Enterprise Games: A book review by Bob Morris

Enterprise Games: Using Game Mechanics to Build a Better Business
Michael Hugos
O’Reilly Media (2012)

How games can help business leaders to respond more effectively to crises as well as to opportunities

Games may well be the first non-violent activity in which humans competed with each other. Then and now, their primary objectives involve recreation and entertainment as well as relaxation and (in some instances) physical exercise.

Just as the basic elements of storytelling (background, setting, cast of characters, conflicts, plot development, etc.) have helped to improve significantly the effectiveness of business writing, game mechanics (goals, rules, a feedback system, voluntary participation, “scorecard,” etc.) have helped to improved significantly the construction of business models and even the transformation of even entire organizations.

These are among the dozens of passages of special interest and value to me:

o Game-Like Models Drive Growth and Profits (Pages 8-10)
o Game Dynamics Promote Business Agility (30-31)
o Games, Gamers, and New Business Strategies (41-42)
o All the World’s a Game (43-45)
o Concepts and Techniques of Gamification (49-50)
o When Serious Games Become Massively Multilayer Online Games (81-84)
o Game Ingredients and Building Blocks (85-90)
o The New Sales System Design (94-101)
o Databases and Navigating in the Real-Time Economy (126-128)
o A New Way to Visualize Big Data (136-139)
o Creating an Interactive Simulation to Explore Data (142-145)
o Game Layer Leverages the Capabilities of Social Infrastructure (148-151)
o Networks of Presence — Toward Global Awareness (159-162)
o Waking Up from History (164-166)
o Capitalism Reinvented for This Century (177-178)
o Five Characteristic of an Agile and Responsive Enterprise (179-184)

Throughout his crisp and lively narrative, Hugos makes skillful use of several reader-friendly devices that include dozens of “Figures” that graphically illustrate key concepts and relationships as well as checklists and clusters of bullet points that will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review later. While re-reading this book in preparation for reviewing it, I was reminded of the fact that, long ago, Albert Einstein acknowledged that he always asked the same questions on his final examination at Princeton. Why? “Because each year the correct answers are different.” The same is true of the four separate but interdependent traits (i.e. goals, rules, feedback system, and voluntary participation) that remain constant although the process based on them often encounters continuous change in terms of participants, progress, resistance, and even in terms and conditions of measurement.

This book is best viewed as a primer for decision-makers who are both wiling and able to think differently about how to think differently. It was also Einstein who suggested that the same reasoning that created problems couldn’t be expected to solve them. As Michael Hugos explains so clearly and convincingly, there is much of great value to be learned from game mechanics that can help decision-makers in almost any organization — whatever its size and nature may be — to redesign what it does and how it does it “to fit the realities of our real-time economy.” That requires rethinking assumptions and premises, especially those that are cherished. That requires overcoming what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” Finally, that requires that rarest of combinations, tenacity and patience.

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