Playing to win: how strategic games shape high-performing teams at Beanmachine

At Beanmachine, we understand that the strength of a team lies not just in individual skills but significantly in how well team members collaborate, learn, and perform together. Recent research by Parker and du Plooy from the Universities of Cape Town and Verona beautifully highlights this and illustrates why we at Beanmachine are so passionate about integrating games into our team development and leadership programs.

The power of psychological safety

Psychological safety, the feeling within a team that one can take risks without fear of negative consequences, is a crucial element for effective collaboration. This concept, emphasized in the research, is the cornerstone on which we design our games and exercises. Our activities aim to create this safe space where team members feel free to share ideas, make mistakes, and learn from each other.

Games as catalysts for learning and performance

The study by Parker and du Plooy shows that team-based games can not only increase psychological safety but also positively correlate with both team learning and team performance. This is music to our ears, as it validates the methodology behind our game-focused approach. By playing games, we encourage teams to discover new ways of communicating and collaborating, leading to improved performance and a stronger learning capability within the team.

Our approach: learning through experience

At Beanmachine, we strongly believe in experiential learning. Like the ‘Marshmallow challenge’ from the study, our games provide a hands-on experience where teams see the immediate impact of their actions. This direct feedback loop fosters a deeper understanding and a stronger sense of accountability for both individual and team outcomes.

For instance, “Challenging Assumptions,” a game we often use, does exactly what its name suggests. It nudges participants to question their preconceived notions, encouraging a culture of inquiry and openness that is fundamental to psychological safety. By confronting and dismantling these assumptions in a controlled, playful environment, teams not only learn to communicate more effectively but also to approach problems with a fresh perspective.

Similarly, “Webmaster” is another tool in our arsenal that epitomizes the essence of collaborative problem-solving and communication. This intricate game challenges teams to navigate through a web of complexities, quite literally, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose. It’s a vivid representation of how interconnected and interdependent team members are, and how each member’s actions can significantly impact the collective outcome.

Integrating specific games for targeted outcomes

Integrating these games into our programs is a deliberate choice. These games are not only fun, but are full of deep learning opportunities that align with our goals of building stronger, more cohesive, and high-performing teams. They exemplify how we use experiential learning to enhance team dynamics, improve communication, and foster an environment where innovation thrives. 

By engaging in these games, teams experience firsthand the power of collective problem-solving and the value of diverse perspectives. These experiences are pivotal in enhancing team learning and performance – the core pillars highlighted by Parker and du Plooy’s research.

The role of games in resource-limited environments

The research also highlights the importance of games in resource-limited environments, such as healthcare. This is particularly relevant to us, as we often work with teams under high pressure and with limited resources. 

Conclusion: more than just games 

At Beanmachine, we don’t see games as mere pastimes but as powerful tools for development. The research by Parker and du Plooy reaffirms what we’ve long known: by integrating games into team development and leadership programs, we’re not only building stronger teams but also creating a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.

So let’s keep playing, learning, and growing – Together.


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