All the world's a stage - time to play the game!


Image from casualchess.org

Gamification is a big deal in online learning these days - all credible e-learning businesses need to think about how to make their learning more interactive, more adaptive. Welcome gamification - a process of making your lesson like a game; after all, we all know the addictive effects of online games, like Candy Crush, World of Warcraft or Minecraft. By using the gaming effect on learning, we get better engaged learners, and through repetition, they get embedded in memory better. Welcome to gamification. Yet, the things that make games effective would also make your innovation efforts more successful. In this article we talk about using game theory in your innovation efforts, engaging more people to create greater value for your business.

Fundamentals of games

Before we talk about gaming for innovation, let's look at what makes games, games. These fundamentals are present both for business innovation as it is for play:

1. Rules

Let's take chess as an example. Chess has a set of rules to play by. You cannot simply move out of turn, or in any direction of choice. Play is governed by rules. In the same way, innovation is a process that is governed by processes and rules. You can go about it in a haphazard manner, but that would not yield much; there will be more waste than gain. Hence, you need to learn what to do, and how to do it, for innovation to work for you.

2. A play board

There are 64 alternating white and black squares in an 8-by-8 grid chess board. You cannot play outside of this board, and the relative position of the pieces either connotes a winning position or a losing one. As in chess, innovation is also governed by a play board, which defines who the stakeholders are, what products/services you are working with, and how you are going to deliver them. Not knowing the boundaries of your innovation workshop will leave you overstretched, and out of resources before you get any results. Keep focus on your landscape (some people call this the sandbox).

3. Artefacts

All the chess pieces are artefacts. When you see the rook, you immediately know what it can or cannot do. Similarly, the Queen, bishop, pawn or knight. Each of these artefacts hold some information without which, the game cannot be played. In the same sense, your innovation game requires artefacts. Post-Its, diagrams, prototypes, these are all artefacts of innovation and if one is to be successful at innovation, one needs to be able to yield these artefacts competently. They don't have to be complex tools, but innovation has never taken place witjout the use of artefacts.

4. The Beginning, the Body, and the End

Just as in a movie or in a book, a game has a beginning, where the plot is developed, the characters are introduced, and the mystery is established. This is a divergent process, where more and more information is introduced. Then comes the body, where there is an interaction of the information that was first introduced. This opens up to combinations, to experimentations, to expansion of ideas. There are random walks around this space as new and novel ideas are developed. Then there is the end, where the game comes to a conclusion through the convergence of thought and ideas, and through actions that bring about a new outcome. Just as in the game, innovation is also very much like this - there is the divergent aspect of thinking, there is the experimentation of ideas, and a convergence towards a decision and an action.

By viewing innovation as a game, and developing this game to make it more immersive, we can make it less threatening, less nebulous and more focused. By understanding the rules of innovation, and the artefacts with which to play the game, we can drive new ideas and products through the development mill much faster and more effectly.

So let's first uncover the rules of innovation - the subject of our next article.

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