Thursday 07 December 2017

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to be a part of a rather special evening hosted by the PM Forum entitled Developing Collaborative and Entrepreneurial BD at the offices of Clyde & Co. in London.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect: Business Development is all the rage at the moment within Professional Services, with organisations realising that the role of actively developing new business (both by the fee earners themselves and the Marketing/BD functions) is more important than ever with a crowded marketplace and purse strings being pulled tighter than ever. 

So, I was expecting a new/better approach to be proposed with a few examples and case studies from the session which might bear some food for thought, and just an opportunity to hear what’s new in the marketplace. However, it was all a bit different as we played a board game with a bit of a twist.

As the name suggests, the event was centred around using innovative and collaborative ways to develop new business. The session was run by Tim Shepley and his team from Expedite Learning who split us up into tables of 3-4 people and set us to play a board game called Fresh Biz. If you want to find out more, just watch this video.

The premise of the game was simple: there are almost no rules. You have to roll a dice and each time, someone has to move along the board landing on a new square – upon landing on a square there is a corresponding action. The ultimate goal was to reach The Island at the far end of the board – to do this, you had to traverse three areas and cross all of the squares which corresponded

All of the squares corresponded to opportunities or threats to you the individual, so as you progressed the greater the risk something might go very wrong but equally, you might receive a sum of money from another player, have the opportunity to start a business which earns you rent every time another player lands on it etc. As we were to learn, the real key to mitigate this risk was to work together.

As with all board games, the first inclination is to compete with your co-players, trying to beat one another to The Island at the end, however, it quickly becomes apparent that it is impossible to this  on your own and the game is set-up so that whilst you may experience some quick wins these are not substantive and do not enable you to experience the real victory – reaching the finish.

The game pushes you to not only communicate with your colleagues/neighbours but to proactively assist them and, crucially, start seeing things from their perspectives. A rather nice analogy for how we should behave in our own organisations.

The moral of the game then is that, not only by working together can we experience greater, more significant wins together, it’s actually looking at the environment in a completely different way and seeing the threats (potential barriers to entry, for example) as real opportunities as well.

The “biz” which you actively develop in this game is then your own personal fortunes and you begin to align yourself with your colleagues’ futures because you realise that this is the only way in which you will all jet yourself off to ‘Paradise Island.’ In a fable-like way, only by working together does the team succeed.

The aim of the game was then not really for someone to reach the end, but for all of us to get there and to think outside the box to do so. We had to question every assumption on board games and thus, question every aspect of our environment to see where the real opportunities lay (another quite useful daily skill).

Interestingly my own table mucked about until the last minute when we thought we might lose, but as soon as we felt some external pressure (one of the other groups were starting to win), we banded together and helped one another towards the end.

Whilst the utility of repeating this exercise over and over again would diminish, the underlying concept will stick with me for a while. Question your external environment and question one another, as herein lies the greatest opportunities for collective success.

Eugene McCormick, Passle