Some of you might be familiar with the concept of  “Budget Games”, from its success in San Jose. Some of you might not be, and in that case I would recommend checking out the video below in order to get some context about the subject at hand.



As an Innovation Games ® and Gamestorming fanatic, I have been quite intrigued by Luke Hohmann‘s quest to serve the San Jose community, by extending the more commonly used (strategic, market research) game: “Buy a Feature”. As such, I have read and examined everything I could get my hands on related to “Budget Games”, and was silently hoping this trend, which started in San Jose, would fly over to Europe. To Belgium, to be more specific.

Buy a Feature

One of the reasons to keep my hopes up was my experience with “Buy a Feature” and how it engages every stakeholder involved into the subject addressed. “Buy a Feature” is a powerful, engaging technique to investigate your market needs and wishes. It structures the conversations; it encourages collaboration; and broadens the view of the attendees outside their own environment and space. Below a couple of examples on how I have been using “Buy a Feature” in real life situations.

Example 1:

Supporting Product Managers to prioritize the needs of their product(s) together with users and customers. You suddenly see that different users of the product start to understand each other’s needs and wishes and how their role is part of a bigger system, which allows them to put everything into a more appropriate context. It allows people to understand why other needs are served before theirs.

Example 2:

Supporting a CxO team to generate a business strategy that is supported by their Sales Departments (operating over multiple countries) as well as by their internal Production Departments. As first things come first, preparation already learned the team that the initial company vision statement was not really supporting the needs of the exercise and, as such, it became part of the complete series of which “Buy a Feature” was one of. Next learning point was still in the preparation phase where CxO’s, for the first time, worked together with their departments to generate multiple strategic choices. Before, this was mainly done top-down and choices were rapidly thrown out of the window, which limited the options for the organization equally rapid. And the most amazing learning item from the complete exercise was the fact that the resulting strategy (and plan) was something anyone involved during the exercise, agreed they had never dreamed of something this motivating, engaging and realistic as what came out of it. Of course there are more examples I could give out of my personal experience but you get the idea why I love to apply these game techniques in real life and complex situations.

Budget Games

“Budget Games” is a more advanced setup based on “Buy a Feature” and designed by Luke Hohmann to support the City of San Jose decide on the City Budget options. Even though designed for a public organization, this game technique can definitely be useful for corporations around as well! Why? It does not only cover what to build, go for additionally to the current situation but combines this with money generating options by means of cost reductions. Generated money can then be spent again on additional purchases etc… There is considerable benefit in developing the list of items for either a “Buy a Feature” or a “Budget Game”. Specifically, developing the game materials and play-testing them with employees and/or city officials helps everyone develop a better understanding of the benefits and/or impact of a proposed choice. And when citizens have the opportunity to connect with Subject Matter Experts during the game, everyone benefits from the discussion. Anyway, too much to explain in this article and if you are really interested you’ll find a way to get in touch with me for more. “Budget Games” are just starting to get some ground in the US public sector and as such I had the impression that a European, not to speak about Belgium, implementation was not going to happen in my lifetime. I was wrong!

Kortrijk Speaks

March 19th, the City Council of Kortrijk announced that the use of “Budget Games” as the next step in their “Kortrijk Speaks” initiative. “Kortrijk Speaks” has been started out of the profound belief of the City Council that one has to engage people to be part of the governance and not just providing input to it.

Budget Games Kortrijk BE EU

Being a engaged citizen of Kortrijk myself I could not resist to challenge the Mayor (Vincent Van Quickenborne) to step up and compare “Kortrijk Speaks” with the initiatives in San Jose, using “Budget Games”. One thing lead to another and soon I was sitting in the Town Hall talking about Innovation Games ® with passion, engagement, confidence and strong beliefs in their success. Today it is a fact! The City of Kortrijk will continue “Kortrijk Speaks” using “Budget Games” as a market research tool. Providing an opportunity for the people to seize power within its City governance.

Collaborate for the event!

Co-Learning, yours sincerely, is supporting this quest and will act as producer for the event(s) to come. Support and facilitation will be provided by others in the Co-Learning team (Erik, Yves, Johan, Amedee, Annelies…) As we have “Co” in Co-Learning, we do not do this by ourselves! Everything is done in collaboration with the founder and creator of the game: Luke Hohmann. We are happy, proud and lucky to have Luke at our side, so this way a huge: “Thanks Luke!”. At the moment we could use some more professional facilitators and observers for the event(s) to come! If you are a Certified/Licensed Innovation Games ® facilitator or other professional facilitator familiar with game setup + you can facilitate in “Dutch”, then don’t hesitate to contact me to get involved. You’ll be part of a premiere and a very unique experience that will not only enrich your life but also the life of the citizens of Kortrijk.