Two years ago, Tucker Marion was recruited by Harvard Business Publishing to create a 30-minute online game that simulates the innovation process. The “gamification” of learning is part of a larger shift in the education industry, one that emphasizes experiential activities and lifetime learning.

Marion, along with co-creator Sebastian Fixson of Babson College, launched the simulation in August of 2017. It can be played by students in the classroom, as well as online. Specifically designed to be more than just a game, it exposes students to a wide range of innovation methods, and teaches the importance of matching innovation styles to corporate culture.

“When you develop a game, you want content that's both experiential and drives home a certain point,” said Marion.

The simulation was designed for use throughout a business curriculum including entrepreneurship, innovation, operations management, and more.

The game itself is set in a medium-sized newspaper struggling with declining subscriptions. With a $50,000 budget, students are challenged to analyze a variety of innovation strategies and determine which one would be best to turn the newspaper around.

Adrienne Carr, DMSB'20, found the exercise illuminating.

“I learned that if the idea doesn't match the mandate then it's not worth testing,” she said. “The CEO made it clear that he wanted a ‘quick win' and ‘nothing too crazy.' Yet some of the best ideas I received had long implementation times. I made this mistake of ignoring these factors in my first turn and tested a bunch of ideas that didn't match my mandate. This wasted both time and money. By my third try at the simulation, I ran initiatives that matched my mandate, which was the key to my success.”

The game is designed to last about a half hour, leaving time for discussions about key takeaways and future decisions.

“One of the most important lessons they learn,” said Marion, “is that when it comes to innovation, there's no silver bullet.”

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Photo credit: Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University.