Co create an event on Innovation and Playfulness (Vote for the Name)

On the 11th or January 2013 de Baak organizes the annual international Meet The World event, which has this year a focus on Innovation and how Playfulness can help organizations in this process. You could say that it is an offline version of this blog. At the moment we are looking for partners and other fun & interesting people to help us to co create this festival. You could be part of this process! Let’s prototype!

Please have a look at our draft webpage with a magazine which describes the outlines. 

And of course vote for the best name for this event. We put it on the right, so it connects well with your analytical left brain.

We’ve already started, so come out and play!

Professional Playing – an outline (presentation in Dutch)

There was this afternoon an event at de Baak in the Netherlands called “Profesional Playing“, which gave an overview of different methods and metaphors of the use of playfulness in business practice. I was asked to provide some kind of an outline at the beginning, and made one with the use of Knovio because I couldn’t be there as I’m staying in Boston at the moment. Please have a look at it, and play the game that’s part of it.  

I got the feedback from a viewer who said the story made it really clear to her that she didn’t want to become a manager, and that they could use the mindset for another reorganization…That’s why I’m always curious what people think; it’s always something unexpected!

My apologies that it’s in Dutch! It’s such a beautiful language…

How to spot Disruptive Innovation Opportunities

Some time ago Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen has introduced the theory of Disruptive Innovation, and it is probably one of the most important innovation theories of the last decade. A disruptive innovation is an innovation with a product or service being improved, in a way that the market had not expected. It occurs when an innovator brings something to market that is simple, convenient, accessible, and affordable. Most of the time not by enhancing the technology, but by transforming the business model. A famous example is the introduction of the Nintendo Wii, which found a market of  traditionally non-gamers and used less technically less ‘perfect’ games. The question is: How do you find a way to find a distributive innovation for your organization?

Disruptive TechnologyMost organizations apply sustaining innovation, which can also be effective. But in contrast to disruptive innovation, a sustaining innovation does not create new markets or value networks but rather only evolves existing ones with better value, allowing the firms within to compete  against each other’s sustaining improvements (Wikipedia). It gives in that way room for new players to transform the playing field. As said in a blog post before: the creator of a game always wins. Have a look at this really informative interview with Scott Anthony, President Innosight. He gives some tips to help you pinpoint disruptive opportunities within your organization.


The Nightmare Competitor – a playful method
It is often difficult to find Disruptive Innovation opportunities, because it demands a radical perception shift on your organization and the system it is part of. Most people get stuck in this process, because they suffer from the ‘tunnel vision’ syndrome. A way of dealing with this is the roll playing game called the Nightmare Competitor. Others call it a ‘scenario planning tool’, which make it more accessible as a serious tool for organizations, but also less effective because it tends to take all the fun and therefor creativity out of the process…

The Nightmare Competitor challenges you to  become the worst new competitor of your own company. What would you do? How could you ruin this old organization, and become the new Rising Star? You become a Disruptive or Nightmare competitor. By doing so you  learn from the new insights, and implement them in your still existing organization.

I would call this a roll playing game, because people enjoy in this paradigm shift to look at their company in a disconnected way, and have fun in virtually distorting what they love most. Risks are taken, and sore bruises are pushed on. The participants become really creative to overcome existing boundaries. Whatever method you might use: getting away from regular patterns is needed, and the fun and creativity that starting entrepreneurs have are essential.

Please contact me if you want to participate, or know even a better way of creating a disruptive game.

National Institute for Play: Play state in Complexity

The National Institute for Play investigates Play. They have chosen a good name I would say. Why do people and animals play? And what would also the benefit be for professionals in organizations to play in certain situations? I think their approach is interesting to facilitate more scientific research on the topic, so we can support managers who have (most of the time) a focus on efficiency. 

“Demand for workers who understand complexity is increasing. Over 75% of the U.S. work force does information work which requires workers to collaborate with other information workers to make judgments and solve complex issues.

The practices that organizations need to be developing for their increasingly complex information work are those which infuse the state of play into their workers’ attitudes. They need to learn how to do the work of their organizations in a play state.

Our experiences indicate that executives require sufficient immersion in the science of play before they understand and value it. The intellectual and scientific basis of play can provide the understanding – and permission – to deploy new play-based practices in their organizations. But, they must also value the new practices; without a positive play ethic, the climate for innovation is spoken of as important, but is not acted upon.” (The National Institute for Play)

Founder Stuart Brown on

He doesn’t say it very playful, but most trainers train in subjects they have had some trouble with, because else they wouldn’t understand why it is so important:)

Playing with models

In my search for the Innovation game I want to create a board. Some kind of structure to define what is part of the game, and what isn’t. So I can cheat, because it has rules. just like a story, a game has always has a beginning, middle and an end. It helps us to know where we are in the process. The level of detail can make it more controlled or more flexible.

The games people play are often described in business or psychological models. Let´s have a look to see weither there are some similarities between them that we could use for our Innovation Game.

Most of the models follow some kind of a lifecycle, and are visualized in the shape of a U or a circle. Examples are: Gestalt Psychology (Contact), Kubler-Ross (acceptance), Situational Leadership (leadership), Tuckman (team development), Greiner (organization life cycle), Theory U (emergent processes), etc. etc. Just open any book, and use will find two axes and a U or circle. Sometimes the model has a three dimensional shape, but then there is too much information in one model in my opinion.

But are there also similarities in the content, or is it just coincidence that they all look the same? They all describe the same phenomena, but projected onto a different subjects. Just like a story that always has a beginning (platform), a problem, a solution, and an ending. Most of them follow four phases:

  1. Start / Control: We are trying to control our environment to keep it the way it is. We try to keep things familiar. Familiar is warm and safe.
  2. Problem / Struggle: We encounter differences with our environment, and “fight” with these because we want to continue in the way that we were used to. We create rules to keep things organized and clear.
  3. Solution / Letting go: We let our control go and open for what is really needed. We develop new ways of looking at things. There is no need to control the situation any more, because the old way of doing things doesn’t work anymore for you.
  4. Ending / New paradigm: We step into the world with our new way of looking at things, and interact in our new way (the beginning of a new pattern, that we love to control again…)

You could say that these are in some ways laws of nature. We always try to protect what we are used to, what keeps us safe, until this is no longer possible, and then develop ourselves further. To make it really biological: You are safe when your life is not threatened and you know what you can expect in the near future. That is why even rotten situations can give a sense of safety because it is bearable and we know what is coming next: more rottenness.

A game about Safety?
So can we conclude that the core of our Innovation game is about keeping things safe? This sounds very illogical, but at the same time: in most games there is some kind of tension between taking risks and just following the yellow brick road. It makes me curious why people want to innovate…