What about those wargamers?

d9f9ec_ca66d9340b804f42917a60bd59c04c3fThe term business wargame or business war game (so with a space between war and game) may have crossed your view. Perhaps you gave it some thoughts. Perhaps it just crossed and passed.

Business wargames (note the absence of the space between war and game) are useful, although not magic. They will help you get better at strategy and are great for testing decisions before you make them in real life. The latter links well to one the quotes of the now late soccer legend Johan Cruijff: before it goes wrong I already don’t make the mistake. Soccer players train a lot.

But what about those people doing wargames, and what about that space between war and game? Business wargamers basically come from two backgrounds: 1) the military and 2) the hobbyist. I am a hobbyist. People like me talk about wargames, so without the space.

OK, so what!?

If you decide to use a wargame it is important to determine what you are looking for. As I wrote in earlier posts I think that business is way behind in terms of strategic sophistication than the military. There is a lot of ground that still needs to be covered. As a hobbyist I can get you a long way to the military side of strategy, but I am not the real deal soldier. So if you only want to understand military strategies then go for a war game. There are a lot of good people out there that can help you understand military formats, and institutes that provide lectures and workshops.

If, on the other hand, the business perspective is very important then you want to go for a wargame. Hobbyists have a professional life in business next to their passion for wargames. This not only helps to bridge business and military strategy, but also to support it with good game mechanisms.

The biggest challenge in any business game is to get the mechanics out of the way. Every trace of a mechanism that is left can compromise the effectiveness of the game. Games place people in an artificial environment. They will obviously know that. They will expect rules. That’s what games have, right? And that is true but the problem with games is that the moment people know a rule they will play based on that rule, and yes, not necessarily by the rule!

The ultimate success factor for any management game is that it is constructed and executed in such a way that the line of thinking used during the game by the players is in line with that they would use in real life. That is the first and foremost design criteria of a good business wargame.

In the end it is up to you. Do you need a war game or a wargame?

Jan-Willem Boots

co-founder of Changing Games

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