MindMeld : Book Chapter 2 – Issues in Knowledge Technology – Gaming as Business Strategy

by Thomas B. Cross @techtionary

The following an excerpt to Chapter 2 of  MindMeld: CEO & AI Merging of Mental & Metal book available now via iBooks – Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.

Book Review – “As the CEO of a energy industrial company and actively involved in CEO Leadership Forums I have been following AI for more than a decade.  Indeed the promises for improving many technical tasks are interesting yet in reality often prove more complex to manage than proposed.  MindMeld was very profound in proposing that AI starts not at the bottom of the organization but with CXO decision-making and worth reading by anyone in or rising to the boardroom.” George B.

For interviews, professional guidance, product/market research or evaluations, articles, speeches or presentations, please contact cross@gocross.com 

Gaming as Business Strategy
In contrast to simulation, gaming out of necessity employs human beings in a particular role, either actual or hypothetical. A gaming exercise can involve human beings acting as themselves or playing simulated roles in an environment that is also either actual or hypothetical. The players can be experimental subjects, or they can participate in the exercises for teaching, training, or operational purposes. When playing chess, neither the role of the player nor the environment is simulated, but when students are told to assume the roles of top decision makers in a computerized business game or war game, the roles of both the players and the environment are simulated. For example, one might have a business game in which a student is instructed to behave like the president of General Motors. In this instance, the student is playing a simulated role. In a military exercise a major can be required either to simulate the role of a general or to play the actual role of a major. As noted, chess is one of the oldest strategic games in history. War games, particularly in the form of board games, are simulations of battles and invasions that have actually taken place. Games have a distinct place in history and strategic management. As Nicholas Palmer noted, Games were credited with a contribution towards a number of successes, notably the Japanese victory over Russia in 1904-1905, for which the Japanese had carefully prepared with war games. Most board war games now have a variety of scenarios, even in historical games, known as “what-ifs.”(2) For those of you who have been trained by Harvard and other business schools that utilize the case study method, board games are similar to case studies. Automating these cases is an effective and often rapid-fire technique for judging response time and mental dexterity. Certainly, this is not the only testing vehicle for judging the human decision-making ability because, according to my research, the process of real-time, face-to-face decision-making generally creates the wrong environment for learning. However, we are all confronted with crises that demand on-the-spot choices. War games can develop the behind-the-scenes learning experience needed to cope with these all-too-frequent occurrences. Game playing is exciting. Balancing resources and troops with tactics requires both a short- and a long-run approach. Obtaining the end goal is always at stake. Game designers play on human frustrations, allowing victors to win strictly by playing according to subtle rules. Certainly, there exist countless success stories that can only be attributed to random and unaccountable reasons: luck. Games offer a challenge as well as a nonvolatile way to learn about a multitude of situations. Some executives hope games will teach more about playing by the rules, if the players are disciplined, intuitive, and foresighted enough to make educated guesses about the future, the results of which can then be translated into real-life corporate strategies. These games, as Palmer points out, combine some of the virtues of each of the other types: They hinge on the actions of individual regiments and divisions, but they have strategic goals and usually simulate some important battle; most people find it fun to compare the game outcomes with what really happened.(3)

One of the issues associated with war-gaming is strategic planning. In some ways this is the passion of the game. It is well known that there are 10(120) possibilities in chess; the nearly limitless number of possible move sequences contributes to its being such a universally challenging game. At the same time, there are only three universal outcomes: win, lose, and draw. There are a number of strategic moves that separate the novice from the expert. This passion for strategy moves the player from a resource manager to a strategic opportunist. Players who excel at tactics might or might not excel at global situations. Gaming is one-way managers can identify players who are good strategists, and those who are tacticians.This can be helpful in determining potential career paths. Modeling these games is an exciting challenge to the designers. The inventors of chess have left a legacy beyond even the works of Plato, Freud, or Sartre. They have given each one of us the chance to simply play and lose, or to win and come back again and again. Business strategy has been considered by many to be the corporate equivalent of war games. For example, in The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse, the key to all societal values is portrayed in a game. The concept is fundamental to the development of the highly abstract gaming model as both an all-encompassing and intellectual exercise. (4) At the same time, the book presents a dangerously sterile gaming procedure for modeling representations of human affairs: These rules, the sign language and grammar of the Game, constitute a kind of highly developed secret language drawing upon several sciences and arts, but especially mathematics and music (and/or musicology), and capable of expressing and establishing interrelationships between the content and conclusions of nearly all scholarly disciplines. The Game is thus a mode of playing with the total content and values of our culture. (4). In the applications of gaming, whether they involve economics, war, societal affairs, or global consequences. The conflict between mathematical abstraction and simplicity on the one hand, and societal richness and historical content on the other hand, is always present. Neither a purely literary nor a wholly mathematical approach to scholarship holds all the answers.

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