Sparks – Playful Innovation

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Philips Design has created a boardgame called Spark to help generate insights. It looks like it is a pretty simple premise – there are a set of characters (basic personas) and a set of situations. As you roll the dice and the characters land on the situations, you have to brainstorm the implications.

According to Slava Kozlov, Senior Consultant in Strategic Futures Design at Philips Design:

“You can experiment without taking risks. Suspend your values and beliefs and adopt different roles which allow you to consider issues from a different angle. Learn how to deal with new situations effectively. Think more unconventionally while remaining relevant. And, in the process, enjoy yourself more!”

In many respects it’s not all that innovative. Personas and scenarios are often used in brainstorming sessions. But one of the aims of this approach seems to be to take the activity away from the slightly forced nature of some brainstorming sessions. In theory (as much research shows) the more participants’ minds relax into a playful state, the more laterally creative they should start to think.

There is a quite a bit of talk in the PDF article about “serious games” and a mention of The Serious Games Institute. I’m not a fan of this kind of terminology, the same as the idea of serious play. I understand why people use this, but it is an immediately apologetic framing of play. Play is play and it is important – it doesn’t need the prefix of being serious to make it so. It doesn’t do much to advance the value of play.

As for the game, I can imagine in a corporate culture that this could be a useful tool allowing people to enter into a suspended-judgement, creative idea generation space because is “only a game”. Of course the flipside could also be the case – that it or its outcomes are not taken seriously because it’s a game. It is good to see these ideas becoming more accepted and mainstream though.

There’s a video of Birgitta ten Napel talking about the game on the Philips site too.