Serious Play: How the World's Best Companies Simulate to Innovate

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Successful innovation demands more than a good strategic plan; it requires creative improvisation. Much of the "serious play" that leads to breakthrough innovations is increasingly linked to experiments with models, prototypes, and simulations. As digital technology makes prototyping more cost-effective, serious play will soon lie at the heart of all innovation strategies, influencing how businesses define themselves and their markets. Author Michael Schrage is one of today's most widely recognized experts on the relationship between technology and work. In Serious Play, Schrage argues that the real value in building models comes less from the help they offer with troubleshooting and problem solving than from the insights they reveal about the organization itself. Technological models can actually change us--improving the way we communicate, collaborate, learn, and innovate. With real-world examples and engaging anecdotes, Schrage shows how companies such as Disney, Microsoft, Boeing, IDEO, and DaimlerChrysler use serious play with modeling technologies to facilitate the collaborative interactions that lead to innovation. A user's guide included with the book helps readers apply many of the innovation practices profiled throughout. A landmark book by one of the most perceptive voices in the field of innovation.

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Recall the old saying about all work and no play making Jack a dull boy? World-class companies today need play--serious play--if they want to make truly innovative products, argues Michael Schrage, an MIT Media Lab fellow and Fortune magazine columnist. In Serious Play he writes, "When talented innovators innovate, you don't listen to the specs they quote. You look at the models they've created." Whether it's a spreadsheet that tests a new financial model or a foam prototype of a calculator, what interests Schrage is not the model itself, but the behavior that play--be it modeling, prototyping, or simulation--inspires.

Schrage examines the approaches to successful prototyping at companies such as AT&T, Boeing, Microsoft, and DaimlerChrysler and describes the kind of culture that's needed for encouraging innovation. In the last chapter, he lays out the 10 rules of serious play, including: 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; and simulate the customer experience. Well-written and inspiring, Serious Play, is a first-rate user's guide for managers, project leaders, and other innovators. --Dan Ring

About the Author:

Michael D. Schrage is a research associate at the MIT Media Lab, A Merrill Lynch Forum Innovation Fellow and a columnist for Fortune magazine.

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