Inge De Dreu Pushes Us Into Getting Started | Episode 314

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Founder of the Playground for Entrepreneurs, a serious game that supports entrepreneurship coaches and educators to provide engaging and insightful sessions, workshops and classes. The game is based on my experience coaching 500+ startup teams and their (regular) coaches in their early stages of entrepreneurship. Most of that experience comes from government entrepreneurship and innovation programs such as (by the Colombian Ministry of ICT). I have also been active as a University Educator at Universidad del Rosario, Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano (both in Colombia), Avans University of Applied Sciences (the Netherlands). I hold an MSc in General Management (Business Universiteit Nyenrode, the Netherlands) and an Executive MBA (Quantic Institute of Business and Technology).


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Rob: Hey, this is Professor Game, where we interview successful practitioners of games, gamification and game thinking who bring us the best of their experiences to get ideas, insights and inspiration that help us in the process of getting our students to learn what we teach. And I am Rob Alvarez. I’m the founder of Professor Game and Professor of Gamification and Games based Solutions at IE Business School, EFMD, EBS University and many other places around the world. And if this content is for you, then please go ahead and subscribe to our email list for Slash subscribe Hey Engagers, and welcome back to another episode of the Professor Game Podcast.
Rob: And we have a very special guest. As we always do today we have Inga. Inga, is that the way to pronounce it?
Inge: Yes, that’s the way to pronounce it.
Rob: And are you prepared to engage?
Inge: Yes, I’m prepared to engage.
Rob: Let’s do this, because we have today with us Inga, who is the founder of the Playground for Entrepreneurs, which is a serious game that supports entrepreneurship coaches and educators to provide engaging and insightful sessions, workshops and classes. Game is based on her own experience, coaching 500 plus startup teams and their regular coaches in early stages of entrepreneurship. And most of that experience comes from the government, entrepreneurship and innovation programs such as Apps Co by the Colombian Ministry of ICT. And she has also been active as a university educator at University of Del Rosario University de Jorge Taylosano, both in Colombia, Avantz University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, and she holds a Master in Science, MSc in General Management from Nine Road in the Netherlands and an executive MBA from Quantic Institute of Business and Technology. Inga, is there anything that we should be mentioning that we haven’t said?
Rob: Anything you want to make sure that we know before we start our journey together?
Inge: No, I think that’s about. Thank you.
Rob: Fantastic. Fantastic. So, Inge, we were discussing before the interview some of the stuff we’re into. You mentioned that you lived in Colombia for a while. For some strange reason, I assumed that you were living in Spain.
Rob: I’m still not sure why my brain tricked me into believing that. But we would just like to know a little bit about you. What’s a regular day for you? Look, know if we were in your shoes for a day, a week, whatever you want to go for, what would that look like? What would it feel like to be Inga?
Inge: Right now I am really dedicated to my initiative, my venture, which is the playground for entrepreneurs. I am also a parent. I have a five year old daughter. So I try to juggle both. Both are very important.
Inge: And then I have a husband who also has his work. So we try to divide the tasks a bit. But then my focus is right now on building my business. My professional focus is on building my business. So I found gamification really, because I come from the world of entrepreneurship and early stage entrepreneurship.
Inge: So there’s a lot of experimentation and interviewing and building business models and everything. And I found gamification as a way to make things more interactive. So there’s a lot of canvases and frameworks and theories around, and those are all very good, or at least a couple of them are very good. But then how to make them more engaging and how to make them more impactful, to reach more entrepreneurs, to actually empower people to build their businesses and to build their dreams, really. And gamification is a way, I found to make it more engaging and to have people create more interesting, more original ideas to feedback on each other and to really interact to create a community to build their businesses.
Inge: So a regular day, that would be first taking my daughter to school and then doing whatever is necessary, because in the end, I’m a founder, right? That means doing whatever is necessary to get ahead with my initiative. And that means a lot of engaging with the people that I work with or who are my customer. Segments on LinkedIn, mainly LinkedIn, that’s my main social network, also with the training. So we have a facilitator training with the playground for entrepreneurs, which is great because that leads into a community, and then in a community there’s all sorts of initiatives for expansion sets and things, different applications.
Inge: We have a playground for education right now coming up and a couple more initiatives. And my professional life goes with those activities to really build my business on the one side, doing social media marketing related, engaging with my customer segment and also engaging with the people who are involved already and coming up with new ideas and building with them to really apply the playground as a basis, but taking the playground as a basis, but then apply it to whatever circumstance they are in or whatever expertise they have. So that’s amazing.
