Who wants to play a game?

One of my memories of years gone by was wondering if one of our presents for Christmas would be a new board game.  We ended up with lots of games: Monopoly, Cluedo (known as Clue in North America), Spy Ring, Go, to name but a few. I spent many hours playing them with my Mum and my brother.

Family playing a board game togetherLooking back it was quite a learning experience: Monopoly was the first time I came across the concept of loans and mortgages; Cluedo developed logical thinking; Go taught me where various far off countries where on the globe; Spy Ring taught me how to spell the word “fish” in lots of different languages! OK I admit the last one isn’t that useful a skill, but it also showed me that some languages use different alphabets and introduced me to the world of international espionage.

Then we grew up.  Whilst at school there was less time for playing games and at University my game playing was limited to bar football (aka foosball) and Paragon, a particular type of pinball machine.  My learning was no longer through playing games – that had been replaced by classrooms and lecture theatres.  I would sit there and be taught to, with very little interaction or engagement.  No more playing games.  But is that sensible?

Nowadays my main role is as a Leadership & Management Coach; however a secondary role is helping people in businesses to learn through playing games.  Not any old games of course; I run sessions using computer-based business simulation games.  The games end up being so much more effective than traditional classroom type training.  There is still an element of skills training; however instead of the participants going back to their desks and forgetting their new skills by the time they come across a situation that requires them, they immediately immerse themselves in a business simulation and try out their newly learnt skills in a realistic environment.  Learning is far deeper and the skills are more memorable for when they are needed in the real world.

But there’s more. There are learnings beyond normal skills training.  I remember the very first game I was involved with, which was a supply-chain game.  People were split into teams which represented different departments of the same company: commercial; operations; purchasing; and logistics.  For the first two rounds of the game the teams concentrated on the laptop on their table, crunching the numbers, trying to optimise production for the next six months.  It was only by the third or fourth round they suddenly realised they could talk to people on the next table! By discussing the various options open to them they came up with better strategies, better proposals and ultimately the company as a whole achieved a far better result. The game allowed them not only to learn that communications between departments is key to success, they also learnt about and appreciated the pressures and difficulties faced by others in their own organisation.

Just like when I was small playing board games with my family, organisations playing business simulation games gain a huge benefit in learning from increased engagement and interaction.

So when you’re playing games with your family this Christmas, consider if playing games at work might not only be enjoyable and engaging, but also a great learning experience.

Mike Jones works in association with Do>Learn>Do, specialists in producing computer-based business simulation games.  If you would like to know how business simulation games can improve the people in your business, call Mike now on +44 (0)1908 509088 or email mike@potentialmatters.co.uk.

About Mike Jones

Mike Jones is an executive coach specialising in developing Emotional Intelligence through transitional and performance coaching. You can contact him directly on +44(0)7747 011 589 or via mike@potentialmatters.co.uk

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