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HBR Article Dissects Why Playing Games Improves Your Strategy-Making Skills

The Harvard Business Review published earlier this week a must read article by Martin Reeves and Georg Wittenburg titled Games Can Make You a Better Strategist.

Martin is the Director of the Bruce Henderson Institute at The Boston Consulting Group and lead author of the new book Your Strategy Needs a Strategy  (HBR Press, 2015). Georg was the main architect of the companion iPad game, Your Strategy Needs a Strategy, and is now CEO and co-founder of Insightfully, an automated analytics start-up based in Berlin.

Leveraging on their work with executives and strategy games, the authors explore in depth five distinct benefits of using games for enhancing strategy formulation and execution skills: games provide inexpensive real-time feedback, games allow managers to deeply engage with ideas by incorporating interactivity, they also allow structured analysis of an executive’s behavior as well as different scenarios to be tested, and can be rolled out easily to many managers.

This is how the article opens: “Play has long infused the language of business: we talk of players, moves, end games, play books and so on. Even so, actual games are still taboo in most organizations. And the corporate executive playing games to improve his or her strategy-making skills is still rare.”

The authors regret the underlying paradox as they believe that games have an important place in cultivating good strategists, and that now more than ever games can give executives an edge over their competition. They explain why:

“First, there has never been a greater need for companies to learn new ways of doing things in response to a complex and dynamic business environment. And second, the sophistication and effectiveness of strategy games at our disposal has risen tremendously. In the past two decades, strategy games have evolved from dull monochrome dialogs to well-designed AI-based apps.”

“We think that the next generation strategy apps will finally be able to prove a real business case. Just consider some the advantages games have over more traditional approaches in strategy education. Books are great to foster intellectual understanding but are not interactive and do not reflect the reality of busy schedules and declining attention spans. Live pilots are highly realistic but costly, time consuming and risky. And coaching or mentoring approaches have great merits for personal development, but are hard to scale.”

“Games on the other hand can create an experiential, interactive and tailored understanding of strategy at low cost and in a scalable manner. They allow managers to suspend normal rules in an acceptable way and they provide an effective audiovisual medium for absorbing ideas.”

The articles also covers the Your Strategy Needs A Strategy game, available on the App Store.

The Serious Game was created by The Boston Consulting Group and Neofonie, a Berlin-based mobile computing company, to allow users to develop a hands on appreciation of the importance of choosing the right approach to strategy and execution in each business environment.

It was released at the same time as the book with the same name. It features short rounds of game play in different environments and provides a running commentary on how the player is performing. A leader board allows comparison across players and identifies “best-in-class” strategists. Post action replay allows players to understand the consequences of their action (see the IPad screenshots below). And contextualized links to relevant content allows players to deepen their understanding of what happened and why.

Your Strategy Needs a Strategy is a hands on learning tool for business executives, students, and curious strategists of any kind to experience strategic environments and understand how to choose and execute the right approach to strategy. Using the simplest of businesses - selling lemonade, players must adapt their strategic approach to the various business environments of New York City's five boroughs. Based on the insights of the book Your Strategy Needs a Strategy, this app brings to life the different strategic approaches necessary to survive and thrive in today's dynamic and diverse business environments.

Read the full HBR article here