In business, playing the game is important. But game playing can be just as crucial to business success, says John Handley. Just taking part, though, is not enough. You have to aspire to learn and be willing to put ideas into practice if you really want to add a new - human - dimension to your business strategy.
Business games can transcend geographical and cultural boundaries, and they work between various management levels and different business functions - between education and industry, public sector and private enterprise.
So, what exactly are business games, or simulations? Think of them as the commercial management equivalent of the simulator for racing-drivers, pilots or astronauts. Using a business simulation, a group of people can test commercial decision-making in a relatively risk-free environment, with only personal egos at stake, and without the risk of commercial failure.
Organisations request our simulations for many uses:
- to develop commercial awareness;
- to highlight interdepartmental understanding and co-operation;
- to consolidate corporate identity following organisational re-structuring, mergers or acquisitions;
- to encourage and develop strategic vision and creative thinking; to develop teamwork and decision-making skills;
- to encourage networking by bringing together personnel from different geographical locations;
- or as part of an detailed assessment.
Games often come into play at company conferences as a tool to change the pace, offering a quick shift into group activity, which can motivate, challenge and instruct. Learning with fun is a potent mix.
One beauty of a business game is that it can meet diverse objectives, and can be 'topped and tailed' to meet precise goals. Some contend that it is 'only a game', that what goes on in the game play is not what would happen in real life. But experienced facilitators argue just the opposite: What goes on within the business game group frequently mirrors day to day personal confrontations and different perspectives which can either enrich or, more frequently sadly, hinder or even de-rail the decision-making process.
"What happened today is what happens at work," is an expression one often hears at the end of a business game. However, "I did all the numbers, I told them how it was and what we had to do, but they wouldn't listen - until