Leadership Lessons From Board Game Mechanics
A few years ago the term “gamification” briefly became the vogue trend in business, much of which still exists today in certain manifestations. This was the application of game elements, mostly videogames, into processes to increase engagement, flow, or end-user experience.
As with any new development in new business models and techniques, this approach was both met with success and also mis-applied. Many that made gamificaiton work had infused fun and achievement into their workplace. Others that failed either mis-appropriated the principles or the fit was night right for their culture or business model.
However there is an effective way to incorporate game elements into your business and organization – by using the basic mechanics from board games.
The board game industry may seem like a trivial amusement fad, yet the mathematical processes and strategies that go into design and game play have served this industry well – to the tune of $9.4-9.6 billion of revenues worldwide.
Because of this, we can draw some ideas from their mechanics and find ways to apply them to making our organizations better.
- Social interaction. Board games are hugely popular because they are social by nature. Bringing people together in friendly competition or joint cooperative fun has always caused people to connect at a high level, Creating more fun and engaging social interaction will enable your team to compete and collaborate more effectively and without barriers.
- Minimize randomness. The Eurogame industry which fueled the board game boom in the late 1990s created games such as Puerto Rico or Agricola that were highly dependent on using items other than dice. This minimized the chance randomness and led to a more smooth and balanced gameplay. Companies can minimize randomness by discerning certain risks, constructing a smooth workflow, and designing better processes by beta testing to ensure minimal variables can disrupt the system when things are in motion.
- Worker placement & resource management. As the game Settlers of Catan showcased, these are two popular mechanics that allow people to place their pawns on the board to access areas to their advantage, and to manage the limited resources available to all players to make the most strategic use of what can be gained. An organization that knows where to place their people effectively, and can create solid products and services from limited resources (or superb products and services from abundant resources should they have them) is showing they care not to waste these precious commodities and will consistently have higher returns for their efforts than the average organization.
- Build your engine. In some games, the player needs to acquire cards, money, spaces, and other items in order to generate more cards, spaces and money in return. The classic game of Monopoly highlights this effect. Good companies know that to generate resources and money in smaller efforts that will generate even greater returns on these items more and more as time goes on is an effective means to a great ROI.
- Cooperative experience. Not all games pit players against each other. Some games, like party games or the game Pandemic or Flash Point, will pit players to team up against the game itself to save the world from a plague or a house from burning down. And not all business has to have a one winner condition. Building teamwork, team goals, and team success and developing their skills and talents in ways that individual goals could never do. And even if the team does not achieve it’s goal, the by-product of learning from others and building a stronger culture within a groups will reap long-term dividends.
- Replayability. Some games are good a few times, then become old quickly. The best games have variety built-in, never being the same twice, and always leave room for new scenarios and outcomes to occur. A successful company likewise shouldn’t be a one-trick pony – having a verity of solid people, goods, and services that can provide more to your customers is essential. Even if your organization specialize in a small niche, there is a wide array of service that can support that product, and people that can provide those services. Diversify within your model so your customers won’t get bored and shelf you for something more fun and exciting down the road.
Finding new ways to generate innovative processes and goals for your organization is what every leader works towards. Leadership principles can be found in every place if you look for them. Even in our digital age we can be inspired by bits of cardboard to teach us how to get better.