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A group of people around a table playing Datopolis.
Simon Bullmore13/12/2022 00:12 AM4 min read

Datopolis: the game that helps marketing leaders develop data skills

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing” 
George Bernard Shaw.

Data is an essential resource for marketing teams. From knowing who to target to reporting the impact of our work, the increased amounts of data and tools marketers have access to is changing what we can do - and what people expect us to be able to do. These changes mean that many of us who work in marketing will need to adapt and learn if we’re to thrive in this exciting, but often daunting, data-driven world. 

Marketing leaders need to step-up and guide this work. Becoming a data-informed leader in marketing requires an entirely new set of skills - from knowing how to shape business problems as data questions, to guiding the development of the data infrastructure, the business culture and the skills that marketing departments need in order to stay competitive. 

These critical skills don’t even start to scratch the surface of what modern marketing leaders need to know and do. The more data we can access and use the more we need to carefully guide and shape what we do with that data, which means paying attention to data ethics, data governance and data security.

Getting started with all of this isn’t easy. If you’re a marketing leader how can you build a clear vision for what you need from data and how do you know which skills to prioritise?

Datopolis is a safe and fun way to explore new data skills

Datopolis is an engaging game with a serious impact. A training workshop can help you appreciate why you need strategy, data infrastructure and collaborations in order to get value from data. Datopolis helps you actually experience what this is like and what the impact of different choices might be. 

It’s a fun board game, that brings otherwise complex concepts to life.

We’ve run Datopolis sessions for a wide range of people including board members of a Global 500 engineering firm, astrophysicists, start-ups and visitors to London’s Science Museum. And what always delights us is the lively debate and “a ha” moments Datopolis sparks.

Intrigued? Here’s why Datopolis is a great learning experience for marketing leaders

  1. Datopolis is a safe place to get over any sense of impostor syndrome you have about data!
    Impostor syndrome is the feeling that you don’t belong in a group or a situation because everyone else is more “expert” than you. I’ve found it a common affliction in both private and public sectors, particularly amongst leaders, who often understand that data is changing their world, but don’t feel they know enough about what’s happening, what they should do about data, and what the heck “data” actually is anyway. Datopolis will help you address some of these fears and build your basic data literacy in a fun, non-threatening way.

  2. Datopolis replaces fear with fun.
    Our pleasure receptors are still receptive as we get older, so most people jump at the chance to have fun. And the prospect of having fun replaces the fear we can feel about learning or trying something new, especially if we’re burdened by feeling like an impostor  (see above). And fun is important for learning….

  3. We learn more when we’re having fun.
    It’s not just children who benefit from learning through gameplay. Research shows that games, particularly those that are enjoyable, improve learning and the retention of new skills in adults. Games do this by keeping people motivated, providing a safe place for experimentation and by stimulating the cognitive functions associated with learning and retention.

  4. Data concepts can seem abstract if not applied.
    Without months or even years of practical data work it’s difficult to provide people with practical experience of some tricky but important data concepts. Datopolis will give you the opportunity to experience how data concepts such as data strategy, data infrastructure, and data formats play out in practice. And, because it’s a game it doesn’t matter if you get things wrong.

  5. Data isn’t just about tech it’s about culture.
    Yes, you might need some fancy tools to do your data work. You may even need a team of shiny data scientists and analysts. But, for data to make a real impact on your business, it takes more than tech. It takes real change. And this often means changing the culture of an organisation and sometimes a whole sector. Datopolis, demonstrates how using data to collaborate with both competitors and colleagues, can be an effective strategy for business growth. And this collaborative, problem-solving mindset is an important aspect of company cultures that use data effectively.

  6. Datopolis stimulates lively discussion and debate.
    By providing a safe space for experimentation, Datopolis gets people talking. The energy and excitement Datopolis generates make for healthy post-game debates. And because the game rules create a level playing field for participants, that helps make discussions more open. By making it a bit easier to ignore any hierarchies in the room, people can raise questions about the ways things are using the framing of the game. And this sometimes feels like a safer way to address thorny organisational issues such as strategy, process or leadership.

Datopolis is fun. It doesn’t teach you everything you need to know about data. And certainly isn’t everything you need to improve your dataskills. However, by bringing energy and something new to data Datopolis might play an important role in getting things going in the right direction for you. 

After all, getting real value from data often means trying something new. And that’s what Datopolis will help you experience.


Simon Bullmore

Simon helps our clients develop effective growth strategies and data literacy programmes. With a background in business psychology, Simon has worked in data, business development and training for over 17 years. This includes leading the learning programme at the Tim Berners-Lee founded Open Data Institute, and the launch of Harvard Business School's first European office.