The Imitation Game – The Game of Gamification

The Imitation Game – the movie of the great Alan Turing – inventor of modern computer systems focused on both the concept of codes and machines. Codes are the ways we as humans do things such as talking, managing and communicating. Machines are tools such as printing presses, computers and algorithms (rules of thumbs), the way non-human devices perform tasks.

For decades, companies have used both human codes and machines to increase the performance of startup, middle and senior management. The strategies, battles, and understanding needed to sail the corporate winds to success are less clear and more uncertain to those who make it to the very top of the largest corporations. Charting these complex storms and uncharted waters may come from advanced expert systems or AI-artificial intelligence technology not yet even a practical or realistic option in running large corporations. However, for global success in the next decade AI must be used and tested down in the divisions and departments throughout the ranks of all management. AI has already come in the form of war games an approach used by the military. Many companies can use a game system to create competitive team approaches to conceive, design, build and scale all products and services. As in the board game Monopoly® by Hasbro, companies can test theories and management in maneuvers to get hotels on Park Place and Boardwalk as well as win the game. Through games, management can begin to understand its own product/management life cycle. It must know the stages of early “skunk works,” or basic development, through “dog days.” Management must evaluate its own ability to cope; to know when one has scored a victory or been shot in the foot.

Certainly much of management cannot be “coded.” However, many of the “big data” systems and processes can be analyzed, then turned into expert systems/AI applications, including “what if” scenarios including growth, acquisition, divesture and hostile takeover scenarios. These processes can force situations to the surface long before they occur in real life. Managers can develop their own approaches to corporate solutions over a rapidly increased time period; test intuitive applications; or be sabotaged by subordinates, labor strikes, or natural disasters. They can quickly understand processes it might take a lifetime to develop, and can cope with problems the CEO faces today to get a perspective of how management does, in fact, make decisions. According to an article by Accenture, “Gaming concepts have begun working their way into key business processes in two distinct forms, often called serious games and gamification. Whereas serious games are actual games used in the workplace whose purpose is beyond merely providing entertainment, gamification is the weaving of game mechanics such as virtual currency, leaderboards (boards that display leaders in a competition), badges, or leveling up (progression to the next level in a game) into existing work activities or processes without the development of a full-fledged actual game.”(1)

Games, models, and simulations are tools used to design strategies which assess these information elements and which assist corporations in achieving goals. Games require players to follow rules that have been set up. These rules force the players to act in certain ways reflecting real-world situations. Games limit personal choice to keep players focused on topics or situations desired by the game’s designer. A model, however, is an attempt to describe the world in a strict, linear, and logical fashion. Models attempt to bring order to chaos, often utilizing completely random elements, partial truths, feelings, and facts in systems or machines that can duplicate these events again and again. Computers, as opposed to humans, have the uncanny ability to perform millions of instructions per second only if the function is known. If event A occurs in situation B, then sequence C must be followed. A model allows very little personal choice, if any. In designing strategies for management (including startups) success, mathematical models can be used where the elements are either specific options for the player or discrete events that are needed for other actions to take place. The game theory, in this sense, can be viewed as a tree, with branches representing points at which players can make decisions. At such points, the designer can allow a player to make a range of decisions as long as rules are obeyed, or the designer can require the player to follow a mathematical model at a particular point. If a game has extensive rules, player freedom is limited; the more rules, the less freedom of play in the game. A player’s freedom under the rule structure is one of the most critical dilemmas. In some game theories, the rules describe the process of the game, and player freedom is mathematically defined. In principle, some of these theories imply that the outcome is not left up to chance and that only specified and certain outcomes exist.

One example of modeling in business is to set winner or winning strategy. For example, a winning approach would be to drive its competitors to a few, if any, players when market prices are lowered. In the case of one global company, all but a few of the competitors had been eliminated using a game theory approach. Yet, most moves made in billion-dollar companies can result in spurious activity in closely aligned markets achieving unanticipated results for the dominant company. For example, developers of one kind of application quickly rewrite their software for other lucrative computers. Thus, the outcome of one particular game can cause complex changes in related and unrelated markets. Designing not only the player decision points but also the trees requires both a particular strategy and a particular type of player. There is little value in letting a player have a wide-open set of options if the situation is restrictive. For example, many strategic planning systems use the portfolio approach. Each of the nine squares in a portfolio represents a particular and specific strategy. If a company is in the high-risk, high-reward square, the game strategy might only allow a few key moves for success. Another game design, perhaps equally restrictive, is reflected in the “dog” company position. A declining market position is commonly referred to as a dog. However, for the company whose position is in the middle ground, a large, if not infinite number of trees or options are available as strategies for success.

