Ready steady play!

19.09.2018 21:45
Those of you who came to ICEDAY back in July may have participated in Boardroom Games' demonstration of their activities designed to stimulate Creativity, Awareness, Resilience, Decision Making and Self Organisation. Typically, we Brits in the audience were really reluctant to join in but once in the room you couldn't stop us, such was the enthusiasm and expertise demonstrated by the guys from Boardroom Games. So I caught up with cofounder Aiden McNulty to find out how playing and having fun can impact individuals and businesses. 

1 When we first met I thought the name BOARDROOM GAMES sounded a bit lightweight, but now I see from your demonstration at ICEDAY and recent analysis on how creativity and productivity are massively affected by PLAY, that you’re actually ahead of the curve. How did you arrive at your offering?

With information, people and new technology more accessible than ever, competition is fiercer than ever in every industry. We all know that if businesses are going to thrive, they need the best people performing at their best. Having a combined experience of over 20 years in professional sport utilising games, we know that play is a superb vehicle because it provides a rich and uninhibited environment for people to interact, develop and showcase their skill and character. For all those businesses who state on their website that they want “creative, team players”, we want to help them actually make it happen. The stakes are too high for hope to be the only strategy. Our games and coaching support people to become skilful, adaptable problem solvers who will add value.

2 So when you are working with a client how do you structure the brief?

We sit down with the client and first of all play a game. The best way to understand the power of games is to remember what it was like to be a kid again just playing. Through playing these initial games, we get to the root of what value we can add and how it best aligns with the client's DNA, values and their objectives whether they be focused on recruitment, engagement or development. Whilst it is playful, it is also our opportunity to assess where the client needs to see a change.  We will then go away and design our games and adaptions to make sure we can come back in and deliver a challenging and rewarding experience that will deliver a memorable and measurable impact for all.

3 I know from personal experience that getting people to join in with enthusiasm can be a bit uphill. How do you get around that?

Practically we design the most inclusive, engaging and simple games we possibly can. We introduce them as quickly as possible. We get people playing and playing fast. Lack of enthusiasm is a pretty rubbish tactic for successful play and humans quickly adapt! Of course, we bring a lot of energy and we purposefully adapt the rules and our interactions with individuals to make sure that those people who might not take to it immediately, quickly feel safe to be themselves in the environment.

4 It seems to me that Corporate Event profs can benefit two fold from Boardroom Games. Obviously including your games in their events, but also using your games to stimulate their business units and even their own event teams to help increase creative thinking and teamwork. Could you describe how you see Boardroom Games working within corporates? 

Certainly within corporate events there is a demand for novel approaches to provide variety that can be both fun and exciting. We can guarantee something new every time we play a game, either because it is a game that we’ve invented or because we are going to use a combination of adaptions that are unique. We build our games around 5 pillars: Creativity, Awareness, Resilience, Decision-Making, Self-Organisation or if you agree with us that that’s a mouthful, “CARDS”. All our games are going to include those elements, to varying degrees. Making sure our games incorporate those higher order skills is a quality check, but it also makes them highly applicable to any business unit because they will benefit from having those skills stretched, nudged or exposed in a collaborative environment. 

5 Just on the rugby background, I read recently of the Saracens rugby club have launched their own High School. Why do you think rugby is diversifying into business and society?

There is something innately remarkable about the game of rugby in that it is a contact sport where you can (and are sometimes encouraged to) collide as hard as possible with one or more human beings and yet there are strict guidelines on how and when that is acceptable; come the final whistle, you shake hands and say thanks to the opposition and your team mates for joining in with you! Playing rugby demands skill but also respect and discipline. In any walk of life these skills are going to be valued and teams like Saracens work tirelessly to represent the best bits of the sport. Understanding these values has given us a great grounding in how BoardRoom Games can help organisations explore their “Why?” with their people.

6 Boardroom Games being already ahead of the curve, what are your plans going forward?

Short-term we want to work in as many different environments as possible and play as many games as possible! We love delivering the games and seeing people improve, have fun and show what they’re capable of. For people out there trying to solve age old problems, the same way they always have, the same way as their competition, we offer a much needed change that will allow people to join us on the right side of the curve! Longer-term we believe that we can play an active and important role within organisations to help them recruit better and actively increase their people’s engagement, development and enjoyment at work! 

7 And finally from your background as a top level rugby player and coach what single nugget of advice would you give to today’s business professionals?

Seek out feedback. In professional sport there is heaps of it. Every game is a fantastic learning environment because the feedback is everywhere and immediate: on the scoreboard, from coaches and team mates and in how much you are enjoying the game. With feedback we can adapt our behaviour to get better. In some professions the feedback may not be so obvious or take longer to materialise, however that will give those who seek it out and learn from it even more of an advantage. Find ways to engineer meaningful feedback (experiment, statistical analysis, video, questions, polls etc), pay attention to feedback from anyone and anything and then make decisions on what will best inform your decisions and actions on how to get better.

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