On Reflection: Corporate Game Changer
Gamification software from a UW startup makes biz-school case studies more authentic.
August 25, 2016By Leslie Helm
Imagine youre 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?
Its 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 Washingtons Center for Leadership & Strategic Thinking (CLST). Players take one of five C-suite roles and each players 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 Nietzsches 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 wont make similar mistakes in real life.
While traditional case studies depend heavily on the skills of professors to engage students, The Signature Game Studys software uses game elements to require interactivity, says co-inventor Bruce Avolio, a professor of management at the UWs 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 Recurrences 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. Its 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 Recurrences assistance in developing them.