Applying Evidence-Based Management in Making Serious Games for Health

If our goal is to make serious games for health that “work” as demonstrated by empirical studies, we should be living this value throughout the serious game development process. This is not only good for the alignment of values and practices, but it also makes good business sense.

L-R: Pfeffer and Sutton

I am talking here about evidence-based management. If you want to learn more about what this means, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton, professors in Stanford University Graduate School of Business wrote an article in Strategy and Business way back in 2006 which still rings true. A more recent article that ties in more directly with evidence-based medicine appears in the New York Times in 2011.

I strive to practice an evidence-based management approach in my projects. It is not easy because people’s cultural beliefs and practices may lead some to resist “the facts.” For example, when I found research showing that stress played a significant role in medical errors, there was cultural resistance even in the patient safety department to addressing stress as a problem.

Even after I presented several large empirical studies published in prestigious medical journals supporting this finding, I was told we couldn’t  make a serious game that addressed stress among young doctors because “stress is a taboo subject” and “stress management is not something we do around here.” But along with the support of young doctors crying out for a stress management program and clever “upwards management,” we pushed the agenda through. Today it is a major reason why people are so intrigued with our patient safety game.  Research is currently being conducted on the game but here are some links to the excitement that it has already sparked in blogs, newspapers, radio, and television (some of the media are in Dutch).

Overall, I strive to practice an evidence-based management approach and I believe in it because I have seen positive results of following it in my work. Fear can drive bad decisions and arrogance can lead to errors; but a strong and consistent pattern of facts can be a more objective guide and should be given more respect in the work that we do. For all of us who work on serious games, evidence-based management is a practice that should be integrated into our work as we work towards our ultimate goal of contributing to the practice of evidence-based medicine.

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