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Learning-by-playing: the serious game Risk&RACE as a tool to support circular economy business model innovation at a company level
Over the past decades, increasing concerns have risen about the long-term viability of our linear economy model, fuelled by increasing resource extraction rates and generation of waste. Moving towards a Circular Economy is often put forward in policy strategies to decouple consumption from resource use, without sacrificing economic growth (Ghisellini et al., 2016). Also companies are showing increasing interest in the opportunities circular economy business models have in store. Circular economy targeted business model innovation aims at improving resource efficiency and effectiveness, by adapting product design, material choices and end-of-life management and by changing the way products are put on the market (Bocken et al., 2016; Nußholz, 2017; Pieroni et al., 2019). Recently, a multitude of education programs and online courses have been developed to educate students, entrepreneurs and the wider public about circular economy principles (Coursera, 2019; Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2018). Still, knowledge transfer remains mostly theoretical and abstract.
Game-based learning tools are gaining attention as effective ways to transfer knowledge on complex topics to a broad audience (Qian and Clark, 2016). Also in the field of Circular Economy and business model innovation, game-based learning approaches are emerging (ResCoM, 2019; Whalen, 2018; Gatti et al., 2019; La Guardia et al., 2014). Most of these games focus on the overall resource challenges and sustainability issues that trigger the need for a circular economy, but not on the implications of circular material strategies and business model innovation at a company level.
The business game Risk&RACE was developed to bridge this gap between theory and practice by offering a hands-on tool that lets players experience the operational and financial drivers and drawbacks of investing in circular business strategies. The game was developed in an iterative way, based on extensive user-feedback. To add to the effectiveness of the gameplay, a workshop approach was developed to embed the game in entrepreneurship courses and business consulting trajectories as a tool to trigger business ideas and raise discussion about circular economy opportunities and challenges.
This paper provides an overview of the game development process and the way circular economy strategies and business models were incorporated in the game mechanics. It also describes the workshop format that was developed and presents the results from testing sessions with different target groups: undergraduate students in engineering, economics and design curricula, entrepreneurs, business consultants, company executives and financial advisors. The immediate impact of the game experience on participants’ understanding of circular economy related topics was assessed with pre- and post-workshop questionnaires.
Students highly appreciated the realistic and hands-on nature of the game, encouraging them to think and act as an entrepreneur. Professional players praised how the game made the complexity of circular strategies tangible and the way in which it stimulated reflection, discussion, strategic thinking and idea-generation. All target groups indicated their knowledge about circular economy concepts and business models had benefited from the gaming experience.
Finally, the paper makes some further suggestions on how the Risk&RACE workshop can be used in entrepreneurship education, business consulting and strategic company planning.