Rob: Lots of stuff going on, some good background as well to understand where you’re at and why you’re there. So thank you very much. For know, we got a detailed view of where you are and that definitely helps to understand where and why you are there. Inga. So let’s actually dive in deeper, right?
Rob: There’s always time, especially you coming from the entrepreneurship and early entrepreneur even further. Right. The early entrepreneurship world. There are times where you are going north things go south. We like to call it our first attempt in learning or fail moments.
Rob: So we would like to know what would be one of those times that you hit one of those moments, especially, of course, if it’s related to your playground. For entrepreneurs, whether it’s your experience or one of your clients we want to be there with you feel that moment, like, really understand what was going on. And again, if you don’t want or need to name any names, that’s fine. We are more here for the lessons, what happened and how you got out of it.
Inge: Yeah, so one of the things we’ve been going through this whole testing phase with the playground for entrepreneurs. So there’s lots of prototypes. I’ve actually wrote a couple of blog articles with all the images of all the prototypes and the game boards, which is very interesting to see because they’re so different. It started with kind of a canvas, and then I found gamification and then turned into something like the game of the Goose. But then the game of the Goose is just random dice guided game.
Inge: So that was not the solution. And then we turned it into something else. So there was this whole process, and one of the main things was finding out, because at the beginning we thought this game would be competitive. So we had points and we had time, because people like to talk. Once they start talking, they like to talk a lot, especially entrepreneurs.
Inge: They talk about their business. So we had a time and we had points and people could earn these points, and then there would be a leaderboard, and it turned out to be very ineffective. Nobody ever paid attention, nobody cared. And one of the things is that with entrepreneurship, founders are very diverse and also their initiatives are very, very diverse. And there’s really no way of comparing.
Inge: And the only way that we found that made sense is to compare yourself with yourself over time. So that’s the only competitive element. So kind of bending it towards more of a collaborative game and having the participants reinforce each other with the game dynamic. That has been one of the breakthroughs in the development of this game. And then in terms of the competitive element, to take it to time, which is great, because then you’ve got all of these entrepreneurship training programs and incubator programs and university entrepreneurship centers do a lot of these programs as well.
Inge: So these are all programs that go over time. So you can kind of measure a person at the beginning of the process, and you can measure the same person and their idea at the end of the process. And meanwhile, you can go about it and use play as a way to engage and to come up with reflection on their business model. So that has really been a breakthrough in the development of this game, to go from a competitive game to a collaborative game and how we could still make it engaging and still make it a strong game and then turning it into the competition between the first point in time and the last point in time.
Rob: Amazing. And that seems like a very interesting thing to, again, and this depends on the audience. Your audience is a group of people who, in this case the competition, and not only the audience, but also what you were trying to achieve. Perhaps the competition was not the thing to put in there, and you learned from that and you shifted the focus from one thing to another. And if you were about to face a challenge like this one, or probably it would probably be different because you already have the lessons from this one, but you were starting over again in some, perhaps a different realm.
Rob: And again, you didn’t know if it’s competition, cooperation, or what other tools you have in your toolbox. Would you approach it differently from the start? Would you do something differently? Like, how would you figure this out before, if you can? Or maybe you say, well, we did what we had to do, we figure it out that way, we test it, and that’s the results that we got.
Inge: I think the development is always going to take time, and testing is always going to give the right answers to those questions. Games might be very different for some other contexts, like competition based games might be the right answer. It wasn’t for us, but it might be in different contexts. So I don’t think I would do that different. Now, of course, there’s a couple of more operational and in terms of prototyping and when to actually invest into printing of the prototyping and who to take into your test group, there’s a lot of small mistakes and things that I would do different, if you can even call them mistakes, because they will always be part of the process.
Inge: So the main thing is just to start. And I think a story or a framework is really the key to a good game, to the start of a good game. Now, first I started with a framework with a kind of canvas. I didn’t want to call it a canvas because every consultant has a canvas and some of them are good and some of them are bad. I didn’t want to be another consultant with a canvas, so that’s why I found this gamification and that really worked out quite well.
Inge: But that was like the basis on which I could create the game. So I think if you want to create a game, start with a good message or a good story or a good framework or something that you’ve developed. And then in terms of at least serious games, then put the gamification like on top of it, because if the basis is not good, then the game is not going to be good either. So for this game, for the playground, for entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship is so diverse and there’s so many different, so I’ve seen so many teams and there’s been so many professionals also. Like for example, a psychologist who was specialized, she had her PhD in child abuse and she made a game actually in order to help people with this.
