Yeah, I avoided the word “game” in the title and used “Interactive Engagement” as an alternative. It sounds a lot more impressive, right? I do it because it seems that many “serious senior executives” have an issue with how interactive learning is framed. So the choice of game, simulation, exercise, experience, and all those other labels sometimes come into play in decision-making.
The reality is that involvement and engagement are critical factors in any kind of performance. Fun can be fun but it is about anchoring experiences in some event to the choices that people will make about what to do differently. High performance is often accompanied by some level of ownership involvement and commitment to change.
If they feel some peer support and have some ownership involvement, they are more likely to do things differently. If people are un-involved and dis-engaged, they are probably providing “compliance-level performance” in the workplace and not giving you the productivity they might. That is one big reason I use experiential activities, anchored to business metaphors, for a lot of the developmental work we suggest.
We can call these engagement activities things like:
- Interactive Engagement Tool
- Limbic System Brain Activation through Asymmetric Stimulation of Peripheral Receptor Cells
(How do you like that last one? After all, playing games involves kinesthetic movement as well as stimulation of sensory cells in the eyes and peripheral nervous system having to do with sensory nerve cell activation and kinesthetic movement, right? All this nerve cell stimulation rushes up the spinal cord into the midbrain of the participating animal to increase activity of brain cells and create new learning pathways, right? (grin) )
Yeah, games have a way of engaging us and linking to learning, if appropriately designed and implemented. And there is actually some game playing going on in the world. According to Jane McGonigal, author of “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World,” more than 3,000,000,000 hours a week is spent in gaming globally. (That is unreal!)
People love to play games and challenge themselves. What businesses need to do is provide more context for learning and organizational collaboration within the framework of engagement and team building. Focusing on realistic simulations and challenges can improve the skills and organizational cultural to allow more collective improvement. This is different than a focus on single-players beating others in some challenge.
Games can generate engagement because they generate focused behavior designed to have some kind of impact. Gaming often appeals to our intrinsic desires or our intrinsic motivation for self-actualization or accomplishment. People really do love achievable challenges, which is one of the bigger drivers of workplace performance improvement. They want to add skills and gain peer recognition for them — think of that auto-repair place and the various certifications that the mechanics can earn and wear on their sleeves. People WANT to achieve and they want their performance to count for something.
McGonigal classified the intrinsic motivators into four categories:
- achieving satisfying work,
- experiencing success or the opportunity of success,
- making social connections and
- having purpose or meaning.
All four are relevant and important but I think a really good experiential activity can help accomplish the latter (and most important) factor if that experience can be neatly and elegantly tied to the workplace and the expectations and goals. We can do more to involve and engage people into a collective, collaborative and supportive peer group working to make improvements in how things are accomplished.
It is not so much winners and losers, but the issue of generating the maximum collective result, what we refer to repeatedly in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine as,
The Goal is to Mine as much Gold as WE Can
and optimize overall ROI.
There are a lot of really good tools out there, and lots going on in the development of individualized online learning courses (MOOCs) to support desired personal development.
Focusing on using experiential learning to involve and engage teams of people to allow them to focus on Mining as much gold as WE can is the prime driver of our Lost Dutchman game. We think that the energies generated can help work groups better support organizational development initiatives and that the intrinsic motivation can have positive spill-over to issues of personal growth and development.
But all we can do is provide the tool and our support. Our users have to provide the context and the environment to move things forward.
Let us know if we can be of any assistance to you — and recognize that you are dealing with ME, not some big corporation or salesperson. If we can develop a tie-in to your overall objectives and goals, we are most willing to do that,
For the FUN of It!
Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.