Gaming in business: How playing games can improve employees reach objectives

Posted: 10th February 2017 10:16

In today’s business world, games are rarely ever seen but a mere distraction to the real work that needs to be done. If an employee were to be caught playing a game of online chess while he’s supposed to be working on a marketing plan, he is all but guaranteed to receive a reprieve from his superiors for wasting company time. But is playing games really such a detrimental activity in the workplace?
It is well known in the world of education that games are by far one of the most successful tools in teaching new concepts and developing new skills. While this may be an accepted fact when it comes to teaching children, companies fall well short of their potential in implementing the same proven techniques with their adult counterparts.
Learning by Gaming?

When it comes to furthering education or developing strategic thinking for employees, there are a handful of options that employers have always resorted to.

Books have always been a fantastic resource to learn about practically any subject an employer might want to train their personnel in, however they do not appeal to all learning types and require more time and attention span that most people these days usually have. Ultimately, the lack of interactivity does not provide a way to truly test that the concepts have been truly internalized.

Seminars may provide the latest information available by industry leaders, however they are costly and time consuming and don’t provide an individualized experience that guarantees that each employee truly grasps the necessary concepts.  Meanwhile, coaching and mentoring provide such a personal touch and therefore are fantastic options for personal development, but this is not really a scalable solution.

It is here that games come into the picture as the perfect scalable solution that not only checks all the boxes above by providing a dynamic, personalized and interactive experience at low cost, but also by allowing players a testing ground where they can fail and learn from their mistakes without real life repercussions.

This ‘sandbox’ capability provides companies with an invaluable resource, as testing out strategies in the real world may come at great cost to the enterprise, while doing so in a virtual scenario will only result in lessons learned for the future.

Therefore, with the correct approach games can help companies grow the strategic capabilities of their staff at a timely, cost effective and highly engaging manner, allowing them to adapt to today’s every changing business panorama.

While the optimal results will come from commissioning bespoke strategy games that model the company’s competitive environment and targeted skills, there are plenty of classic games that out there that will serve to improve some of the most sought after abilities in the business world.

Seeing Moves Ahead
When thinking of games that promote the development of strategic thinking, the first game that pops up in most people’s heads is Chess. And there’s a very good reason for this. Every turn, you are not only forced to react to your opponent’s previous move, but also take into consideration how your opponent will in turn react to your current move, and the implications that will have for your following turn.
In a 1992 study in New Brunswick, 450 5th grade students were split into groups - where one group received chess instruction along with their regular math curriculum since the first grade. This group outperformed the others by a whopping 21.46% in Standardized tests, and was found to have improved a visual memory, attention span, and spatial-reasoning ability.
More importantly, Chess has been also proven to considerably increase problem-solving skills, creative thinking, adaptability to ever changing conditions, and allowing its players to develop the capacity to see “moves ahead”- a crucial ability when implementing successful business strategy. You can practice your chess skills against computers or other human opponents here.
Putting Your Chips on the Table
While Chess might be an ideal exercise in logic and problem solving, it succeeds only in a context in which the player has a full clarity of information. At the beginning of each turn you know exactly where you and your opponent stand, and there are no other variables or hidden pieces of information that can blindside you. The result depends solely on your ability to make better decisions than your opponent.
As we all know however, in business this is seldom ever the case. Business executives will often face uncertain conditions and be required to react to unforeseen variables at a moment’s notice, as well as having to factor in a certain degree of chance into their calculations.
This is where card games such as Blackjack and Poker have proven to be fantastic training for some of the most important decision making skills for business, such as calculated risk, bankroll management and endurance.
In both games you must learn to adapt to the conditions presented to you, while understanding that there is a lot of information unavailable to you as well as a big degree of chance. This is a fantastic preparation for business, as it allows you to learn to make the best possible decisions you can with the information at your disposal, calculating the odds of success and even moving forward or folding accordingly.
There is also the factor of containing your emotions and not letting them affect your strategy, a problem that is often encountered in the business world. Learning to ignore frustration, anger, disappointment, fatigue and many other emotional conditions is a priceless skill that will allow you to never lose sight of the rational path when making important business decisions.
You can practice your strategic skills with card games here.
The Evolution of Video Games
Video games have come a long way since the days of Pong, with the ability to create seemingly endless worlds that can be inhabited by thousands of players at once, all of them interacting with each other to achieve different goals according to the path they choose. Sound familiar?
In some of the most popular games in the world like League of Legends, StarCraft, Counterstrike and World of Warcraft, players must team up with others to complete missions. This will result on players learning about delegating responsibility, strategic planning, teamwork, and leadership- all crucial elements to today’s workplace.
Each player will find themselves serving a particular role within their team, with each role being essential to the team’s survival and the success of their mission. Taking responsibility for their role furthers the understanding that they are part of something larger than themselves, and promotes a culture of teamwork rather than rewarding individual excellence. This of course is essential for any business organization where the companies that perform best are those working towards a unified goal, rather than butting heads over interpersonal problems.
One of the most important aspects of video games is the fact that they place players within a system with fixed rules and dynamics, forcing the player to exercise skills such as interpretative analysis, inventory management, visual memory, strategic plan formulation and execution and adapting tactics to rapid change. All of these challenges are crucial, particularly when competing against other human players who will be using the same criteria to try and gain the upper hand.
Gamification Of The Corporate World
Recognizing the value of games in learning, the business world has started to shift its attention towards the gamification of its processes. For those who are not familiar with the word, gamification is the practice of adding game-like features into typical business systems and products, in order to engage and motivate people into changing behaviors, develop skills or solve problems.

Gamification can be seen in many popular apps such as Nike+, a fitness platform, or Duolingo – the most popular language learning app in the world. These apps recognize that by adding bite-sized daily challenges and the chance to receive rewards or recognition for accomplishing them, they can help motivate players into accomplishing long term goals.

With that in mind, it’s no secret why companies have been keen to implement gamification platforms to train and encourage behaviors in their employees, providing rewards along each step of the way to guide them towards the desired long term goals for the organization.