Seven reasons how serious gaming can benefit change

15 May 2019 Consultancy.eu

While companies face complex new problems from a constantly evolving, technology driven economy, finding a way to test and prove theories and practices without dealing with negative repercussions can be a life-line for modern businesses. According to InContext founder Thomas Benedict, however, good reasons to use games in business go well beyond the conventional benefit of profitability.

While it is often accused of sounding like a “buzzword”, or lacking in substance, the proponents of serious gaming are gradually showing that it can be of major benefits to companies which deploy it. In its simplest form, serious gaming is gaming with a primary purpose other than entertainment. Instead, the main goal is to show how taking decisions, increasing insight, selecting certain options or a certain situation, such as an acquisition, may impact a business in a safe environment.

Twenty five years on from founding InContext, a global change management consultancy headquartered in the Netherlands, owner and managing partner Thomas Benedict has worked consistently to help businesses develop and adopt new innovative practices. Benedict is a facilitator and organisational consultant for a wide variety of Dutch and international companies where much of his work is focused on setting strategy and running large scale change programs.

A strong advocate of ‘gamification’, Benedict has also developed more than 30 business games and simulations during his career, while he continues to regularly build new ones. In conversation with Consultancy.eu, the co-author of the book 'Gamification for business' further extolled the virtues of games in business, while outlining the key benefits they can achieve.

Seven reasons how serious gaming can advance change

“If you want your decisions to be qualified and quicker,” he expanded, “or to get all the different stakeholders on board, and avoid the twin pitfalls of pseudo-innovation and lack of alignment, using games in business can provide a surprisingly effective solution. Gamification can be a highly effective way for dealing with organisational challenges, and creating cross-functional communication to accelerate organisational performance.”

Seven reasons

First, he explained, they can be essential to breaking down silos. A silo mentality is present in a company when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. While this was unhelpful before, in an age when companies are expected to be agile and responsive to change, this presents a major barrier to progress.

Benedict commented, “Many organisations work in silos, and this often leads to communication problems between the different areas in question. Games in business can solve these problems by creating a third space for cross functional collaboration.”

On a second front, he added that games in business can help break out of the monotonous cycle of having meetings for the sake of meetings. Many meetings in businesses often end up as tiresome rituals that lead to nothing, apart from talk. The InContext founder asserted that gamification can really engage people in important topics, and create productive and hands on dialogues.

Remarking on the third area gaming can help with, Benedict followed up, “Games in business create a bridge between theory and practice by combining relevant theoretical perspectives with situated practices.”

With multiple problems currently facing modern businesses, amid a swiftly altering market, bridging this gap can be essential to keeping pace with, or even leading, a business sector. Theory and practice are still often handled as disconnected knowledge areas, however, and without techniques like gamification to challenge it, this could leave a business in a serious predicament.

Mitigating the clash between ongoing operations and innovation is the fourth area in which games can help. Benedict explained that organisations often struggle to find a balance between running their daily operations and creating new competitive advantages. Games in business can therefore provide a safe space for scenario implementation and concept testing.

At the same time, within this environment of safety, Benedict said games could also be leveraged to untangle complex problems. He added, “Rapidly changing markets and technologies lead to the need to solve complex problems. Games in business can create clarity by accessing problems from multiple perspectives.”

Interestingly, the sixth front opened up by gamification is the shaking up the roles people play at work. Organisational structures and fixed power relations can hinder collaboration, having become entrenched by generations of top-down business governance. In a more agile age, however, games in business can create temporary pockets of spontaneity, informality and even playfulness, which open alternative links between different people, regardless of where they are in the organisation.

Finally, Benedict concluded, games in business can bolster trustworthy relationships between staff who can at times be more alienated than ever before from one another, thanks to the constant treadmill of business which modern technology has enabled.

To that end, he added, “In today’s working environment there is little room for interpersonal relationships. Games in business can create informal social interactions where all people are able to get actively involved for the benefit of quality collaboration and high creativity.”


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