Policy Gaming for Strategy and Change

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Long Range Planning 40 (2007) 535e558

http://www.elsevier.com/locate/lrp

Policy Gaming for Strategy and Change
Jac L. A. Geurts, Richard D. Duke and Patrick A. M. Vermeulen

This article summarizes the major insights collected in a retrospective comparative analysis of eight strategic projects in which ‘policy gaming’ was the major methodology. Policy gaming uses gaming-simulation to assist organizations in policy exploration, decision making and strategic change. The process combines the rigor of systems analysis and simulation techniques with the creativity of scenario building and the communicative power of role-play and structured group techniques. Reality is simulated through the interaction of role players using non-formal symbols as well as formal, computerized sub-models where necessary. The technique allows a group of participants to engage in collective action in a safe environment to create and analyse the futures they want to explore. It enables the players to pre-test strategic initiatives in a realistic environment. Gaming/simulation proves an appropriate process for dealing with the increasing complexity of organizational environments and the problems of communication within complex organizations and their networks. Ó 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Introduction
Anyone who thinks play is nothing but play and dead earnest nothing but dead earnest hasn’t understood either one. (Dietrich D€rner)1 o Over the last few decades, the formal strategy making approaches that once dominated the planning departments of large firms have come under attack from reflective practitioners and management scholars who have argued that rapidly changing environments require emerging and creative strategies.2 From this criticism a number of alternative strategy-making models have been developed that emphasize collective efforts and highlight the need for bottom-up processes in which managers have more autonomy in strategy making. These approaches stimulate ‘market creation,’ ‘planned 0024-6301/$ - see front matter Ó 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.lrp.2007.07.004

emergence,’ and ‘entrepreneurial opportunity formation’ in which softer roles and characteristics such as coordination, communication, creativity and commitment are more important.3 Outside the mainstream of strategy literature, the discipline of gaming/simulation offers great potential in this regard. Scholars from the gaming/simulation discipline have frequently reported on the use of gaming in policy and strategic change projects in a large variety of organizations.4 In the leading professional and academic strategy journals, however, one finds little about successful gaming applications. With this article we want to make clear to strategy practitioners and academics how we have come to understand policy gaming as a unique and effective process for solving the most difficult strategic issues an organization can face.

The actual game is only one - important and highly visible - step in the collective process of inquiry and communication We will argue that policy gaming derives its strategic functions from two central features of this methodology:  The interactive and tailor-made modelling and design of the policy game. The actual run of the policy game is only one - albeit important and highly visible - step in this collective process of inquiry and communication. A policy game or exercise is a dedicated gaming/simulation constructed in collaboration with the members of an organization to help it in its strategy making process.  Through the unique combination of simulation with role-playing, participants themselves actually create the future that they want to study, rather than it being produced for them as in projects where formal simulation models are used. At the same time, the future is more than an object of discussion and verbal speculation, such as in most strategic seminars. No other technique allows a group of...
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