Business Innovation: What Market Leaders Can Learn From Video Games

Businesses looking to innovate and stay ahead of the curve would do well to look to an unlikely source for inspiration -- the computer and video game field, one of today's most crowded, fast-moving and competitive spaces. With thousands of digital diversions now available for free, or for pennies on the dollar via mobile devices, social networks and Web browsers, it's a leading indicator of what can happen to any market when barriers to entry collapse, distribution channels tighten and customer expectations can change at the speed of Internet memes.

Thankfully, according to Martin Rae, president of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, which puts on the annual DICE Summit Awards, which celebrate creativity and innovation in design, many organizations have learned to survive and thrive, even in these most challenging environments. Following, he offers three tips that businesses in any field can learn from to stop playing around with their business, take their market strategy to the next level, and, as our friends with the overly-muscular thumbs do, constantly stay ahead of the game.

Continuously Change and Adapt -- According to Rae, video game makers are constantly forced to reinvent their products, services and even core value propositions on a regular basis, due to the overwhelming amount of rivals competing for audiences' attention, and speed with which they and their strategies can evolve. (With more and more online games functioning more like services, less like games, and updates capable of being issued in real-time, both competitive landscapes and pricing and product strategies can literally change on a day-to-day basis.)

Consumer products makers, manufacturers, retailers and businesses in virtually any category would do well to follow their lead, he says, and constantly rethink what makes them valuable, what makes them different, and what's going to keep them ahead of the curve. A constant process of re-imaging and reinvention should occur with any major brand and business in today's market, as fast as times and trends evolve, he suggests, meaning that corporate leaders would do well to constantly push their comfort zone and capabilities.

Do the Math -- Part of the reason many mobile and free-to-play games, such as Candy Crush Saga, are so successful is that they're actually giant feedback loops, and constant works-in-progress. And big data and analytics are only becoming more prevalent forces behind many of the field's biggest hits. Clearly, says Rae, creative artistry and clever design thinking remain at the heart of gaming's most successful ventures. But there's also something to be said for understanding one's customer: A process made simpler when organizations track buyer behavior, and use this data to improve and enhance their offerings on a running basis.

Based on the feedback and insights gained, companies in every field can consistently make smart bets on how to tweak, expand, or enhance current offerings or move in new strategic directions, continually course-correcting as they go. Knowledge is power, or so they say: Using it, explains Rae, you can make something good great, and something fantastic even better. Having a great creative recipe and imaginative approach is most important, he reminds. But when you pair great artistry with informed analytics, and match the right data points to right decisions, the results can often be breathtaking.

Never Stop Experimenting -- Part of what makes the video game field so compelling is its endless range of new and inventive ideas, a proud tradition since the early days of home computing, Rae suggests. And in increasingly cutthroat and competitive landscapes, neither developers nor publishers are being shy about the ideas that they're now putting to work. In such an overcrowded market, certainly -- some providers are wont to follow existing formulas and franchises that have brought prior success, thanks to their seeming dependability.

But time and again, as the field's most successful ventures (especially a growing range of independent releases) prove, more of the same won't work forever, and isn't what the public always wants. Operating in a pressure cooker environment, a growing range of businesses and startups are finding increasing success through differentiation -- a goal that organizations in every field should be striving for. Enterprises looking to stand out would do well to follow these scrappy upstarts' lead and note how difficult it is to stand out, especially in flooded markets, by trying to fit in.