Inge: And then there’s another lady and she is a nutritionist and she wanted to create an application to make people more aware of what they’re eating and what the ingredients actually do with your body. And then there’s so many original ideas and so many knowledge. And that’s really the mission of the playground for entrepreneurs to give this space to that diversity of entrepreneurship and those dreams of people, not necessarily the hotshot startup people, but just people who have a good idea and people who have something to say and something to share.
Rob: Amazing. Those seems like very good lessons and I think maybe we can combine this or I don’t know if you want to go for another story because we always like to know. Of course, the favorite fail is a massive learning moment. But then either that turns or something happened after or even before. At some point you’ve had some great success in the stuff that you’re doing.
Rob: Can you tell us about that story again? And if it has to do with the playground for entrepreneurs, that would be amazing because I think it’S one of the main focuses that the audience will be interested in because again, you’re using gamification for these ideas, but maybe you’ve done something else as well in that sense and you want to share. So if I asked you about that, a success, something, a proud moment you want to share with us, what would that be? And of course, what are some of the keys that you would talk about your success for it?
Inge: Well, that’s, I think what I’m working for now. So that’s getting the playground for entrepreneurs, getting it into the world to empower people to support those entrepreneurs. Because the diversity of this subject and the potential of this subject and the world is going through such a change right now. We are going through all sorts of crisis, right? We’ve all seen the news and there’s climate change and everything, and we as a society need to come up with new solutions and new things and new ideas.
Inge: And those ideas need to actually turn into organizations or ventures or something that actually works. So that really is my higher mission, to help people, to support those people, to support those entrepreneurs. So that’s what I’m aiming for with the playground for entrepreneurs. And right now I’m building on expanding that. The first thing that I have for that is my community, my community of facilitators of the playground for entrepreneurs.
Inge: Of course, people can also buy the game, and some of them stay involved and in contact, and they write me messages and we write each other messages, and then we create a relationship. But with the facilitators, it’s really a community, and we try to engage so that we can actually make a difference and inspire each other. Now, these are all professionals with very different expertises. So there are some people with an interest and an expertise about financial literacy and other people who work with education. For example, there’s a couple of people coming in from Eduscrum, which is scrum applied to education.
Inge: So how to create better teams in school, to actually teach the children from a very young age to work in groups and to do it effectively. There’s all sorts of initiatives, there’s initiative with legal, serious play, and how we can involve both things to create more reflection. So there’s so many things going on, so that facilitators community is really what I’m aiming for, to reach that higher goal and first growing the community and then activating the community as well. So I would say let’s speak within maybe a year, and I’m hoping to be closer to that goal.
Rob: That makes a lot of sense, but it still seems like you’ve gathered some success as well, even just from that community that you’ve been building. I would say that that’s an interesting one to report, so to speak as well.
Inge: Yeah, that makes sense. It takes time to actually build that community and to get the right people in. I’ve actually had to expel a person once, and there’s other people who just have kind of disappeared from the community. It’s really a self selective process, usually for people to become involved and to actually start working with this. And the more they start working with it, the more inspired they get.
Inge: And that’s what really moves me, because then we can actually do things.
Rob: That sounds fantastic and definitely exactly what many people should be doing about building a community when it makes sense. It’s not always about building community, but if that makes sense, I think that’s one of the few things that is sort of transversal, building a community where people can do these kinds of things. Most of the times, it actually really works very well to be able to do that.
Inge: Definitely. And I think it’s a very good way to actually work together, to create together for the playground. It’s always been very international. So we have, for example, a couple of people from India. We also have a couple of people in Africa, South Africa, Uganda, and we also have, of course, in Europe, but then Canada, the United States, South America, Latin America.
Inge: It’s always been very international. And that makes it even more interesting because all those people are working with either entrepreneurs or student entrepreneurs, and then how they find kind of the same challenges and how they start exchanging information about how to deal with certain things. That’s really amazing.
Rob: Yes, it is. It definitely is. And, Inga, with all this experience that you’ve been sharing with us, there’s definitely a lot that you’ve done, many things that know, sort of helped you get where you are. But if you were going to build the playground for entrepreneurs or something in that realm, so to speak, is there a process that you would follow, a series of steps? How would you do this?
Rob: Or maybe share the process, if you can, of course, of how does the playground work? Essentially, we want to get into your sort of analytical mind, in a way, and see how that actually works.
