Career lessons from updated games and toys

Have you been watching Jeopardy! lately? By the time you read this, professional sports gambler James Holzhauer’s winning streak might already be over, but he’s won over $1.5 million as of the filing of this article. He also broke records including winning 18 games in a row and the top five one-day scores in the history of the show.

Everything about Holzhauer’s winning streak goes against what most of us know about playing the classic answer and question game.

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His very particular style of playing started me thinking about the way that some of us learned big life lessons from playing humble card and board games as kids. It also made me wonder if there’s room for a refresher course for all of us.

Update the classics

What’s more classic than Lego interlocking plastic building blocks, a staple of most of our childhoods? And if something’s perfect, why change, right? Well, not really. In early April Lego launched robotics kits to encourage students to learn programming and STEM skills through hands-on activities.

There are also lesson plans available for teachers to work with — and play with — students as they build, code and learn. Toys become classics for a reason but updating them to reflect current trends makes them not only fun to play with but future-friendly as well.

Lesson learned from games: No matter how great you or your product are, it’s crucial to study current industry trends and update as needed and when needed. Bonus points if you can make learning and expanding your knowledge base fun!

And then update them some more

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Lego Foundation and Lego Group are in the process of launching Lego Braille Bricks to help blind and visually impaired children learn Braille in a fun and intuitive way. It’s an important mission since according to a National Federation of the Blind, it’s estimated that only 10% of children who are blind are learning to read Braille, compared with over 50% in the 1950s.

There’s a bittersweet story connected to the new launch. Morten Bonde, a Senior Art Director with the LEGO Group who is gradually becoming blind, served as a consultant on this project. One of Bonde’s life missions is to “focus on the brightness in life, even though the vision of the world is getting darker.”

Bonde described feeling goosebumps all over his body the first time he heard about blind children playing with the new Braille Bricks. In the next phase of the project, Bonde said will be involved in “developing the visual concept that we will pack the Braille Bricks into. That be the development of packaging, apps, websites, etc. Here I will draw on the experiences I have as a visually impaired person with visual art direction skills. A fun mixture of skills I think.”

Lesson learned from games: Life can throw a lot of curveballs. While it’s not always possible to actually work during some of the worst of it, imagine if you could find a way to turn your personal setbacks into a lesson for others or personal triumph. Not to be all rainbows and unicorns about it, but not everyone has the same experience or limitations or even skill set you do. Challenge yourself to create something amazing out of something awful if you’re able.

Reinvent the wheel

Chess is the ultimate classic board game of strategy with its origins in India in the 6th century. And yet in the 1980s handheld electronic chess games were all the rage, while the early 2000s saw online chess simulation games gaining popularity. Early this year, Square Off chess board which allows you to play on a board with your opponent at a different location was a CES Innovation Honoree.

The API (together with Bluetooth and AI) magically allows you to watch as the opponent’s pieces move on their own across your board so you can also pretend you’re playing against a friendly, brainy ghost if you’re so inclined. Along those lines, ChessPlus is a new strategy tabletop game out of Australia where you combine your chess pieces to create new mashup pieces.

Lesson learned from games: Just because everyone’s been doing something the same way forever doesn’t mean that you have to. If you think you have a better approach, don’t let your boss or co-worker talk you out of it simply because it hasn’t been done before.

It’s not trivial

Remember how much fun it was to play Trivial Pursuit in teams? Three new games from Gray Matter Games take the notion of card-based trivia and turn it on its proverbial ear.

“Badmoji” creates a race to guess the lewd phrases using familiar emoji (I really want to try this one!) “Ridiculous Expositions” is another team-based game in which players compete to find naughty expressions beneath the surface of seemingly innocent ones. You’ll need a quick and dirty mind for this one. “The Game of Wolf” is more of a strategic trivia game played either in packs or as a lone wolf- definitely a Game of Thrones metaphor here if you can find it.

Lesson learned from games: Knowing one topic well doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve mastered it. Taking a look at what you already know from a completely different angle or approach might just make you better at your job.

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