Let's start with a business game. It may be recalled that a business game represents a workflow imitation, a simulation of possible situations, or a schematic alternative to professional activity. Participants are invited to operate under artificially created conditions acting exactly as they would at their real-life work. As a game progresses, they make decisions and analyze consequences, draw conclusions and improve their performance. Striving for success, participants make joint efforts by utilizing the skills available. A game may follow the rules, but the outcome, just as life itself, is unpredictable. There are no right or wrong decisions, only commercial ones - those which lead to certain results and patterns to be found.
Business games were initially created to practice potential scenarios to be encountered in the workplace. The idea of scenarios not only allows you to practice basic skills like negotiating but also to develop complex behavioral constructs. These include planning, forecasting, situation management, systems thinking, and decision-making. Today, corporate business games serve as a way to find answers to difficult questions, test hypotheses, and build positive trends within a team.
Corporate games may have one or more different purposes. The main purposes of a business game are as follows:
We can see now that corporate games, among other things, have an educational purpose. Let's take a closer look at how business games differ from training in terms of learning opportunities.
First of all, business games offer more complex learning challenges. In a corporate game, we can simulate the situation with many factors considered, such as the specifics of a given company and its business processes. A business game, in fact, can even test new business processes to see if they actually work.
Training, on the other hand, only addresses a certain aspect of a process or situation and thereby focuses on improving a very specific set of skills.
Typically, training sessions have no plot, while a business game invites participants to act within a given scenario. Games teach you to build higher-level interconnections among individual skills, as well as to create new scenarios. They still can be used to practice specific skills, but in a more life-like way: within a particular context and under certain constraints.
Thus, a game develops a set of skills, whereas training only covers one skill or a group of one-type skills.
Besides, a corporate game typically has a starting and ending point, while training may not even have time limits if the outcome is to be strictly specified. A game may also have an indefinite duration, but it always implies certain limitations.
A game always features a problem, whether it is competition, conflict of interest, or lack of resources. Another important part of any game is an unpredictable outcome. In a game, the paths you follow to solve a certain task are not linear. You must dig through the multitude of options to find the best and most effective way.
A game brings benefits and a unique experience to everyone, with losers learning the lessons and winners memorizing the Success Formula. The awareness of everything being just a game enables maximum involvement and immersion in the conditions emulated. For some participants, it is their first experience of living through and trying on a particular situation.
After all, the most effective way to gain experience is through activity. And that is exactly the kind of method a game employs.
Don't forget that we remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, and 90% of what we do.
Unlike training, a game generates not a skill, but a model. For instance, a model of behavior, which helps to maximize performance, identify new concepts, avoid risks, etc. During a game, players have a chance to create a new model and check the existing one, along with identifying the links missing.
All the things you learn in training - selling, financing, communication, negotiation - are the blocks to build a model from during a game. If you don't have enough blocks, your model comes out way too primitive. And what a game is intended for is to reveal the shortfall.
A game can be used as an alternative to training. In fact, games are even believed to be more effective. But there is a condition: if the game is expected to practice certain skills, participants must already have theoretical and practical competencies to work with. In other words, they must be familiar with the tools to be applied during the game. A game does not give any knowledge, it only teaches ways to put it into practice.
But can a game actually replace training? Remember the key purpose of training: to give new knowledge in the shortest possible time, to build the core competencies, and to practice the skills needed for the gained knowledge to be finally applied.
It's not uncommon for employees to possess certain skills but never use them in work for various reasons. They might be forgotten or poorly practiced and therefore more effort-consuming. As a result, a person chooses to solve a problem in another way or even worse, leaves it unsolved.
Some people have both skills and knowledge, but no understanding of how those can be applied. In this case, games offer a perfect opportunity to unleash the existing potential.
A game creates an excellent playground to activate and practice the skills available, thereby learning to use the tools you already have under your belt. And while a game is very likely to contain educational aspects, it's not a must-be.