The NUWC Strategy and Innovation Gaming Group (SIGG – we had to have a name, an acronym and an internal Sharepoint 🙂 has been through its first “S curve” – we staret with 5 members, ramped up to about 20-odd and have now plateaued. Not all the 20 are “active, but plan to be. It’s enough to reliably get 4 or 6 for our 2-3 hour weekly after work meetings. This Saturday we had 4 for a longer Saturday session. I’m putting together a talk to give at our KM forum series on “Innovation insights from strategy gaming” which I hope will get us one more level of “S curve” up to maybe 40 or 50 total member and 2 or 3 games different games played per meeting.
The dynamics of typical Euro-games has been a great hook, getting people who would not play “wargames” into the mix and now asking “when do we get play the Navy games.” There has been some “What the heck can a space game, or a game about plantations, teach me that is relevant to what we do here?” and I hope to get to some that in the KM Forum presentation. I’m still at the brin-storming point, but wanted through some spaghetti at the here and hopefully generate some discussion.
I’ve covered the insights on planning here. There are a few more insights that have come up regarding things we say we do, but really rarely do or don’t do well, (we do sequels really well, but suck at branches; we are really good at intel on the bad guys, but such at the “know thyself” part; and don’t get me started on assessment…). Now we have been moving onto ideas of strategizing, and innovating.
The first question is what is the difference between “strategizing” and “planning”. We have only scratched the surface, but this becomes a hard line to draw with a grey area between when strategizing becomes planning. Particularly if you include the newer “design” issues that almost institutional the “grey area”. The other question is “what does it matter”? Are we debating angels on the head of pin by trying parse what is strategy, what is design and what is planning? It appears to me to have value to understand what we mean when we use the words, but agree that over-parsing can cause a “paralysis by analysis” problem.
The next topic is “Innovating (or innovative) vs Innovation”. Reading Everett Rodger’s Diffusion of Innovation most of us agree something is not an “innovation” until it is accepted and implemented causing a change in behavior. Something that is simply an enhancement, that does not the behavior of the user does not rise to the level of an “innovation” in the Rodgers sense. But when is one “innovating”? Is all research with the potential to change “innovation”? Can an “innovation” occur from a process that does not intend to “innovate”? Are some processes more “innovative” than others? This line of thought comes from reflection on game play circumstances where one is juggling strategies, resources and possible opposition action to inform decision-making. Some options appear “obviously correct” – something many consider “not innovative” and since others can see the advantage and compensate in their plans, is a random, or even short term negative choice “innovative” in that it is unexpected and foils others plans giving you initiative at a later date. Is use of the term “innovative” even appropriate in this sort of discussion?
Next we have “internal” vs “external” innovating. In some games, the constraints of the rules make “true” innovation difficult if not impossible. A “Solved game” for example cannot contain innovation – there is no remaining “landscape” to explore. So what is the “Requisite complexity” a game’s competitive landscape needs in order to allow for innovating, and when does it become so complex that players lose control and are employing “pure coping strategies” with little strategy or room for innovation. So a lack of sufficient tradespace, or too much tradespace internally to the game is bad. How do you address that “externally” with modifications to the game rules to either increase or decrease the complexity of the competitive landscape to allow innovative strategies to develop, without making them too difficult so implement they are only change the game at the margins.
This leads us from innovating in game play, to innovating in game design. This is where I want to get the group to, but need to get them to be game players of some degree of sophistication before they can get into game design. This may be a bias on my part – perhaps introducing “composite game designs” sooner rather than later may add creativity? I fear it will cause confusion. I will address some of the components of game design and the Euro-game design sequence of “putting together” an interesting decision-making situation, and then crafting a narrative around it, vs the more traditional “wargame” process of picking an event and attempting to represent the decision-making associated with it.