A Surprising Business Model: From Gaming to Therapeutics

Every few months my wife urges me to take a weekend off from the family and leave our house to have some time for myself. This time I crawled up the the mountains behind Chiang Mai, Thailand, where we live with my brave Honda Wave - a small 100cc vespa. I used the time to catch up on some magazine readings surrounded by the beautiful scenery and silence of Thailand's northern mountains...

One of the articles I found particularly interesting was a piece in The Economist's Technology Quarterly on video games applied to therapeutical use. The reason I found the article so interesting is because it illustrates how a company's intentional value proposition can spark an entirely new idea or even business model.

The video game industry spits out a large number of new games every year. In revenue terms it has already overtaken boxoffice income of Hollywood movies. But who would have thought that video games would one day serve the healthcare industry? The Economist article shows a number of ways how video games have found their entry to therapeutic use. An Irish trauma psychiatrist has used an off-the-shelf car racing game to help one of his clients. An American doctor used off-the-shelf sports games to help stroke victims avoid boredem during their long hours of repetitive movement exercices . A Swiss therapist taught a patient suffering of attention-deficit-disorder (ADD) to play "neurofeedback" video games to sharpen concentration.

I was struck by these interesting examples, but find the implications for business model innovation particularly intriguing. Video games have specific characteristics. First of all they are entertaining and that is what the industry is primarily banking on. But they also have secondary characteristics like increasing concentration, developing strategic skills, improving motoric skills and so on... Hence, it is foreseeable that the secondary market around video games will grow alongside the primary market. Therapeutics is one application, but video games can also be used to develop strategy and innovation skills of executives or intellectual skills of kids.

To come up with more business model innovation we should thus increasingly analyze the secondary characteristics of existing value propositions and try to put them to new uses for new or underserved customer segments. What the application of video gaming to therapeutical use teaches us is that the solutions to some problems can be found off the shelf at sometimes unexpected places. All we need to do is match customer needs with unexpected existing solutions. Any ideas of examples out there?