Why Are Innovation Games Essential To Finding Big New Ideas?

Why do people love to play games, and how can Innovation Games help you solve complex problems faster?

Once when I was sitting down and discussing business with my partner (and wife!) Andi Simon, she told me about a large healthcare organization which was looking to develop an effective cost-reduction program. We both agreed that the success of this reduction program would depend on getting past the “we have always done it this way” mantra.

I immediately thought of Einstein’s definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

All joking aside, sometimes, as businesspeople, we get into a rut when looking for a solution to a problem. Sometimes it requires us to open our eyes and seek solutions differently.

Throw away the past and try game-playing

A number of years ago, Andi and I were introduced to Innovation Games as a way to help companies create a culture of innovation, explore new markets and identify untapped opportunities. Why games? Because games or “play” allow people to engage differently. They free their brains from preconceived mind-maps and old associations (such as, “We have always done it this way”). They help them create new ideas, often in playful ways, without risking their egos or endangering their jobs.

Our training

We did our Innovation Games training in Brussels in 2011 with some brilliant people who had multicultural experiences. We learned that whatever the category or the language, these “games” enable all types of people to find solutions in imaginative, innovative and creative ways. We also learned that by forcing participants into a collaborative environment where there are no bad ideas, they encourage spontaneous creativity.

What games to use?

There are dozens of games to choose from. Some business challenges require the use of single games, others require multiple games. The key to understanding which one(s) to use is the experience of the facilitator. Here are some of the problems Innovation Games can help solve:

  • Uncover unspoken, unmet consumer needs
  • Find breakthrough opportunities
  • Make better strategic decisions
  • Identify a Blue Ocean Strategy® for growth
  • Understand how your services fit your customers’ needs and lifestyles (or don’t)
  • Deliver the right new features
  • Better understanding of the customer experience
  • Enable your team to hang out and watch customers solve problems
  • Find new market space that people haven’t even thought about
  • Engage your customers in co-creating your products or services
  • Substantially improve the way your company is doing things
  • Increase efficiencies and find better ways to produce or service your products
  • Establish budgets or funding priorities

A case study to share

Not long ago, I spent two days with a client helping his team develop new ideas to ignite change in his organization. He wasn’t sure how to get them from worrying, as they were coming out of the post-pandemic period. We discussed the options and kept coming back to the power and value of Innovation Games.

The two days were quite enjoyable, illustrating how people can adapt to things they don’t know, and also how scared they can be of something unfamiliar to them. Consequently, we had to think through how to introduce his team to the whole concept of Innovation Games, while at the same time helping them see that they were capable of creatively solving the problems confronting them.

Here is the sequence we used to take the participants from the beginning of the day through the game-playing experience to some significant conclusions. We began by playing the game “Reverse Everything,” where they took all the things they were doing now and decided not do them in the future.

IG reverse everything2-1

While this felt uncomfortable, it became pretty easy for them to see how they could expand their possibilities if only they let their creative energy come out and think about the future. With all those ideas happening in the room, it would be hard not to see the opportunities in front of them. We encouraged them to begin with the few that made the most sense and develop a vision of tomorrow.

A great concept came from the “Build a Better Product Box” game, where they had to take what they were doing now and invent the next stage of the product. Watching each table create wild and woolly ideas was great fun, some of which were very useful, even in today’s business environment. As the players became more comfortable, we could see how they embraced the paradox of choice, where they had more ideas than they could implement.

innovation games2-2

Then we took them through “Remember the Future,” a game where you visualize what tomorrow’s products or company would become and then backward plan how you got there.

Before you knew it, the two days had gone by with fun, amusement and creative energy. The CEO was fascinated by what his folks knew and could do. And, he himself learned a great deal, specifically how to free up his people to create ideas and a plan to implement them.

Innovation Games can work in many ways for any industry

Why are Innovation Games so successful? Because they free the mind from its constraints and enable us to think bigger and better about possibilities. Particularly in these fast-changing times, they are essential to any company’s toolkit.

Innovation Games graphic-1

Want to learn more?

Listen in to Andi and myself talk in depth about Innovation Games in this On the Brink with Andi Simon podcast: Innovation Games Are What You Need To Imagine Your Future.

More resources on how Innovation Games can help unlock your company’s potential:

Innovation Games: serious play to do serious work, seriously!!

We would love to tell you more about how Innovation Games can help your company “see, feel and think” in new ways and convert those new ideas into effective, profitable innovations. Since all Innovation Games can be customized and combined in different ways, you might find it helpful to let us guide you in your decision process when you’re choosing which games would best address your organization’s specific challenges. To learn how Innovation Games can jump-start new breakthrough solutions for your company, please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you.



From Observation to Innovation,


Andy Simon
Partner, Simon Associates Management Consultants