The origin story of Wallbreakers®

Since the founding of Workz, one game has consistently held a prominent place in our toolbox—Wallbreakers.

The game has not only stood the test of time but also remains a best-seller when it comes to teaching change leadership.

Delving into the origin of the game, we may discover a clue as to why Wallbreakers has proven to be so invaluable.

The Birth of Wallbreakers®

In 2006, following a significant corporate merger between CSC and SAS Data, the task of integrating the newly acquired assets into CSC’s existing organisation proved to be a rollercoaster ride. Like many mergers and acquisitions, what seemed like a straightforward task became surprisingly complex. Management found themselves dealing with all kinds of people-oriented challenges, from different office locations and diverse workplace cultures to the complexities of cross-functional collaboration, operational processes, and ways of working. The merger gave rise to a lingering “us vs. them” dynamic within the new organisation, impeding unity and harmony.

As a result, the expected benefits, such as gaining new customers for the organisation and tapping into fresh competencies, never fully materialised. Talented individuals with valuable knowledge and extensive customer networks from SAS Data became frustrated and chose to move on. This adding to the ongoing challenges of CSC.

But every cloud has a silver lining, and for us the challenging situation led to the birth of Wallbreakers.

Faced a pressing need to prepare their leaders for the challenges ahead, CSC found an answer in the form of a tailored learning game that drew inspiration from a fictionalised version of their specific circumstances.

Little did anyone know at the time that this game would outlast the companies it was created to help. Neither CSC nor SAS Data exists today, yet Wallbreakers endures.

At the core of Wallbreakers is to create awareness of the importance of integrating change management into daily leadership – and to make theories of change management from John Kotter and Rick Mauer into tangible leadership activities.

"The breakthrough was the metaphor of the game"
Svend Ask Larsen, Senior Consultant and Partner 

Svend Ask Larsen, one of the original creators of Wallbreakers, shares his insights: “The breakthrough in the development process was the main metaphor for the game: Being on the bus. The employee in the game are on the bus when they are ‘on board’ with the change. They are on the sidewalk of resistance, or on the road behind the bus, when they were trying to catch up with all the changes.”

He continues, “This metaphor and how it makes it easy to remember the theory seems to stick in the organisations we work with. It creates a language for change - for describing and analysing real-life situations. ‘Are the people I lead on the bus? Is there anyone driving it? Do we throw people under the bus in this change? Who do I have on the sidewalk of resistance and why?’

Leading with Wallbreakers®

Fast forward to 2008, when the current version of Workz was founded. On the lookout for building blocks for the new company, CEO Ask Agger, added Wallbreakers to our portfolio as the first of our leadership simulations.

Ask Agger realized that Wallbreakers resonated well with the focus of Workz on the human side of change. He notes, “Wallbreakers aligned perfectly with Workz’ mission of driving meaningful change through reflection and engagement. It is a great example of a game that facilitates meaningful conversations that enables the participants to learn both from the game, from each other, and from themselves.

The story-line of Wallbreakers offers a tangible, change-centric perspective drawn from real-life mergers in large organisations.  Beyond its own impact, it has been a vital source of inspiration for our other leadership simulations. While its core design principles remain unique, the experiences gained from using it have influenced the development of other games.

Wallbreakers stands out for its ability to bridge the gap between knowledge and action, immersing participants in real-time decision-making scenarios. It excels at replicating high-pressure situations encountered by leaders, enhancing decision-making skills. Grounded in principles of reflection and action, it prompts players to contemplate decisions in real-time, promoting adaptability.

This innovative game fosters the kind of transformative conversations that are essential for driving personal development. And with a topic that remains highly relevant in today’s dynamic business landscape it remains an essential tool in our toolbox to help leaders reflect on the human side of change, according to Ask Agger.

It’s an essential tool in our toolbox!
– Ask Agger, CEO, Workz

Since its inception, Wallbreakers has been played by many thousands of leaders and has become an essential component of leadership development in many of Denmark’s and Europe's leading companies. Its reach extends globally, with more than 40 active partner consultancies, business schools and corporate academies using the simulation worldwide.

We've recently introduced the latest version of the leadership simulation—a fully virtual edition available on the platform. This expansion enables us to reach an even broader audience of leaders worldwide, facilitating the spread of valuable insights and transformative experiences to more individuals who seek to enhance their leadership skills in an ever-evolving business landscape.