The Changing Landscape of Tabletop Exercising: Insights from the LGP Team

Discover the changing landscape of tabletop exercising and gaming with LGP. Gain insights into the growing demand for risk simulation, collaborative team building, and soft skills training. Learn how organizations are leveraging tabletop exercises to practice decision-making and build valuable skills. Follow LGP for more interactive and immersive learning insights.

As consultants at LGP, we've had a front-row seat to the rapid evolution of tabletop exercising and gaming in recent years. What was once a niche practice, primarily used in military and cybersecurity contexts, is now becoming a mainstream tool for training, risk management, and team building across a wide range of industries. In this post, we'll share some of our key observations and predictions for where this exciting field is headed.

The Demand for Immersive, Collaborative Learning Experiences

One of the most significant shifts we've seen is the growing appetite for more engaging, interactive forms of training and development. With the rise of remote and hybrid work, organisations are looking for ways to bring teams together and foster collaboration, even when people aren't in the same physical location. Tabletop exercises, which involve people working together to solve challenges and make decisions in a simulated environment, are an ideal fit for this need.

But it's not just about the practical benefits of teamwork. There's also a growing recognition that traditional, lecture-based training formats are often dry, forgettable, and ineffective. People learn best when they're actively engaged, emotionally invested, and able to immediately apply what they've learned. Tabletop exercises tick all of these boxes, by immersing participants in a realistic scenario where they have to think on their feet, communicate with others, and see the consequences of their choices play out.

As a result, we're seeing demand for tabletop exercising expand well beyond its traditional niches. Industries like finance, healthcare, education, and tech are all starting to experiment with these techniques, whether for practicing crisis response, exploring strategic decisions, or building soft skills like leadership and collaboration. And within organisations, tabletop exercises are being used at all levels, from executive teams to front-line employees.

The Rise of the Gamer-Native Leader

Another key factor driving the mainstreaming of tabletop exercising is the rise of the "gamer-leader." The first generation that grew up with video games is now moving into senior roles in organisations, and they bring with them a natural affinity for game-based learning and problem-solving.

For these leaders, the idea of using games for serious purposes feels intuitive and exciting, not weird or frivolous. They've experienced firsthand how games can engage people's minds, evoke strong emotions, and create memorable, meaningful experiences. And they're eager to bring those benefits to their teams and organisations.

However, there's often a significant gap between appreciating the potential of games and knowing how to effectively design and facilitate them. Crafting a compelling scenario, balancing difficulty and engagement, and guiding participants through a meaningful reflective process are all specialised skills. That's where we see a big opportunity for experienced "game masters" to help bridge the gap and unlock the full potential of tabletop exercising.

The Untapped Potential of the Tabletop Gaming Community

One largely untapped resource in the professionalisation of tabletop exercising is the thriving community of tabletop game designers, players, and facilitators. These individuals, whether they're into board games, role-playing games, war games, or LARPs (live-action role-playing), have built up a deep base of knowledge and best practices around creating engaging, immersive experiences.

In many ways, running a great tabletop exercise is not so different from running a great tabletop game session. It's all about crafting a compelling narrative, designing interesting challenges and decision points, and facilitating a dynamic, responsive experience that adapts to the actions of the participants.

Many of the techniques and principles that make for a great Dungeons & Dragons campaign or board game night with friends can be readily adapted to more "serious" contexts. Things like creating rich, evocative environments, embodying different characters and perspectives, and "failing forward" (i.e. making failure interesting and instructive) are all highly transferable.

However, most of the consultants and facilitators currently doing tabletop exercising work don't necessarily have backgrounds in game design or recreational gaming communities. As a result, they may be missing out on valuable tools and insights that could help them create more effective experiences. We believe there's a huge opportunity for cross-pollination between these professional and hobbyist worlds.

The Benefits and Applications of Tabletop Exercising

So why bother with tabletop exercises in the first place? What unique value do they offer compared to other training and development modalities?

At the most basic level, tabletop exercises allow groups to explore complex, high-stakes situations in a safe, low-cost environment. By simulating a crisis or difficult decision point, teams can pressure-test their plans, uncover blind spots and points of friction, and build "muscle memory" for how to respond under stress. It's a way to identify and work through problems before they happen in the real world, where the consequences of failure are much higher.

But the benefits go beyond just mitigating downside risk. Tabletop exercises can also be invaluable for building the positive capabilities that organisations increasingly need to thrive in an uncertain, rapidly-changing world. Skills like adaptability, creative problem-solving, effective communication, and collaborative decision-making are all forged in the crucible of well-designed tabletop experiences.

When people have to grapple with ambiguous, open-ended challenges, and navigate the interpersonal dynamics of a team under pressure, they build resilience and agility. They learn how to think on their feet, consider multiple perspectives, and make hard trade-offs under time pressure. In short, they develop the same leadership skills that are critical for success in today's business environment.

That's why we're seeing tabletop exercising expand into so many new use cases and industries. Whether it's a financial institution stress-testing its risk management protocols, a healthcare system practicing its emergency response procedures, or a tech company exploring disruptive innovation scenarios, the fundamental value proposition is the same. Tabletop exercises provide a high-impact, cost-effective way to build preparedness and critical human skills.

The Future of Tabletop Exercising

As demand for these capabilities continues to grow, we expect to see the field of tabletop exercising become increasingly professionalised and specialised in the coming years. We aim to lead here with more formal training programs, communities of practice, and knowledge-sharing resources emerging to support facilitators and designers. And we'll likely see a proliferation of new tools and technologies to support remote collaboration, automate certain aspects of gameplay, and capture data and insights from exercises.

At the same time, we hope to see a growing recognition of the art and craft of experience design that goes into effective tabletop exercising. While technology and process are enablers, at its core, this work is about creating meaningful, impactful human experiences. The best tabletop exercises will always be the ones that tell a compelling story, engage people's emotions and imaginations, and leave participants with a sense of insight and inspiration.

As the field evolves, it will be important to stay grounded in these timeless principles, even as the specific tools and techniques may change. The organisations that will get the most value from tabletop exercising will be the ones that approach it not just as a tick-box training activity, but as an opportunity for deeper learning, growth, and culture-building.

At LGP, we feel privileged to be at the forefront of this exciting field, and we're committed to sharing our knowledge and insights with the broader community. If you're interested in exploring how tabletop exercising could benefit your organisation, or if you're a facilitator or designer looking to level up your skills, we'd love to connect. Together, we can help realise the full potential of this powerful methodology.


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