PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Engle: Rapid turnaround matrix games

PAXsims is pleased to present more ideas from Chris Engle, the original inventor of the matrix game method. Today he offers some thoughts on how simple matrix games can be used to develop rapid insight into a challenge or issue.


 

QuickTurnaround

One of the realities of consulting is the requirement for speed. Problems arise and clients demand they be solved immediately. Highly complex simulations could take weeks or longer to set up and run. This limits their utility. Matrix games offer a simulation technique that is much faster to implement.

A customer may call with a question and be able to get a simulation solution to it within as little as an hour.

All that it takes to create a matrix game is to define a problem and briefly describe the context. The problem can be as little as one sentence and a context statement no longer than a page. A single writer could create this in minutes. The next step is running the game.

Games require players but they do not need to be face to face. If they are (such as in a staff meeting or some other kind of committee) that is fine but a focus group of players can meet online just as easily. Whoever calls the meeting brings the game and asks the participants to play. Even full blown games need last no more than an hour and sometimes less.

Once the session is done the consultant should write up the results in a report or tell the customer verbally. Either way the consultant need only summarize the key ideas and themes that emerged through play.

Rapid turnaround games like this can be used to help train people, to try and reach a consensus amongst a staff, to explain a policy decision, or build a team. The uses are only limited by the imaginations of the participants.

I have experience running games like this in psychotherapy since the late 1980’s. In these games, I bring up the simulation as needed and fit it to my client’s needs. Preplanning is impossible in this context. I use it as it seems appropriate. In substance abuse and anger management groups it is a way for people to examine their cognitions and assumptions. In individual counseling it is a way for a client to explore a possible course of action safely.

I see no reason why this technique could not work for any number of other disciplines. All that is required is the ability to think on your feet.

Chris Engle

2 responses to “Engle: Rapid turnaround matrix games

  1. brtrain 28/07/2016 at 2:29 pm

    I’m really looking forward to Chris Engle’s book, which I hope will contain many practical examples of these kinds of games.

  2. Robert (Bob) CorderyBob Cordery 28/07/2016 at 2:34 pm

    Tom Mouat and I once designed a Matrix Game in just over twenty minutes. We were attending a wargames show to help someone else to run a game … and thirty minutes before the doors opened the game and its designer were nowhere to be seen. (They were held up in traffic as result of an accident.) Tom had a large-scale map of Bosnia and some file cards, and I had a pen. Together we drafted six sets of individual objectives for the players, and when the doors opened we were able to run a Matrix Game about NATO’s possible operations in Bosnia.

    Tom and I had both designed Matrix Games before, and it was not too difficult to use that experience when we designed this game.

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