, was very much restricted to a present tense, which places the project into the realm of a corporate brainstorm, or classic think tank approach – something this very much is not. It seemed like I was developing a method for crafting really bad, yet potentially viable, business models as opposed to a method for the development of Fictional Enterprise.
By basing it in reality, the project is actually crippling the very purpose of Fictional Entrepreneurship – the act of accommodating the unknown – because it is instead trapped in known, and familiar spaces.
In response to this, Round 02 of the project’s development is an attempt to address the questions and discoveries from Round 01 in the form of a card game. The idea of the game mechanics is quite simple in this version:
- 3 decks of cards (Industry to Mod, Scenario, Horizon Element)
- Draw one card from each of the three decks
- Form connections with the cards based on the content provided
- Form your fictional business model.
Upon conducting a few user-studies, I found that the content provided was not enough to foster interesting results in the design of these fictional business proposals. This was not surprising, on account of there was little to no content / context provided in this sketch. Another question that came about from the users was regarding single player vs. multiplayer, a possible game mechanic / dimension that I had neglected in this sketch.
- What does the interface of these cards look like?
- What kind of content should be provided on these cards?
- What other items could exist within these categories? Are these initial selections the appropriate categories for the game?
- What happens after the idea is crafted through the card arrangement? Is there a second step to the game? How can the experience go deeper?
- How can a player interject strategy into the process as opposed to only relying on chance / luck?
- What competitive element can be injected into the mechanic? Is there a space for loss?
- Who is the audience for such a game? How might that fact effect the game’s design, or push it into more interesting spaces?
Cloud Run is a work-in-progress board game designed and produced in collaboration with Michael Manalo. We are interested in creating a board game that can serve as an entry point and conversation piece to a greater discussion surrounding foreseen issues of sustainability and data storage… part of “The Cloud is Full” series.
Overview: You find yourself in a world in which the cloud is at near capacity. After reaching 90%, the government has mandated that all homes run on, and maintain, server-based heat and energy systems. Unfortunately, your server has a picky attitude, and one wrong step can turn your house against you. Navigate through your home to get to the central heating unit without using too much energy or else the cloud will reach 100% capacity, eliminating the archive of our existence.
Goal: Using the least moves (energy) possible, navigate to your home-server unit. Strategic navigation via chance-based card drawing (or dice rolling), and board manipulation (folding of game surface) are key to maintaining low energy outputs to get to your server in time.
Materials: Game Pieces (laser-cut people? markers?), dynamic game-board (moldable / foldable surface), energy counter (timer? addition system?), move catalyst (dice? cards?), the cloud / server – center piece (button? light up?)
As a formal study, the game is also an exploration in exploring the surface of a board game as a movable and playable element. How can entrepreneurship be used in the gaming industry to raise questions around data storage? Can gaming be a powerful medium to produce accesible futuring perspectives?
Inspiration / References: