Playing for profits – How a game can help your focus

In a recent session with a client, whilst working on their 2010 Strategic Plan, an inspiring moment took them by surprise. Let me preface this post by saying that it’s my firm belief that part of any successful strategy should involve allot of fun, learning & grow whilst achieving results. To put it simply, unless your process has the “what’s in it for me”  factor covered, you’re not addressing some of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This particular client is in e-commerce, they run thousands of on-line campaigns every quarter, and we were now strategizing how to get the entire company more involved in the effort. As with most activities in an organization, the creation & profitability of an on-line campaign doesn’t always get the entire company “rallying around the campfire”, and so here is where we thought of a new twist.

I’ve long used a One-Page Strategic Plan to get an entire team or company focused on the key drivers of success. And within the context of the One-Page Plan, I always encourage my clients to play a game where everyone can get involved, and hopefully have allot of fun whilst achieving the required results for success.

The game we decided on was themed “Oscar Night”, and the CEO decided that the objective was to acknowledge the campaign that brought in the highest revenue & profit. After 3 months, the winning campaign would be awarded an Oscar. We’re still working it out, but in addition to recognition, the winners of the game will also get a coveted prize, similar to a weekend away for two at a resort, or dinner at a “preferred location”. This is obviously great acknowledgment for the team that would eventually be responsible for creating & running the campaign, but my challenge was in trying to figure out how to get an entire company focused on “results”, and at the same time learn something new whilst rallying around their colleagues, thus increasing teamwork & building a stronger company culture. Pretty tall task.. no?

My solution? What do you know about the game Monopoly & Horse Racing? That’s where the creativity started! First; suppose we were to allocate 1.000 euros of Monopoly money to each employee? Second; what if everyone in the company was required to bet all of their Monopoly money over the course of the fiscal quarter, distributing the bets through the various e-commerce campaigns in an effort to identify which ones would be most successful and beat the odds (objectives) set. Third; what if we grouped people so that each group were to be comprised of at least one person from each department, thus distributing the knowledge base? Fourth; now how about if we graphically tracked each persons’ &  teams’ progress/winnings, so that we would create a virtual horse race?

My audience was excited, but they wondered how the very specific knowledge of what it takes to make a campaign successful wouldn’t create an unfair advantage to the department responsible for the procurement process which drives the campaign.

In part, that’s why we came up with distributing members from different departments in to separate teams, and here’s what else we realized:

  • By distributing the departmental knowledge pool into groups the specific knowledge that increases the probability of winning would be distributed & effectively foster teamwork
  • The purchasing agents will hear first-hand very practical & unbiased (outside-of-the-box) reasons from “uninformed staff” as to why they thought campaigns wouldn’t succeed & this will increase the probability for Black Swan based innovation
  • Everyone in the company, right down to the receptionist, would learn more about “what makes the company tick” & this will in turn foster greater collaboration & understanding of cross-departmental inter-dependencies
  • Everyone will become more conscious of what the company goals are, and over time better understand how their individual talents, skills & roles contribute toward the “bigger picture” & this creates accountability
  • Teamwork & healthy competition will help to improve focus on what really matters to create results

Now those are just some of the highlights & key insights!

How do you think a similar program or exercise would affect your organization?

If you’re already using this technique, I’d be very grateful for your testimonial of what results you’ve seen on your business.

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