Last week we had our first focus group for our products. It was very exciting for several reasons. First, it meant that we had prototype products finished to present and gather feedback on. After months of work, we had developed a prototype we felt comfortable showing to a focus group to gather feedback and opinions on. A focus group for those of you who may not know is a form of research. In focus groups one group asks another group for observations, perceptions, opinions, and beliefs. Questions are asked in a free environment where participants can interact with one another to provide feedback. In this case Debra and I were the moderators and everyone else was a participant. We broke into two groups, what industry experts would call “mini focus groups”. Now that is complex jargon for you. One group worked on Who’s Counting™ while another group worked on developing another product concept. We also listened to “Awesome I am Multiplying” and got some excellent reactions and input for that product. It was important to us that we got constructive feedback that was good and bad, so we took a break with dinner. There was an abundance of excellent food and dessert. I remember a particular toffee that was very popular (we ran out). Then we got to work. It was great to see all of the enthusiasm, energy, and creativity, from everyone who participated.
Regarding Who’s Counting™, the mini focus group of three participants spent a great deal of time on the rules, making sure they understood them before they began playing. They raised many questions that were not addressed in the rules as they were written. I as the moderator listened and took notes, but I was extremely careful not to get involved with the participants or answer questions. The task was to gather feedback, I couldn’t do that if I was leading them. There is a very fine line between being the moderator and being the leader in this case. When the participants finally started playing, I was sure that one of the participants did not have a clue what to do or what was going on after the rules had been read. This was very important to me as the moderator. This was exactly what I needed, someone who didn’t get it after the group had spent way to much time going over the rules. You see when a family sits down to play a new game for the first time they do not spend much time going through the rules, they usually look at them once to make sure they get the gist of it. Then they play and refer to the rules as they need to for reference. My group however was intentionally trying to find problems with the rules, or make points where there weren’t any. This was to be expected because it was exactly what I had asked them to do. They were asked to provide feedback and that is exactly what they did. So when I had one participant who was completely clueless after all of this I was excited because I knew I was going to get some great data. Were the other players able to explain the game as it went, would they be able to help the lost player and show him how it was done? How quickly would he be able to catch on and start using strategies built into the game? I couldn’t have asked for things to go better. The other players were able to help this particular participant and he quickly learned how the cards worked with each other and what needed to be played when in order to get the upper edge. By the time they were done playing the participant who didn’t have a clue was actually winning. This was a very good sign to me. While these participants were not the children the product is intended for, they provided me with extremely valuable feedback. The game can easily be taught and learned by new players who have no clue, and who are oblivious to the rules entirely. Thanks focus group for all of your hard work.
We had an excellent sample all things considered, four of our participants were teachers, one was a student, another was an engineer, we also had a writer. All told, it was a great group for gathering some perspective. Of course we will need to present the products to children in a focus group and see how they respond, but this gave us a glimpse. Finally we had people who were not “us”, taking a look at the products and providing impressions. Overall, the impressions were good, and there were a lot of changes suggested and presented to improve the product. Ideas were shared and everyone had a great evening.