Gamification as the new route to innovation

I have always had a keen interest in technology and the latest developments and having worked with start-ups of all kinds for enterpise boards and Enterpise Ireland, innovation has always fascinated me. Equally programmes such as Dragon’s Den would often make me wonder how little people do research, but also how rare real inventions are.The question I am puzzled by even if new inventions are quite rare and probably more failures or failed attempts need to be worked on before the next big things comes, those new next big things usually are industry changers.

Pretty much things like our I-phone, Kindle, Cloud computing, etc. are they brand new technology probably not, although I wouldn’t be techie enough to know that for sure, but yet these innovations have made a significant difference t the telephone, book and IT industry. But what is it that made the difference?Is it the fine-tuning or going beyond what already exists, is it radically new ways of doing things? I believe it is time to change the professional service industries in this same disruptive way.

Recessions have that habit of creation as a driving force to come out of the negative spiral, so how can we look at banking, accounting, legal, training, consulting and other services in a disruptively different way? My best bet is actually in learning lesson from games, a lot of the service industry is seen as stale and no longer hitting the core of what people want, because it is too reactive, unresponsive, even outdated.

If you look at popular games, they attract captive audiences in specific niches and play on the will to succeed and become better, hit higher points, beat the opponent… in fact not dissimilar to how we do business with survival of the fittest and cash as well as asset rich as the main goal. League tables are how we track performance and with the current league tables in Europe not even being published on real figures, but on a lot of hype, maybe we need the transparency of game score keeping to start from a level-playing ground. Whilst games may only at the highest level change economic rankings, maybe there is something in the analogy in it for the service business though?

Especially in the professional development industry gamification is a great opportunity, as in development through the use of games. In e-learning quizzing is standard practice and for most MBA’s you do take part in a business simulation or business game. But most regular business training environments haven’t gone very far down the road of game innovation for learners. So it made me wonder how to bring it into the business training realm.

Early in my career I played volleyball for a week throughout a corporate training course and every day lessons were drawn from how we played the game to how we would behave in real life. These lessons have always stuck to me and I often question myself after playing i-phone games whilst travelling, when I get particularly frustrated about beating the computer players. I can be quite competitive and really dislike unfair or intentionally blocking behaviour and both in games as well as real life I would feel strongly about both.

Games teach us about reactions to situations, strategic positioning, competitive instinct and all sorts of other skills employers would most definitely like to know about staff. Games for teams again can be superbly powerful, so my intention is to look for more games in my courses to stimulate learning and self-awareness.

Last night I also dreamt about delivering an innovation course about business process improvements based on games. I have to say I often have strange dreams, but this one didn’t leave me, so I decided to write about it. I was asking service based business people to take part in the following survey:
– What games do you play?
– Why do you play each of them?
– How did you get started with them?
– What is the satisfaction or fun factor in them?
– Can you apply some of the processes to how you do business?
– Can you make your services better or smoother based on the games you love to play?

I reckon there must be innovations in these questions for all kinds of businesses from IT to legal or even finance. Imagine having your accountant teaching you about business finance through a game instead of spouting finance jargon at you, which at best ou try to understand and fail to ask relevant question because you are afraid to look stupid or uneducated. I can see this work quite well.

In training it is ideal and adult learners always learn better in context, so games will be something I will actively look for… so if you have come across some good ones…by all means share in comments.