Before going to dive in the actual sea during your first scuba diving course, you traditionally jump into a swimming pool with the dive gear and your instructor. Now, you go to the pool because you’ll want to test the gear. You want to do so because, perhaps, you are sceptic about the dive gear – “Can I really breathe underwater?”, but most of all because you are not familiar with scuba diving. You want to take the risk that’s involved with diving, but you’ll want to first do it with reduced consequences. There’s no waves, currents nor salty water in the pool. There’s no spiky corals nor poisonous creatures. There’s no visibility issues or depth- nor decompression limits. When you’re in the pool, all you need to do is stand up and you’ll be on dry land.
Serious games for business are what swimming pools are to scuba diving: platforms for taking risks with reduced consequences.
So, how do serious games allow us to take risks with reduced consequences?
In its simplicity, serious games provide a unique setup for personal expression – the essence of creativity and innovation. Serious games allow us to mitigate consequences there is in bringing forth, developing and choosing ideas in brainstorming, leadership and project meetings. In practise, this means you’ll be able to come up with more ideas. You’ll also be able to develop the ideas further with co-creation. In addition, you’ll be able to inspect and reflect more on the ideas with dialogue that surrounds the questions. As an end product, you’ll receive insights to solve and further develop your issue.
Now, why do serious games allow us to do this?
Gathering around a board game is like gathering around a campfire, you start telling the most imaginative stories. This is largely due to psychological safety. The idea behind psychological safety is that you are allowed to initiate without permission, and even if the action leads to a failure, you will not be, for instance, fired.
This idea that psychological safety is the #1 biggest contributor to innovation might sound silly. However, Google has done significant research about the characteristics of the world’s most innovative teams. The research gives the number one spot for making the difference in innovative teams to psychological safety. (You can check the other elements here.)
“Psychological safety is the biggest distinction in innovative teams.”
–Frederik Pferdt, Google Chief Innovation Evangelist
And, what does that have to do with serious games?
Well, the purpose of our games is to drive learning. And, if your mindset is set for learning, you can inspect and act a little more from a bird-eye perspective. This means that things are not personal. Thus, and since we are looking matters from a 3rd perspective – objective point of view -, we see ourselves and others as equal. This subsidises to psychological safety and ultimately allows us to contribute more.And, what does that have to do with serious games?
Further, our games are engaging by design. There’s elements of play and simulation. And, to borrow from our definition of play “being captured by flow in a creative and joyful act which is governed by fixed or thought rules “, we access a state that makes us both present, creative and joyful. This makes us the beforementioned, however it is the idea that actions don’t make an impact outside the room that removes failure from the equation. In other words, to play is taking risks with reduced consequences.
Serious games make a space that supports learning, removes boundaries between people, is engaging and simulating – and even encouraging. By so, serious games are what swimming pools are to scuba diving: platforms for taking risks with reduced consequences.