UW Business School Ties Up With Game Maker

 
 

The University of Washington is emerging as a pioneer in the emerging world of applying game technology to real life situations.

UW biochemists and computer scientists have been working for some time on ‘Foldit’, a game website now in beta, which allows any interested party to go online and play puzzle-like games while, in the process, helping to solve tough problems in molecular biology. 

 

Now UW’s Foster School of Business has established a strategic partnership with Novel, Inc. a pioneer in developing game-like simulations of what it's like to run a company. Brayden Olson, CEO of Novel Inc., says the partnership will help develop a new approach to teaching business management. 

 

In November, Novel completed Empire and State, a virtual on-line game that allows players to create and manage their own companies.

 

“Our shared goal with Novel is to become the undisputed heavy weights and thought leaders in the new enterprise simulations space,” says Dr. Bruce J. Avolio, executive director of the Foster School of Business Center for Leadership & Strategic thinking.

Avolio says that Novel is further along in this kind of enterprise simulation development and in their vision than any other company they know of. 

 

Mike Marr, Novel’s creative director, says Novel’s massive multiplayer game allows participants to explore, during a compressed time period, complex business situations involved in running a business. The outcomes of the decisions, which might play out over months or even years in real life, can be resolved in just thirty minutes while playing the game.

On Reflection: Corporate Game Changer

On Reflection: Corporate Game Changer

Gamification software from a UW startup makes biz-school case studies more authentic.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

Imagine you’re the CEO of an airline in crisis. Customers and shareholders are unhappy. Your employees have just gone on strike. What do you do? Give in to union demands? Hold your ground and negotiate? Fire all the employees? 

It’s the first of a cascading set of decisions you must make in The Signature Case Study, a new interactive game developed by Seattle-based Recurrence (recurrenceinc.com) in partnership with the University of Washington’s Center for Leadership & Strategic Thinking (CLST). Players take one of five C-suite roles and each player’s decision changes the options available to the others and affects their total scores based on employee, shareholder and customer satisfaction.

The Signature Case Study takes the case-study method, a paper-based system pioneered by the Harvard Business School, and uses game techniques to make it more entertaining and accessible while also giving students and teachers immediate feedback on the quality of their decision making.

Data on 19 variables derived from real airlines on things like lost luggage, fuel costs, stock prices and customer satisfaction are built into algorithms that drive the game and can result in thousands of academically validated outcomes.

CEO and co-inventor Brayden Olson named the company after Friedrich Nietzsche’s doctrine of eternal recurrence, the notion that all life will repeat itself through eternity. The interactive case study, he says, allows people to learn from mistakes and develop critical thinking skills that improve their judgment so they won’t make similar mistakes in real life.

While traditional case studies depend heavily on the skills of professors to engage students, The Signature Game Study’s software uses game elements to require interactivity, says co-inventor Bruce Avolio, a professor of management at the UW’s Foster School of Business and executive director of CLST.

The game shows players how decisions made early on can narrow their course of action down the road. They also learn the importance of teamwork to overcome the toughest challenges. “Great games can be both more fun and more challenging,” says Avolio, who sits on Recurrence’s board of directors.

The product, released early this year, has already been adopted at more than 30 schools, including the UW, Stanford, Penn State, Johns Hopkins and the University of Texas, to teach leadership, organizational behavior and strategy. The cases sell for $47.50 per student; Recurrence is looking to add cases in areas such as operations, finance, marketing and entrepreneurship. It’s also working with the University of Alabama nursing school to develop a case study to teach such skills as diagnosis and health care management.

With more than 15,000 business schools in the world, Olson says the market is huge. He notes that publishers of printed case studies are selling 12 million a year, but they recognize that the interactive case study is the future and are looking for Recurrence’s assistance in developing them.