Just a game? The Quest for Innovation

the_quest_logo_for_web_smallOn Friday I was part of a team involved in The Quest for Innovation — a unique initiative bringing together the New England innovation economy to celebrate entrepreneurship and innovative advances in Boston.  The  MassInno team — brought together under the flag of the innovation-focused event I run monthly in Waltham, was evenly divided between entrepreneurs and marketers — and we were able to do this with our team of 7 because some of the marketers are in the midst of starting up businesses themselves.

The Quest was powered by “scvngr” — a new company in the Boston-area.  The classic-feeling clue-oriented scavenger hunt ran on cell phones via text message and on an iPhone app.  If you have a choice, go for the iPhone app — if we had been relying on my phone, we would have finished quite a bit later as the texts were slower than the iPhone messages.  As it was, our team finished 7th out of approx. 100 teams (3-7 people on each), proving once again that “Old age and treachery will beat youth and enthusiasm every time.”  Or, at least it would have if we all had been capable of scampering around Boston faster.

The event was a great mix of history, innovation and local geography lessons.  We ranged from City Hall to the Financial District to South Station and Downtown Crossing — all walkable over the course of the approximately 2 hours we had to spend on the game.  As we played the game, I saw numerous ways to use the game structure to communicate marketing messages and introduce the players to different companies, ideas and concepts.

Didn't win but brought home ITA airplanes, game card & Oyster crackers
Didn't win but brought home ITA airplanes, game card & Oyster crackers
  • ITA Software was hanging out at the Parker House handing out airplane-shaped lollipops.  I’ve never been a fan of promo items given away just for the sake of a giveaway but these helped me remember the company and what it does — travel and airline software.  I did manage to remember the company name on my own and they were listed on the instruction card we were given (which didn’t hurt). If it had been me, I might have made sure the company name was on the lollipop stick or something.  (Then again, you were supposed to eat them — the lollipops, not the sticks.)
  • We learned the largest amount ever paid for a private, tech, VC-backed company. (Good for the inspiration, and I now know where Wilmer Hale is located.  The sea of Lucite spread out on the table in their offices was impressive.)
  • Reviewing the trend wall at the design firm near South Station was a nice introduction to how design firms get their inspiration if you haven’t worked with one before.
  • Visiting the historic sites made me think about bringing the kids downtown on a mini-scavenger hunt.  (The tourist board says, “Thanks!”)
  • “At 44 Winter Street, there is one organization determined to repower MA with clean energy.” Good introduction to an organization I wasn’t familiar with.

I can see the game being used lots of places:

  • Waltham innovation tour — it is the birthplace of American industry and would make a wonderful tourist attraction.
  • Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation — inside the museum to help guide people through the exhibits.
  • Getting people to the Museum for Mass Innovation Nights.  (I already tell people to look for the entrance under the smokestack which sounds like it is part of scavenger hunt.)
  • An event for any commercial center (maybe for Halloween) — what a wonderful introduction to the stores and businesses in your town.
  • Great get-to-know-you group activity — had great chats with Josh, Jerry, Chuck, Kathy, Luke and Kelley along the way. The start and the after-party offered lots of other conversations.

Some feedback and hints:

  • Some warning needed up front for those of our team who pay for individual text messages — and instructions on how to opt-out when you realize you are going to get dozens of messages over the course of 2 hours.  (Thanks to Josh who suggested Kathy text back STOP or QUIT.)
  • If someone gives you candy during something like this, you may want to eat it rather than saving it to take a photo for your blog.  (I was feeling pretty hypoglycemic by the time we headed home.) The Legal chowder at the start was a good lunch substitute since I hadn’t had time to grab something before we started off.
  • If you already know the answer, it often doesn’t help you to bypass going to a specific place.  Often you have to go there anyway to answer the follow up question.
  • A water stop or bio break.  The team got so caught up in the excitement the drinks at Felt during the after-party were desparately needed.

All-in-all — a fun and innovative way to spend a Friday afternoon.

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