Inge: Yes. First I would create either a story or a goal or a framework. What I did was create that framework and then see how to gamify it. And then, of course, everything changes again, which is fine. So that really adaptable mindset is very important to start with a good message or a good story that you want to share and to be prepared to not reach it and try again.
Inge: So that’s happened quite a lot, and that’s fine, right? That’s the process of creating. Well, any venture, but particularly maybe a game, is to be prepared if it doesn’t work and see how you can make it work then, and first try to create it. Well, the playground is like a board game, a real board game. It’s not online.
Inge: We do have an online version, but it’s exactly the same as the physical version, the hard copy version. So it’s really about if you can get something material and something, preferably if you can work with your hands to actually draw something or to build something that really helps, and then be prepared if it doesn’t work, to change it all.
Rob: Yes, yes. That makes a lot of sense, for sure. So, Inge, also talking about maybe this is part of the process, maybe part of the recommendations that you could give to other peoplE, is there a best practice that you would say, well, when you’re using gamification, when you’re using something around play, maybe do this and you will definitely benefit. It’ll be at least better than it was if you didn’t use it.
Inge: A best practice. I think the best practice, the most important thing that you could do is to be a very sharp observer to see what’s happening in the game, how participants respond and how you can kind of play with that and do something different to get a different effect or how to get the effect that you want. I think that’s the most important thing, to actually get out there, get something out, right. It doesn’t need to be a perfect game the first time that you actually play, but something that you can have some interaction with, with the participants or the people and then observe very sharply. If this is actually answering the thing that you want to address, I think.
Rob: It’S almost acute hearing or observing in that sense, right?
Inge: Definitely, yeah.
Rob: And something you started with as well. It’s like, get started. Right? You get started, you observe and see what’s going on, and from that, you start pivoting or whatever that looks like.
Inge: Exactly.
Rob: Amazing. So we’ve been in contact for some time. I was actually surprised that I hadn’t done this before. And after hearing these questions, you’ve heard them yourself. You’ve answered them yourself.
Rob: Is there somebody that you would say, well, I would be interested in hearing what answers this person would be giving to an interview like this one. A future guest in professor game, perhaps?
Inge: Yeah, I think that Guillermo Solano would be very interesting. I’ve been working quite a lot with Guillermo back in Colombia, and he’s developed a couple of games, the most important one being the wake up brain. And right now he’s evolved it into the eco brain. So I think he would be an interesting guest to share his story and his development of games as he spent. He’s developed a lot of games, a lot of smaller games within the bigger context.
Inge: So I think that would be really interesting to.
Rob: Amazing. Amazing. I’ve heard some from Guillermo, I think. I’m not sure if we’ve been in contact or not. I have to say very honestly, I think at some time we exchanged emails and then we, for some reason stopped communicating.
Rob: But I’ll hit him with an email once again if we haven’t talked in a while and see if we can have him on the show for sure.
Inge: Great.
Rob: And keeping the vein of recommendations, is there a book that you would recommend our audience, again, game related or not, up to you, but would you have that book?
Inge: Yeah, I would like to recommend two books. They’re not game related, but they’re very much game developer related, I would say. So. The first is the courage to teach by Parker Palmer. And this is a book about teaching and really caring for the learner and how to actually get the message across.
Inge: And it goes really deep and really in a very caring and loving way into the psychology of a teacher and how you want to engage with your students to achieve the objective in the end of learning and developing them as them developing themselves as human beings and as professionals. I think that’s a very good one for game developers. And then there’s effectuation. Effectuation is more of an entrepreneurship related book by Saraswati. Saraswati has a lot of materials also on the Internet, TED talks and everything, articles, which are very interesting.
Inge: But this is a book in which she really develops the theory of effectuation. It’s called effectuation, Elements of entrepreneurial expertise. And what she did was she studied the brains of serial successful entrepreneurs, and she got some lessons out of that. And that’s what she calls effectual thinking. Effectual thinking is really about once you’ve got this idea, figuring out a way that you can make it happen without investing too much and really being in control of your process so that you get kind of an infinite upside, but very limited risk.
Inge: And she has five principles, and she really writes very well in this book. She explains very well the way that successful entrepreneurs think. And I think that’s very useful, both, well to develop the games, but also, once you’ve developed the game, what are you going to do with it? Are you just going to send it off to maybe a company who wants to publish it, or do you have some sort of process with it yourself to get it out into the world? Do you want to build, like, a company based on that or what type of initiative?
Inge: I think that’s very interesting in this context.
