Change the game, train and strengthen teams

Change the game, train and strengthen teams

The human play instinct has many facets. Already more than 150,000 years ago we humans played, which has been proven by the graves of humans with toys. In the past, however, I heard more often in the business world “we don’t play here, this is not a kindergarten”. And this despite the fact that Friedrich Schiller had already coined the quote “Man is only completely human where he plays”. But in recent years we have come across a more and more open attitude towards the use of games in business.

How to use the play instinct

But what is the play instinct? The play instinct is generally understood to be an intrinsic motivation for playing, which can be observed in humans and in more highly developed animal species. The so-called “play instinct” is attributed to the theory of instinct and instinct. It is therefore a social behaviour that is innate in mammals. But it is not only children who play, and not only for fun. Rolf Örter provides further interesting background information in his publication “The Psychology of Play” and also deals with different forms of play in children. In the meantime it has been scientifically proven that adults are also better able to develop their potential through play. This is due to the fact that the brain is at its best when playing, because many brain cells re-connect. In addition, today’s key competences such as creativity are stimulated – even in computer games, which primarily address auditory and visual sensory perception.

Do games also work in business?

As a 4-advice, we started to deal intensively with games at the end of the 2000s – among other things in projects for computer game providers. In doing so, we learned how strong game mechanisms are and how they can be used in business through so-called “gamification”: Gamification refers to the use of game mechanisms in a non-game context, i.e. also in business. We have been able to prove the strength of the effectiveness of gamification methods in many projects. For example, a “Games Olympics” at a DAX company helped us very much to anchor information security, which is otherwise not always perceived as a top topic, in the consciousness of the employees. Games can not only be used as “ice breakers” or activate workshop participants in an “after-lunch coma”, because they can do much more than that – if you just invest a little more effort and attention to detail in their development.

Business Content + Escape Room Game principle = Business Escape Room

Based on our experience from many different projects, we once decided to adapt the popular Escape Room game principle for business. And the success was absolutely resounding. We were able to observe with various customers that our “Business Escape Rooms” also fantastically convey otherwise rather unloved content and arouse interest. And this is completely independent of the management level. We were thus able to refute the prejudice that top managers or board members reject such formats. And that is logical – because each of us has the urge to play. No matter how young, how old or how rationally transfigured by the daily demands of the job. Of course, there are people who have a higher affinity for games than others – but the play instinct grips just about every participant when he or she takes the time for this immersive experience of a business escape room. And by combining business content with the Escape Game play mechanism, the “game for fun” suddenly turns into a session that makes sense and is beneficial for business, in which, in addition to fun and games, you learn something, achieve goals or simulate the solution of difficult business challenges under time pressure.

Content and formats – offline, online and hybrid

We also started with an analogue experience. Our first Escape Rooms were those that we played on site at the customer’s premises as part of our consulting projects. As in so many other areas of life, the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for the triumphant advance of digital services. Since then, we have also been offering all Business Escape Rooms as online versions. Fortunately, we had more than 10 years of experience with the digitalisation of consulting services, so that the digitalisation of the format in Design Sprints was possible very quickly.

However, what should not be neglected for business efficiency is the need for moderation by a real person. And that person should also have an idea of the business. This is how we create business escape rooms, especially in our core competence areas of digitisation, change and innovation. For example, we offer some of the content of our lectures “Digital Innovation” and “Digital Transformation” at the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences in escape room formats. This also applies to content from our extra-occupational, nationwide certificate courses at the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, such as “Digital Innovation and Product Manager” or “Digital Change Manager. This can be implemented as part of onboarding or internal training programmes, for example for junior managers or the so-called “high potentials”. Of course, we also develop specific Business Escape Rooms for our clients’ individual topics with the help of our clients’ professional expertise. Meanwhile we are able to implement such projects within only 6 weeks from the initial idea to the launch – which, compared to the usual 9 or more months development time for new digital products or services, represents a significant gain in terms of time-to-market as well as time and cost savings for the internal employees involved. The format of the Design Sprint is also part of our teaching at the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences.

If customers so desire, we can also work with our partners to design and implement fully scalable, pure online formats for our customers – even if these do not have quite as strong an effect in terms of effectiveness as a moderated solution. However, this is countered by the advantages of digital, cost-effective scalability for many thousands of participants. Especially if the main objective of a Business Escape Room project is primarily to raise the awareness of employees for a certain topic, unmoderated online variants can also be interesting as so-called “serious games”, i.e. learning games for adults.

Which format is the right one for a company depends on its individual needs and objectives, which must always be evaluated and weighed up at the beginning of a Business Escape Room project.

Use cases

As the format has been so successful with our customers, we have also secured the trademark rights to the Business Escape Room. Because it is also important to us to make the difference to classic entertainment escape rooms clear. Only those who have an idea of the business of the participants and place relevant content at the centre of the playful experience will have the effect that the time invested is not “playing for the sake of playing”, but time invested wisely. This goes far beyond the certainly very positive, immanent teambuilding effects. And this is exactly what distinguishes Business Escape Rooms from classic escape room offers that focus on entertainment. Through the combination with competent moderation and the embedding in workshops, projects and seminars, the format gains massively in effectiveness and can only then develop its full effect as a contribution to the achievement of the company goals.

Business benefits

If the format alone is impressive, the contents are easier to transport. And the participants are more motivated – the spark ignites and this is exactly what you feel in a Business Escape Room. When the participants are “on fire”, the many sensory perceptions addressed allow the content learned or successes achieved together to be more firmly anchored in the memory. We use these mechanisms.

In this video you can see how something like this feels and looks like. For the many different use cases in the business, we have separate websites for each, such as the one for the target/purpose workshop. On you will find an overview. If you as a potential customer are interested in getting to know our online variants of the Business Escape Rooms, we would be happy to offer you a test game session. Furthermore many other use cases are possible. We have already successfully used the game principle for team building, as a seminar, for onboarding new employees, as a workshop and in change management. And many more use cases will follow – some of them are already in progress.

You too can dare to implement new and innovative, playful formats – it’s worth it for everyone involved.

Autor: Simon Schoop

Company: 4-advice

Simon Schoop is the founder and CEO of 4-advice, Digital Change & Innovation Unternehmensberatung in Bonn and has been a lecturer for Digital Innovation and Digital Transformation at the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences since the beginning of 2016. His company 4-advice is a pioneer for digital change & innovation from the Rhineland.