The work KPMG does with Enactus is directly aligned to key aspects of our business strategy: supporting our communities, making a positive impact on the world, and creating a strong pipeline of future employees.

Enactus is the world’s largest experiential learning platform dedicated to creating a better world while developing the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders and social innovators. Guided by educators and supported by business leaders, teams of students conduct needs assessments in their community, identify potential solutions to complex issues and implement community impact projects. This results in communities benefiting from collaboration and fresh innovation, plus students gain the valuable experience to advance their personal and professional lives.

We created a course that Enactus uses to explore barriers and biases that can hinder decision-making, innovation and problem-solving, reinforcing foundational concepts of KPMG’s design thinking for business model innovation methodology for solving complex, ill-defined problems.

Meeting the students in a learning environment to which they are accustomed, was a primary goal in developing this learning game.  Throughout the course the participating students play ‘Escape your Brain,’ a 40-minute game designed to build on their creative abilities, whilst testing and challenging themselves on the art of the possible. They are able to proactively approach and overcome traditional barriers to creativity, practice identifying cognitive biases and apply innovative problem-solving strategies.

“Working with Enactus, we realized that our design-thinking methodology for complex problem solving could be used to help teach this next generation to better meet the challenges they’ll face in an increasingly complex and fast-changing world,” says Kes Sampanthar, Managing Director at KPMG Innovation Labs, where he leads KPMG’s design-thinking initiatives and directs research into business innovation.

’Playing games’ to drive creativity

“We used design thinking – a structured methodology that incorporates human needs in the design of products, services and experiences – to develop an engaging game that’s not only instructive but fun and in tune with what the youth want to experience. We wanted it to be different in a way that it would engage our young audience by understanding where they were coming from. Playing games is in the DNA of this next generation!”

The result? By the end of the course participants are better able to:

  • Define the four barriers to creativity and cognitive biases;
  • Describe how they work;
  • Explain how barriers inhibit creativity, innovation, decision-making and problem-solving;
  • Discuss strategies for overcoming the barriers.

 By forcing students to solve problems with more unknowns than knowns, the game teaches different aspects of design thinking, through a series of exercises the player much complete to move to the next level. “We had already rebuilt our design thinking to solve problems like this, and we used our approach to take on this training. It really required us to think innovatively and creatively to essentially reshape how we would train the Enactus students.” Kes explains.

This project represented a true collaboration between the KPMG Innovation Lab and the KPMG Business School. Kes stresses that the team came together to provide much more than a “simple gamification” of the learning process. Its true objective is to position students to creatively address and solve complex business and social issues they can expect to face going forward. 

‘A dream come true’

“The idea of using our methodology to learn – while actually escaping into this virtual world using the ‘escape room’ we created – was unique and based on the idea of ‘escaping your brain’ to drive creativity and problem solving in new ways. This is a generation brought up with games, so we knew that needed to be part of it – this generation has games built into how they think about the world.”

A veteran ‘game designer’ himself who wrote and sold games from age 11, Kes embraced the Enactus challenge and tapped into some of KPMG’s most creative and entrepreneurial people to help shape and contribute to the “gaming and puzzle-solving” approach.

“We brought together the science of learning, our research into design thinking and understanding how our brains work and brought it all together within a game designed to develop the solution. It was a unique case of using creativity to really rethink how we approach creativity.”

Kes emphasizes the significance of this innovative project as an example of using KPMG innovation and its design-thinking approach to creatively solve complex challenges for our future businesses and society. “This project was extremely important to us – being able to work with Enactus and bring this methodology to help them, as future entrepreneurs, design creative solutions that can truly make a difference in the world was a unique experience,” Kes explains.

“Working with Enactus to make the world a better place is one of the most-rewarding projects I have ever worked on. We wanted to take what we have learned and share it with the next generation of entrepreneurs to help them make the world a better place.  And this was a dream come true.”