Rob: Definitely sounds very interesting, for sure. Plenty of stuff to think about with those words you’re giving us right now. And Inga, you’ve talked about good stuff from other people we would like to get started or if we haven’t already, with some of the things that you do. Great. So again, what would you say is your superpower?
Rob: And again, don’t think it’s the exclusive one. Maybe you are the single best in the world of something, maybe not, but that’s fine. You can still have a superpower and share it with other great people.
Inge: I think engaging the people, once they play, once they start sharing, that’s usually what happens, facilitating the playground. And people really like to become involved and stay involved once they play the game, which is great, I like to listen a bit more. When I facilitate a game, I’m always the last to speak. I don’t like to speak first, so the person shares their answer, and then I speak. That doesn’t happen first.
Inge: Everybody else speaks, and I like that listening part. And everybody to really feel their own strength and their own stories and feel appreciated and heard. And then after that, if I want, I can compliment whatever is said, or I can share a story about whatever is said or can do anything with it after that. So would that be a superpower?
Rob: Definitely. Absolutely. And not everybody is sort of cut for this, but you can definitely build it into a skill, I think. And at least my hope side tells me that we should be able to build any of these skills if we consciously decide to build on it, which is a significant element of that. But I think it’s a very important one, for sure.
Rob: Inge, let’s get to the difficult question, finally. What would you say is your favorite game?
Inge: My favorite game? I don’t really have a favorite game. I’m kind of falling in love with collaborative games. Of course, I love my own game. Right, a playground for entrepreneurs.
Inge: But then, of course, obviously, and I have a five year old, so there’s a lot of games around, but also children’s games. And I try to make it quite collaborative games. So actually, with her, I developed a game for children her age, which is a collaborative game. So that’s been a very interesting experience. And it’s kind of me developing the game and her adding elements into it and dynamics and things, and that’s definitely an interesting one.
Inge: Yeah, I can’t really imagine a favorite statement.
Rob: That’s fine. I was putting you on the fire by yourself and seeing if something was going on. Every now and then I do this. I just shut up. Literally, I say nothing.
Rob: And some people get nervous, but something comes in the end, but sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s perfectly fine. I mean, you’ve given us a lot of value today, so I definitely would not hinder that in any shape or form. So, Inge, we are arriving to the end of the interview. Is there anything, any final piece of advice, any final words you want to say? Of course.
Rob: Please do let us know where we can find more about what your work, the playground for entrepreneurs and so on. And then we’ll say that it’s game over.
Inge: Okay, so final advice. Well, the only way to develop a game is to actually start it, right? To actually start developing a game. And the first attempt might be a very bad attempt, which is okay, it’s perfectly fine. But the important thing is to start.
Inge: As with a lot of things, it is also with entrepreneurship and with very many things, just starting is the first step towards actually building a game. And then from that experience, you can only learn. And it might be an experience that you like. It might be an experience that you discover that’s not for you. But the only way to find out is to kind of throw yourself into it.
Inge: So that would be my advice to listeners. Apart from the stories that I’ve shared, of course, that would be my advice to the listeners. Now, the best way to connect with me is through LinkedIn and through email, my LinkedIn profile. There’s nobody else in the world called Inge De Dro with a LinkedIn profile, so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem to find me. And then there is, of course, the website of the playground for entrepreneurs.
Inge: So that’s And you can find my email there. I can also share it here. It’s those are the best ways to connect.
Rob: Really amazing. That sounds perfect. Thank you very much for that advice. I think it’s been sort of transversal throughout the episode, how you’ve been helping us get, or even push ourselves into saying, well, get started, get something done. And that way you’ll be able to test it out, see how it goes, and make choices from there.
Rob: Because before it’s all in our heads, essentially.
Inge: Definitely amazing.
Rob: So thank you very much for all that you’ve shared, for all your advice, your experience, your knowledge. However, engagers, as you know, at least for now, and for today, it is time to say that it’s game over. Hey, Engagers. And thank you for listening to the Professor Game podcast, especially now while this episode is launching during the Global Entrepreneurship weekend. This was made visible to me thanks to today’s guest, Inga.
Rob: So if you want more interviews with incredible guests like her, please go to Slash subscribe and get started on our email list for freE. We’ll be in contact. You’ll be the first to know of opportunities that we come up with. And of course, before you go on to your next mission, I always like to remind you, because this does help you to be on top of every new episode each week, but also especially new and future people who might be listening, like yourselves, to become engagers like you. So please go ahead and subscribe if you haven’t done so using your favorite podcast app and listen to the next episode of Professor Game.
Rob: See you there.

End of transcription

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