Leslie Fine

How employees who bet can guide a company's future

December 16, 2010: 3:00 AM ET

Internal prediction markets enable colleagues to wager on the fate of crucial projects and the success of products in the pipeline.

By Chris Taylor, MIT Technology Review

The need to predict the future, as exciting as it sounds, crops up in corporate life in terribly mundane ways. Case in point: large videogame companies need to know where to put their marketing dollars many months before they complete their games. Inevitably, some games will be stinkers, hardly worth the investment of an ad campaign. But how do you know which ones?

Here's how one very large videogame company used to guess the answer: its marketing people would predict the score their games in progress would garner on the website Metacritic, which aggregates game reviews. But why would the marketing people know more than the game's developers?

Three years ago, a startup called Crowdcast suggested a different tactic. Why not take hundreds of your lowliest employees, the ones in the trenches who are actually making and testing these games, and ask them what they think the Metacritic scores will be? Better yet, why not give them each $10,000 in play money and ask them to bet on the outcome? Let them accumulate a pot of pretend wealth if they're right. Turn game marketing prediction into, well, a game. More

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