People sometimes wonder how learning agility with a serious game works and what is its added value compared with more traditional learning approaches. So let me share with you how I do it with the ocean racing game that I developed for that purpose.
First, let us remember what is meant by agility: agility is the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, in a way which keeps the performance level as high as possible.
Hence, at the heart of agility lies the concept of decision quality.
And another point which should be made clear here is that agility goes beyond the use of specific agile methodologies such as Scrum, for example. Agility implies the adoption of a mindset, attitudes and behaviours towards change, which will be conducive to value creation and ultimately make the difference between success and failure.
Serious games, by their scenario-based nature, enable both to learn specific processes and to practice the skills to turn them into performance levers in e.g. volatile environments.
Now, why use ocean racing as the backdrop for a management serious game instead of a particular business context? Because sailing offers many learning advantages for the development of agility competences.
Sailing is already widely associated with the management lingo and leadership representations. Just think about the numerous business expressions borrowed from the sailing vocabulary. Then, ocean racing is probably the sport resembling most today’s business context, as races involve multiple opponents vying for the same objective in conditions beyond their control, in order to win.
Will it work if participants know nothing about sailing? Yes it will, because their purpose is to take participants out of their comfort zone to train them to grasp new situations successfully.
Unlike, say, flight simulators, serious games are not business simulators. Their purpose is not to train people to react to known situations or manage predefined incidents. Serious games are designed to develop the situational analysis, which will optimise the quality of decisions, when faced with situations for which reproducing past solutions won’t necessarily be a recipe for success. That is the world we are living in. Why?
Technology in particular has lowered barriers to competition, boosted innovation and unleashed entrepreneurship and, as a consequence, business models and value chains are being redefined across all sectors.
Established players have therefore to embrace new approaches or enter new markets to preserve, consolidate or enhance their position. To be successful at that, it is crucial to understand where value resides and which levers to pull to realise it, whilst managing the associated risks. Now back to the illustration of these kind of situations in the serious game itself.
In the ocean racing serious game I created, the participants are tasked with the design of a competitive sailboat capable of winning a race around the world. They have a set budget, which can’t be exceeded, performance and security constraints they have to comply with and risks to manage.
They can either buy and redesign an existing boat or build a new one from scratch.
The race itself is split in a number of legs during which the teams will design their boat and test it against the other teams in racing conditions
Between the race legs, the boat performance is analysed and the causes of performance or underperformance are identified, using techniques borrowed from the Lean methodology.
The teams then go back to the drawing board and try to improve their design based on the lessons learned, in order to achieve a better performance in the next leg.
When using this approach to develop a team’s agility in the frame of a Scrum training, for example, the race legs enable to reproduce the iterative nature of the sprints.
The participants in the game are grouped in teams of 4 or more and assume the various roles defined in the methodology (product owner, scrum master, customer, team member).
Prior to get started with the boat design, the team spends time creating the epic describing what their product should do and look like, they define value and build the backlog which they will use throughout the game.
Between the race legs, the focus lies on the analysis of the boat performance, in relation to the design choices and the team dynamics, the roles & responsibilities, the communication, the decision-making process, the management of time and resources.
The findings of this exercise are used to draw parallels with workplace situations, highlights areas for improvement and best practices already in use.
The benefits of this process is that the participants will not only learn to apply Scrum, they will also do so by concentrating on acquiring the mindset by which competitiveness is achieved, through careful trade-offs between value, features and risks.
Transposed back in their own environment, this ensures that projects will take advantage of both the team’s experience and of the open mindedness required to capitalise on contextual changes. This is what agility is about.
A similar approach can be used to enhance organizational ability, based in Prince2 or to develop leadership skills in a volatile world. They will be the subject of subsequent articles.
If you are looking for behavioural change and competence development, immersive learning is something for you. For more information on what we do in this area, visit ALL4ONE consulting website or contact [email protected]