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Serious Play

Michael Schrage
ISBN number: 
Harvard Business School Press
Publication date: 
December 1, 1999

Schrage's seriously playful and insightful book is subtitled: How the World's Best Companies Simulate to Innovate. Here's an excerpt from Sohodojo's reading recommendation of Serious Play:

"Do you want to work better? Then learn to play better according to Mivhael Schrage. World-class companies today need play – serious play – if they want to make truly innovative products.

Serious play uses such "toys" as models, simulations, and prototypes. Tomorrow's innovations will increasingly be the byproduct of how organizations behave-and misbehave-around this new generation of serious play "toys."

You cannot be a serious innovator unless you are willing to play.

Schrage describes the kind of culture that's needed for encouraging innovation then lays out the 10 rules of serious play, among them:

  • Be willing to fail early and often
  • Know when the costs outweigh the benefits
  • Know who wins and who loses from an innovation
  • Build a prototype that engages customers, vendors, and colleagues
  • Create markets around prototypes
  • Simulate the customer experience

Innovative firms cannot seriously plan unless they seriously play. All work and no play more than ever today will make Jack, an unhappy, unsuccessful boy."

We've put this fascinating book on Jelal's initial project reading list because Schrage makes such a powerful case, with examples, of how simulation and exploratory learning/playing can contribute to the innovation initiatives within organizations. While Schrage focuses on innovation within companies, his case is equally appropriate to grassroots and community organizations as well as social action research projects.

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