Can Meaningful Play Convert Engineers Into Gamers?

chessBy George It Certainly Can!
We recently conducted a full-day of Innovation Games® for a company that wanted to re-imagine their business. The President/CEO of the company chose 30 or so of his managers, many of whom were engineers,to help re-think their company. They and their CFO and sales team and marketers all came together to play. We were warned that many of the people were not only “engineers” but had been with the company over 15 or even 20 years. Could we really help them “re-imagine” a business they have lived in for so long?

This was a serious business moment. For them to grow they had to really dig deep and rethink their business. Our challenge for the day’s games? “What can you imagine for your company that is not just “more of the same, but better” or “more of the same, but cheaper.” The company was growing steadily. To tackle the big guys they realized that they had tojump-start some new lines of business or open up some new markets. It was even time to rethink some of the well-established operational processes that had gotten them to where they were. Were all those SKUs really necessary? Had we made the product too complicated and pricey without real value? How could we sustain our growth in one market and open a new one at the same time?Did we have the resources and the talent? These were big questions and needed a team effort to discover the solutions.

So we played. First we deconstructed the business using a “Reverse Assumption Exercise.” This is such an important start to any creative process. We got the six groups idea-generatingby reversing everything they did today. By not doing the same things tomorrow, they began to “see, feel and think” in new ways. The teams started slowly and then began to come up with really big ideas—and lots of them. Really lots of cool ideas that even startled some of the most resistant team players.

Next we took the ideas and “Built a Better Product Box.” That was so much fun to watch. Engineers and sales leaders, marketers and financial folks all embraced the idea that they were building a better product for their company—six big ideas turning into new ways to grow. Take a look at the engagement in the pictures down below. This was a team of talented people deep into rethinking their business and creating new ways to solve consumer and commercial client problems.

They then had to present us with their new products. Their presentations were very dynamic. What was so interesting was they became marketers.They told us about their new product ideas and sold us on the reasons why it was superior to other solutions on the market.

After lunch we reconvened to sort through the products and the ideas with a “Now, Wow and How” from the Gamestorming Team game. This is a simple but very effective way to prioritize an abundance of good ideas. What could we do “Now?” What might be a great big idea that could “Wow” the market? And what ideas were just out of our scope of skills–really “How” could we do that?

And finally, we used a card game from Competing Values Framework to see how the company might need to change its culture. What was clear from the game was that there were very few people who valued collaboration and team work over and above the other cultural options of competition or creativity or control. By physically moving around the room and talking about what they valued and believed were the best ways to get things done, they started their own awakening about how their culture, of engineers, should begin to become a slightly different culture, where there might even be more room for engineers to be creatives.

As we debriefed, it became clear that bringing folks together from different departments and conducting a day of meaningful play can lead to both a stronger team and a robust, energized innovative culture where new ideas can emerge and surge. But it doesn’t end there. The President/CEO took them on day two on his own journey to start their transformation into a new company. The team was more leading than following and excited about what could be done, rather than why they couldn’t do it.