Will Wright’s new game Spore and decision games

Posted by Shawn Callahan - July 21, 2007
Filed in Communication

Have you ever played SimCity? I remember the first time I had a go at that game. It was 1990. I was amazed.

Well, the creator of SimCity is getting ready to launch a new game called Spore which will enable players to evolve their own universes from a single cell organism right up to intergalactic space travellers.

I was just watching the TED video of Will Wright and the statement that grabbed my attention was his deep desire to “re-calibrate your instincts” by letting your discover for yourself principles and laws of nature without being overtly and directly told.

I think you will be amazed at the TED preview of Spore but you can also do simpler things to develop your staff’s instincts using what Gary Klein calls decision games. These games are simple stories with two features: they must pose a conundrum; and there shouldn’t be a right or wrong solution. The idea behind decision games is the fact that meaningful experience improves your ability to make good judgements (what Wright was calling calibrating your instincts). And the most meaningful experience is, of course, real life experience. Sadly we can’t rely on having real life experiences when we need them. So instead we can play decision games.

Decision games are a way to practice making judgements before you need to make them. They consist of a scenario which a group of people review then decide how they would proceed. The most important aspect of a decision game is the conversation it triggers.

Here’s how they work.

The facilitator reads the story to the group.

The participants are given three to five minutes to develop a response and give reasons why (what would you do and why?)

Then the facilitator call on someone to respond and suggest how they would resolve the dilemma.

After the first person provides their response the facilitator then probes for their rationale and perhaps try and elicit other stories. You might also challenge the person about the weak points and downside of the course of action.

Then the facilitator ask others to comment on this solution and to present their ideas so several people get their turn in the hot seat.

Finally you should have a general discussion about how to avoid or minimise these types of problems.

The game should take 30 minutes to run with an additional 20 minutes for general discussion.

It is good to end the session when there is still something to get out of the discussion.

The game has been a success if the participants are still talking about the scenario as they return to their desk.

The preceeding description is based on Gary Klien’s book, “Intuition at Work: Why Developing Your Gut Instincts Will Make You Better at What You Do”

We have just developed some decision games for a government agency to help new Aboriginal staff develop ways to balance their community obligations with their departmental commitments.

About Shawn Callahan
Shawn is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

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