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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 [via]