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Will Business Gamification Give Business Fables and Business Fiction New Life?

Serious Business ReadingAs business people we’re very serious. We look at situations on a detached analytical way that keeps emotions and and other frivolous things out of the equation. Right? Wrong. In fact one of the biggest trends in the business world is the gamification of work.

We all know that people learn better through stories (which is what games are). Human’s are story tellers by nature. So why don’t more business books tell stories? Yes, many of them do, just not in a way that we normally think of as a story. I think its why we like examples and case studies so much. Not because they are actual events but because they are real life stories.

In fact I bet that if you looked at the best selling business books list there would be a strong story telling aspect to most of them. (Disclosure all book links in this post are Amazon affiliate links.)

But what about the odd category called Business Fables? It’s an odd category that often get’s dismissed or scoffed at by *serious* business book readers and writers but I think is one that is incredibly overlooked.

I just spent the better part of a beautiful, sunny Saturday in my backyard reading in the sun. It was much needed on multiple levels. This last week was a very stressful week. Not stressful in an all bad way, but just stressful in a ‘solving some really big, complex problems’ kind of way. So while I was still eager to read something from my pile of business books that might help think through my problems, I wasn’t looking to read something really big and complex like I’m normally prone to do.

So I picked up the really short John Kotter book I got from my week HBSBuy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down. It’s under 200 pages and pretty big font compared to most that I read. I’m a really slow reader and I whipped through half the book in a little over an hour. Most of that first half is fiction. It’s the story of a committee member for the local public library who has a plan to put new computers in their library.

The character names are a little silly if not Dickens-esque. Pompus Meani, Heidi Agenda, Avoidus Riski and so-on. Once the story is over the authors then breakdown the what’s and why’s and how you can apply it to your work.

It may sound silly but let me say, it is a really good book and I’ve already ordered a few copies for some friends. I wish this book existed 5 years ago, it would have saved me so much pain and grief. It’s not a great piece of literary work or anything but very useful.

I first came across the use of this type of fiction during my MBA program. And it was during the course on business processes no less. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, is one of the most famous books on business process and widely used in MBA programs and has sold millions of copies. This book is much longer and the character development is slightly better but, again, it’s not great fiction. Even as a class assignment I probably never would have read this book if it were a normal business book, instead choosing to scan it for the main points, but I really enjoyed it and even passed it on to my brother who manages a screen printing shop but is not a business person. He then read it and passed it onto his manager.

But the business fable is an even more fictionalized type of business book.

John Kotter’s Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions, is about a group of emperor penguins, who’s iceberg is melting. It also has done extremely well, selling millions of copies World wide. He wrote the book while he was a professor at Harvard Business School and it was not enthusiastically received by his HBS colleagues before it came out. In fact I kind of got the impression that this approach to business books is part of the reason John “retired early” from HBS.

But John’s not alone in this approach. The best selling, Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life is also a business fable. I haven’t read it but apparently about two people and two mice in a maze. And yes, someone really moves their cheese.

I haven’t read a lot of business fables, but to be honest of all the business books, very few are written as fiction. After this weekend I am much more open to the idea and I hope more authors use this approach. I also think the more authors try this approach the better the fiction writing will be. Who know maybe someday it will get so good non-business people will read them just for fun.

Sound silly? I bet the idea of the gamification of business used to seem really funny too.

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About Tac

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.

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