Games, games, games…

playcampIf ever there was a word guaranteed to ensure that communication fails, it’s “game”. Or possibly “play”. As J L Gillin wrote in 1914,

Play was once looked upon as an evil necessary but incident to childhood and youth. It was a matter which parents, guardians, and teachers had to put up with as best they might … In adults, play -childish, useless play – was not only foolish; it was sinful.

This work ethic is laudable, but, as Stuart Brown observes in his book entitled Play,

The ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person.

So, play is both essential to our welfare and to being innovative – two qualities which are key priorities in the contemporary workplace – and yet, play is also something that is frowned upon in the business environment. After all, play is the very antithesis of achieving business goals, driving revenue streams and promoting efficiency, isn’t it?

However, were I to suggest that you could use structured activities which allows you to engage large numbers of employees to help them collaborate to prioritise the organisation’s project portfolios and ensure that there is extensive buy-in and commitment to a collective decision, you’d likely be excited by this.

Not only do such activities exist, but they’re games; specifically, an Innovation Game (it comes from Luke Hohmann’s eponymous book and associated website). Organisations who use the game report that people who engage in the game feel involved in the decision making process (43% under traditional methods vs 71% using serious games). So why is it a game?

It’s a game because it’s a voluntary activity which is inherently attractive and done for its own sake. It’s a game because it promotes collaboration and diminishes the sense of self. It’s a game because it encourages improvisation and people want to continue playing. It’s a game because there is a clear playing field and there are rules which define the valid moves.

Serious Games can address disparate business problems:

  • How do we design and develop our product?
  • How do we understand what is important to our customers?
  • How can we visualise and get commitment to a meeting agenda?
  • What is holding our team back?
  • How can we convey status information to people in an engaging way?

In short, games – whatever adjective we attach to them – are a powerful solution to addressing every day issues that people like YOU are trying to solve. Play benefits everyone: you get answers and your teams get improved productivity and morale. Play, today, is serious, productive and innovative.

Sound interesting?

Playcamp UK 2016 is Great Britain’s gathering of serious games practitioners, exchanging ideas, exploring new models and mentoring one another.

Keynote sessions (or should it be Keyplays?) from Gojko Adzic, Christian Hassa, Jonathan Clark and Jürgen De Smet.

If you are a workshop facilitator, Agile Coach, Scrum Master, Product Owner, BA, PM or just interested in leading better workshops, this event is for you.

Friday 13 May 2016 in at the BCS venue in London.


About David Waldock

Open University graduate, health and life science at undergraduate level, science and society at post-graduate. Interested in how the Internet is transforming the ways in which the public(s) engage with science(s). Also interested in "the skeptical movement" as a form of science activism and it's effectiveness in achieving its goals. Interested in the representation of LGB types in science and in the periscience communities. Work for a well known and loved public institution. Views are mine and not necessarily my employers.

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