Fun is coming back to town!

There is a great deal of buzz around gamification right now, but of course, the idea of creating a game to get something done is by no means new. Anyone with any contact with children will have their own experiences of gamifying tasks to make them more palatable, or at least to get things done. Personal favourites of mine are “going through the car wash” (having a shower and actually using soap), “marching like soldiers” (getting to the school bus on time), “using our ninja powers to find mummy’s keys”... you get the idea.

Not just at home, but in the field of education, children’s educators use play and fun to create engaging and immersive experiences where children absorb and learn huge amounts of information all under the guise of fun. Imagine that, having so much fun you don’t even realise you are learning!

And at some point this all grinds to a halt. At some point we became accustomed to rote learning, sitting through boring classes, trawling through enormous piles of literature, regurgitating facts and figures…. I don’t know about you, but corporate compliance training to me is the absolute epitome of how fun left town…. So, where did all the fun go? Maybe the same place as the information, according to EbbingHaus Forgetting Curve: Only 21% of what is learnt is retained after the completion of a training program. So not only the fun left town, so did the facts!

Well, good news, fun is back!

Not only in schools, where education is being revamped to fully engage and immerse students, providing them with critical thinking skills and problem solving capabilities, but also in the workplace where we see the rise of gamification.

The phrase became wide spread in 2010, referring to the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game context. In other words, using things such as badges, points, leaderboards, to entice people to play a game and to keep them playing, whilst achieving some form of organisation goal. It is that last part that is key, and forms the distinction between “gaming” and “gamification”; there must be a bigger purpose than the game itself.

Let your mind roam free on this one, the possibilities are enormous. Gamification for recruitment. Why not? Gamification for learning and development. Absolutely. Gamification for engaging with your employees. Bingo.

Quick quiz question: What do you think you are more likely to remember? Something shown to you or something you had to work at to uncover? Yup, you got it, discovering it yourself makes it that much more memorable. Let’s look at this with a simple example from an on-boarding scenario. A typical aspect of on-boarding is to understand the organisational structure and key stakeholders. This is often done by being shown the structure in a PPT chart and being talked through it, (yawn, sorry, I dropped off for a moment there!). How about asking the new hire to work out for themselves who is who? Give them the mission to assign pictures of leaders to the right position on the organization chart, by asking the right questions to unearth clues. What did this person study? Are they good at numbers? Are they creative? The less questions you ask the higher your score, and guess what, you are competing with your cohort of other new hires, therefore generating competition and the all important aspect of socialisation.

Take a moment to think about your own on-boarding materials. Without a doubt, there is at least one topic which is currently being spoon fed to your new hires, that with a bit of creativity and imagination, could be gamified and made more interesting. Your solution doesn’t have to be high-tech, but it needs to be absorbing. Remember, when it’s interesting and fun, it’s a lot more likely to be remembered.

Another aspect of gamification that is a powerful tool in your L&D kit are simulations. A pilot will log thousands of hours on a simulator before he or she is trusted to fly a plane. A doctor will perform countless surgeries on a cadaver before cutting into a live body. But managers? Well, it seems in many companies an individual contributor becomes a manager with a slap on the back and the remit to “give it a go”. How did this become normal? Does it mean that the employee experience does not matter to us? Are employees not our most valuable asset after all?

Simulations are powerful tools which can drive behavioural competencies, including leadership, change management, coaching, trust, project planning and so on. These can be knitted into learning journeys, providing a modern, immersive and highly engaging learning experience.

So, is it time to shake things up a little in your organisation? I challenge you to think of a few areas where the employee experience can be invigorated through technology and / or gamification, it really is time to welcome the fun bus back to town!

- Marieke van Raaij