Gaming for Change

Volume 13 Letter 8

A pharmaceutical company had a big problem on their hands. They had licensed the same molecule as a much bigger competitor. Both companies would be launching exactly the same product to exactly the same doctors at exactly the same time and the big competitor had four times as many sales people. At one quarter the size you’d think the smaller company would be happy with one quarter of the market share. Instead, to compete with the larger competitor they designed an entrepreneurial sales model where the pharma reps would develop their own territorial business strategies. Pivotal to the successful implementation of this model were business acumen competencies their representatives would require:

  1. Business planning skills
  2. Ability to overcome complexity
  3. Results driven attitude
  4. Curious, investigative mind set
  5. Collaborative relationships with stake holders

To engage the sales team a simulation was designed which emulate a subset of a typical sales territory. The sales reps had all the same tools they would have in real life – samples, physician visits and other physician programs. The sales reps were divided into teams and each team was tasked with allocating their scarce resources in a way that maximized market share. There were two rounds and the team winning the most market share won the game. The competition was fierce and after the first round the group was given a lecture that introduced new tools and methodologies that could help them win. During the second decision, teams applied these tools and methodologies to their decision making process in the simulation. The simulation was run a second time and results improved significantly across the board. Of course, winners were declared and money awarded but more importantly strategic frameworks were developed and skills were built. Those skills and frameworks learned in the game were implemented over the next few months as each pharma rep was tasked with designing his or her own territorial business strategy using the same methodology they used in the simulation.

A few months later the teams were prepared to execute to execute their territorial business strategy. Plans were reviewed, adjustments were made and the new product was launched. After two years after going head to head with the larger competitor, the market share is a dead heat, even considering they are using one quarter the resources.

Companies that are designing gaming into their training and into their day to day work are reaping huge rewards. When people game, the learning retention rate goes up over 100%. Compare that to the learning rate of the best teachers where retention increases only 17%. Should you decide to add gaming to your corporate training, three important elements must be designed into the program:

  1. Autonomy: the ability to fail safely and try again. In our example, the sales reps could practice developing and executing their strategic plans in a safe environment before going out to real physicians
  2. Mastery: clear path to mastery of the skills and mastery of their markets. Reps knew what they needed to do to succeed
  3. A clear purpose: in this case the purpose was to help reps develop business strategies that would allow them to win in their markets and beat a much bigger competitor

Today 71% of workers cannot identify how to win in their jobs. They are not engaged in their work and are not enrolled in a bigger purpose (i.e. your company’s vision). Yet many of those same people spend over 40 hours a week playing games. Games / business simulations engage people, change human behavior, create meaningful experiences and build relationships with others. Stop talking and start playing!

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