Describing games in this sense makes it possible to define the strategies of the players in context. Trees can also be defined as networks. Each solution to a game is unique, which makes it difficult to turn a game into a model. In nearly every case, a solution has key elements with characteristics that have occurred before, all of which are subject to gaming. These elements can be developed into mathematical models only if the outcomes can be proven repetitively. Those game elements that are proven repetitively can become models to force players through certain situations. However, designers can change models if they are too restrictive or are inaccurate depictions of reality. By their very nature, mathematical models assume a static universe, which does not exist.

When the model is a complex tree, a successful solution can often be used for other corporate strategies. Generally, tree models look alike until specific decisions made at key points are analyzed. In this way, the model represents a network of activities leading to decisions, outcomes, and successful goals. The tree can also depict certain behavioral models of the players, a key element in the process. In the past few years, there has been considerable growth in the use of business strategy games for management study and other problems, such as examining land use or political and social processes. Gaming entails using scenarios, games, simulations, or models to provide a background or environment in which a set of individuals, usually referred to as the players, can interact. The environment is almost invariably a simulation or a model of a real environment. For example, in a business game, one model supplies the representation of the firms and the industry; in a military exercise, a sand table provides a model of the terrain. In some instances, the game takes place in a room that is a model of something else. The chess board can be regarded as a model of a battlefield, yet chess is sufficiently abstract or abstraction that it can also be described as a model of itself. Although one can draw analogies between chess and life, the formal rules of the game do not pretend to model life. However, chess can help players understand difficult and, in some cases, unpredictable problems that can be encountered in business. The same clearly goes for most card games, such as bridge or poker.

In other strategies, the managers design their own games. According to Accenture, “Managers can design contests to incentivize creating, responding to or converting leads or closing deals. The contests motivate salespeople to achieve, thus boosting their productivity. Companies can create customized contests and change the contests to reflect shifts in their sales pipeline, making this an agile approach to performance management. Achievers provides companies with a stand-alone, branded social recognition portal, through which employees can recognize each other with endorsements and virtual currency points. Recognition is broadcast in a social newsfeed and on the platform’s dashboard, fostering a sense of accomplishment and friendly competition. Recognition points can become a source of pride for employees and can be redeemed for merchandise.”(2) Whether you have a series of pre-designed games or let managers build their own, the practical business outcome should be considered or should it? That is, companies may also take one global issues to determine local outcomes. For example, if one wished to study the effects on society of fighting terrorism or global warming, the scientifically accurate way would be to observe a nuclear war in progress. For obvious reasons, the study of a simulation of that phenomenon, even though it undoubtedly would be less accurate, is more efficient than a study of the actual event and, if done with care, should provide some insight into what might happen in a real situation. Such is the dilemma of many companies in designing and developing new products, from pharmaceuticals to automobiles to business technology. Certain decisions and practices, if imposed on humans in reality, could have a disastrous impact.

One advantage of games is that they provide a basis for acting out management strategies without the players ever leaving the table. Scenarios, variations, and known facts can all be pushed against one another to the brink of conflict or battle, without losing lives or resources. They can also be used to test intuition, rather than the hard facts on the factory floor, and test responses to known or unknown complex management problems. Whether by imitation of humans performing tasks or by creating games which model our minds, we seek to solve problems that we can understand and those we cannot.

Summary – Games, game theory and machine technology are exciting tools to use in rethinking, redesigning and creating solutions for current complex management dilemmas. However, as Alan Turing and others struggled with early computing concepts; coded programs can only reflect what the coder/design knows or can anticipate. As like the forecasts for the growth of cars long ago, there were no forecasts for traffic jams much less “road-rage” which are critical issues for today’s transportation planners as these are issues to be considered today. In practical terms, this means in the case of transportation forecasting games to factor in “road-rage” as an element in the game. In global economic games, what else likes ahead can hardly be imagined because it will not like be what we think it will be really like. That means something like from “The Imitation Game” comes this, “sometimes it’s the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” The future for machine intelligence, man-machine integration, cyber-implants (for medical, food chemistry, health, learning, war, etc.) and other concepts is really beyond any imagination we have today because we often need to think not from what we know but what there can be.

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  • Trends Reshaping the Future of HR – Digital Radically Disrupts HR By Tim Good, Catherine Farley, Himanshu Tambe, and Susan Cantrell on page 8 – click here.
  • Ibid page 9


Ideas and Business Applications of Game Technology

© TECHtionary – Thomas B. Cross – all rights reserved



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