lasgow-based IRC Scotland’s host organisation, Targeting Innovation, offers technology and innovation support to all types of business and research organisations. “We find that it can be hard for young technology-focused companies to grasp how their businesses can exploit their intellectual property and assets,” says Caroline Gray-Stephens of IRC Scotland. “Furthermore, their business advisors may not appreciate the importance of intangible assets and knowledge for business growth. We decided that we needed a good tool to use in workshops to help companies and their advisors understand how intellectual assets can be an unrecognised source of income.”
The game begins
The Metamorphosis game was created to meet this need. It is a board game like Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit – professionally produced with game pieces – but it is not for playing with the family on a winter evening! “We designed the game to promote discussion at technology-transfer workshops,” explains Gray-Stephens. “Based on a case study of an imaginary company, it encourages the players to pinpoint the threats that the company faces, the opportunities that it should be looking to exploit, and the tasks needed to negate the threats and transform opportunities into profits.”
Workshop delegates consider all these factors in relation to an imaginary business, so they can then apply the methods, either to their own businesses, or to companies they advise. The players get a better appreciation of the advantages of technology transfer, such as licensing-in technology to enhance their proposition or to develop a new product. For details of the game, see the box.
Playing with opportunities
“The great thing about the game is that it forces workshop delegates to think about the intangible assets of the case study companies,” comments Gray-Stephens. “Ideas, new products, know-how, skills and processes do not appear on conventional balance sheets but have great potential to add value to companies. Playing Metamorphosis equips delegates to define the intangible assets of their own companies, and enables business advisors to help companies to grow. Such assets are increasingly recognised for their importance to the real value of companies.” There are case studies in three fields which are strong candidates for technology transfer: biotechnology, consumer industries, and information technology. Workshops can therefore be based on the case study best suited to the participants. The game can also be played on a one-to-one level to help a given company define its strategy.
“In Scotland, we began by training business advisors,” explains Lucy Taylor of IRC Scotland. “This can set up a chain reaction, helping technology transfer to spread faster. In the two years since we first conceptualised the game, it has been played with over 300 delegates.” There are few right or wrong answers. The game is a fun way to stimulate discussion and make sure that companies put intellectual asset management and technology transfer on their agenda.
Metamorphosis was first presented at an IRC event to market best practice, held in Turin in January 2003. Here it was spotted by Chris Pinnell of IRC South-West England. “As soon as we saw the game in action, we realised it was a very effective way to raise awareness and understanding of technology transfer,” he says. This IRC has since licensed the game and plans to play it in workshops to train 72 companies and 24 business advisors over the coming year. “The format also provides a great way to introduce IRC services to the audience,” adds Chris.
Other members of the IRC network have also shown interest in the game, which could be used in induction and bestpractice workshops throughout the network. “In any event, we hope that other IRC partners will consider evaluating and licensing the game as the basis for spreading good practice on technology transfer in their regions,” concludes Gray-Stephens. “Perhaps one day Metamorphosis will even overtake Monopoly in sales!”
How to play Metamorphosis
The game board, stacked with euro counters, represents the case study company. A group of up to eight players use the board to identify threats that could drain cash from the company: these are noted on red jigsaw pieces, with euro counters piled on to reflect the scale of the risk. Chains of these threats are grouped around the board against different areas of company activity. In the next stage, delegates identify opportunities, noted on blue jigsaw pieces and also given a euro value. These pieces connect together but cannot be attached to the company until they are built into its business strategy.
The final round is to assign management tasks – green jigsaw pieces – that, when attached to the other pieces, distance the threats from the company and link opportunities directly to the board.