Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Lady Asked Me For Some Advice

It was Saturday. Noah and I were at the pizza place. We were there having lunch. We do this a lot on weekends.

I had ordered some regular slices to stay. Noah was already seated at a table. I was standing around waiting for the pizza guys to heat the slices in the brick oven. There were other people gathered there, waiting for their orders.

The pizza guys were watching the World Cup on an enormous TV that they hung close to the ceiling for this express purpose. A lady who I presumed to be waiting for pizza talked to them a little bit about the World Cup.

The woman was what I would describe as late middle aged. I'm making this distinction because it would be a stretch to call her a senior citizen. I am middle aged, but would describe myself as mid-middle aged. This woman is someone I perceive as older than me, but still in the middle aged category.

After chatting about the World Cup she then turned her attention toward me. I need to ask your advice about a board game I'm inventing, she said.

I've never seen this woman before in my life. I mentally noted that this was a surprising conversation opener. However, one of my greatest talents is something I call being conversationally flexible.

I asked her if the board game was all finished or if she is still working on it. She said that she's still working on it. I've gotten pretty far with it, she said. I need your advice about what to do next.

At this point, I'm wondering if the woman is a psychic and has what a friend of mine calls the gift.  I am very interested in entrepreneurship. I also like to think that I give people good career advice. In any case, whether you like my advice or not, no one could argue that I'm quite fascinated with people's ambitions.

The first thing you need to do is extensive research into the board games that already exist. I told her. This should go way beyond perfunctory, I said. Before spending any more time on the creation of this board game, it's important that you make sure you're not working on something that effectively already exists.

She nodded. I've already done that she said.

There was something about the lady that made me doubt this. I doubted that she had really done an exhaustive amount of research. I imagined that she did less research than I would do if I were in her position. But in spite of these feelings, I decided to take her at face value and proceed with the rest of my advice.

I asked her a little more about the board game. Is it for kids or adults or both? She told me that as long as you can read, you are old enough to play this game. The game can be played by children and adults alike.

If you are sure that you have an original idea, I said, then the next step is for you to create some focus groups. She looked mystified. Then she asked me to elaborate.

You need to get some people together to play your game. I said. You invite people over. You could serve some coffee, drinks, dessert. You will ask people to play your game and observe them. Are they having fun? Do they seem confused by the rules? Would they play the game again?

You need to prepare some questions beforehand. When they are finished playing the game, ask them for their honest and unvarnished feedback. You need to be open and prepared to listen to everything they say. Some of what people say could be used to fine tune and improve your game.

It's very important that you listen carefully in the spirit of non-attachment, I said. Getting defensive and digging in your heels would negate the purpose of the focus groups.

Once you get feedback, you hone your game until its better and better. Keep having people over to play it. Focus group. Improve. Focus group. Improve.

At this point, I noticed that the lady looked very excited. She had never thought of a focus group before. She looked like she'd just hit the jackpot. It was as though Seth Godin himself had walked into the pizza place and was offering free advice.

But where do I find people for the focus groups? She asked. She indicated that she couldn't afford to pay anyone.

You should invite different groups of friends over, I said. You make it like a little party, and tell them beforehand that you want to serve food and drinks and also have them test out your new game.

I suggested different focus groups. Have groups of adults over from different age groups and demographics. Have friends bring their friends.

Make sure you have young adults over - the grown up kids of some friends. These people spend the most money. They’re the sweet spot for marketers. You can also have families of four over to get a sense of a family game night. If you know people with young kids you can have a group of the children or grandchildren over.

The kids will tell it like it is. I said. If your game sucks, they'll let you know.

At this point, I decided to start making eye contact with the employees of the pizza place. I find that the people who work at this particular establishment are very distractible. They lose focus quickly, forget about slices in the pizza oven and never remember if your pizza is to stay or to go even though I tell them this information when I order.

The enormous television with the World Cup broadcast was not helping with their focus or work ethic. In spite of this, some regular slices were served and I grabbed some napkins to take to our table.

I consciously adopted a body language of quickened activity and purpose. This was to indicate that my time of being a creative guru was coming to a close.

The lady seemed to get the idea, but shouted over one more question as I was sitting down with Noah and turning my attention to him.

What if some of the people in my focus group try to steal my idea? She asked.

If your idea is truly that original I said, you might want to look into a patent or consult with a lawyer. This is not my area of expertise, I added. I know when I'm out of my depth.

As I sat across from my 13 year old gamer Noah, I pondered the matter a little more. Even the best new board games will have an uphill battle. It would take a lot of convincing to pull Noah away from Minecraft or Mario to play a board game at this point.

It was at this juncture that I noticed that the lady wasn't eating or ordering pizza. She'd gone back to talking with the pizza guys. Maybe she'd had a slice earlier. Or maybe she was just there to network.

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