Value Games in COVID times

Value Games in COVID times

Alain Perrot - Value Games

By Alain Perrot, partner at Value Games

In a world where there is no more universal truth, and where reason and folly permanently fight with each other, games are the way forward for companies to bring back confidence to their teams by co-creating with them a new narrative towards their purpose. Here is why.

In times which are more and more anxiety-provoking, companies should maximize at the same time their value and their employees values, by adopting “play to thrive” strategies, as opposed to the tempting and apparently reasonable “avoid to lose” strategy, which inevitably will lead to a prisoner mindset, and eventually to burn-outs or bore-outs in COVID times. In fact, both the art of war (Sun Tzu) and the theory of complex and adaptive systems (Richard Pascale – surfing the edge of chaos) suggest that in chaotic or uncertain times, stability is at best a cause of defeat at worse a precursor of death.

Games have always been a mirror of societies. For instance, in ancient Egypt, the game of Senet, played by the pharaohs and the people was a representation of the journey of life to the afterlife. Likewise, Monopoly, the capitalist game par excellence, still today by far the best seller of board games, was invented during the 1929 crisis by Charles Darrow, an unemployed person, who eventually became the first millionaire game designer in history.

At the same time Monopoly was invented, and as shown in “Murder-Party” novel from Henry Bordeaux of Académie Française, published in 1931, American actress and interior decorator, Elsie de Wolfe, aka Lady Mendl, imported murder party-style role playing games in France, sign of the major influence of the United States on French society at that time. Based on these historical examples, what Game should we play in COVID Times and beyond? I mean, not just game like a business simulation, but also game as the mutual interactions we have with other people in “real life”. As Simon Sinek wrote in his latest book “the Infinite Game”: If there are at least two players, a game exists. Those who pretend they don’t like Games, play “in real life” consciously or not. Invented in 2008, the Board Game Pandemic, which simulates several pandemics, gives a clear indication for the Future: to eliminate the pandemics, players must cooperate globally and perfectly. We are far from that in the real war against COVID. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the philosopher Bertrand Russell did not say anything different: the only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation. “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” as my grandmother sang.

What about business during the COVID crisis? Like in the Chinese proverb “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others build windmills”, companies adopt two strategies, either “avoid to lose” or “play to win”, or even better “play to thrive”. It is remarkable to observe that the “avoid to lose” companies use the same procrastinating arguments when they have the opportunity to introduce either a new way of working or simply play a business game: “no thanks, we are too busy…”

In fact, vis-à-vis business games, the core assumption of “avoid to lose” leaders, is that games are not serious or not real life, i.e. useless for business purposes. The core belief behind this assumption is that when people come to work, they suddenly become Homo Faber, Economicus, and Sapiens. Since the works of the philosopher and sociologist Edgar Morin on complexity, we know we all are Homo Complexus, including the games skeptics, i.e. at the same time Homo Faber/Ludens, Economicus/Mythologicus and Sapiens/Demens. That is why it is an illusion to ask People to leave Homo Ludens/Mythologicus/Demens in the cloakroom when they come to work, and that is why video games have soared when we were confined. People vitally needed to relax, but not only. When asked why they play, gamers (2.6 billion worldwide for a market estimated at $165 billion) the 3 main reasons apart from relax, are feel an accomplishment, connect with people, and put themselves in somebody else shoes. 3 key success factors at work !

Based on these observations, at Value Games, we are convinced that the best way to combat the prevailing gloom, is to play Games with purpose, i.e. games which help to learn faster a new way of working, like S&OP for Value Race, or Team of Teams spirit for Value Search, and at the same time which bring joy to people. The recent experience of a 100% digital Value Race session was extremely instructive. People were physically distant, but they learnt as much as during our physical sessions, because the content and the Eureka effect were the same, and because we could keep the fun and the good vibrations almost like in the physical or “phygital” versions. What is true for a game, is obviously even more crucial in “real life”.  The challenge is to keep the emotional connections and in particular fun, people were used to when they met face to face without masks. It is not a nice to have, it is a vital cure in gloomy times. Work hard, Play hard remains a key characteristic of High performing teams. Even in the trenches during World War One, soldiers were playing games, mostly cards.

For us at Value Games, the future will be playful and digital, or won’t be. We are ready to serve for the match.

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In a protean world, traditional experiential learning cannot follow the pace of change which is exponential. Consequently, it is vital to make step change in order to learn to learn faster as per our Exponential Learning model™.


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