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Game On: A Fresh Take on Business Development Training

We play and watch games throughout our lives. Own a frequent flyer card? You qualify as a player. Buy an occasional lottery ticket? Play recreational sports or video games? Yep, you’re a player. Games are everywhere in our culture, and they can be an effective tool to help lawyers succeed at business development. After all, the legal profession is based on competition and advocacy.

Need further proof? Here are ten valuable reasons for training with games:

  1. Games enhance interest.
  2. Games can be disarming.
  3. Games build teams.
  4. Games provide opportunities for practice without serious consequences.
  5. Games let people try out different roles.
  6. Games make abstract concepts more concrete.
  7. Games teach decision-making skills.
  8. Games provoke thought on multiple levels.
  9. Games provide reinforcement and reward.
  10. Games appeal to different learning styles.

The recipe for any game consists of four basic ingredients:

  1. Competition: The competition can be among teams, between individuals or against a record or benchmark. There are many ways to create a competitive environment best for your participants.
  2. Controls: There are many kinds of controls. Rules, referees, time and geographic constraints are all available to create the desired set of controls.
  3. Closure: Every game needs a winner, though losers are not always necessary. For lawyers, a judge or jury makes a ruling to conclude a case. In business development, the steps to success are usually more incremental. Winning can be as simple as: “Can we meet again?” or “Let me introduce you to my partner.”
  4. Reward: Utilize any number of rewards in your situation: money or gifts, satisfaction, recognition, bragging rights—you name it. Rewards can be material, intrinsic or both.

Win DiceOne of my favorite business development training games is called “The Envelope Please.” It is very flexible and useful in a variety of situations. All you need are envelopes, paper and several groups of equal size (no more than 10 in each group).

Create as many business development scenarios as there are teams. The scenarios can focus on just about any topic: preparing for a pitch, taking advantage of a conference, solving a policy challenge or converting a friend to a client, as examples. Be sure each scenario has a specific task, i.e. “draft three policies” or “draft five talking points.” Tape each scenario to the outside of a large envelope. Put enough blank paper in each envelope to give each team its own sheet. Distribute one envelope/scenario to each team and allow five minutes for teams to read and respond.

Repeat the process until all teams have worked with every scenario, save one. During the last round, instead of responding to the last scenario, teams judge the responses of the other teams and assign points to the best responses. Finally, each team, along with the facilitator, leads a discussion of their scenario and the responses.

“The Envelope Please” allows participants to play all of the time (and avoid getting bored), and the group (as well as the marketing team) will walk away with a treasure trove of ideas. The key is to be flexible. Craft scenarios that require discussion and judgment. If you want to gain more out of the exercise, secretly identify one person on each team to observe how the team works together. At the debrief, ask them to share their observations.

The next time you are planning business development training, keep in mind the value of games. In my experience, lawyers learn best when they learn from and teach each other. Games encourage that process in a safe and entertaining environment.

 

*Credit to Sivasailam Thiagarajan, a consultant and expert in effective performance-based training, for the idea behind “The Envelope Please.”

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