Is learning a finite or infinite game?

Is learning a finite or infinite game? Well, the answer depends on the reasons for learning. Most of us are learning new things all the time, often subconsciously and without realising as well as purposefully for a reason. It is the latter I want to focus on, to keep it relevant to our question.

Why do you learn?

When we work on learning related gamification projects for companies, in our initial user research we will always ask employees why they learn. The reasons will determine what kind of gameplay we design for them. Typically you will have career development and personal development in the mix. We also ask what is the trigger for the individual to take a course, which again gives us options for gamification design.

Finite or infinite game

A finite game has a clear and definitive ending. Often that means a winner has been found and everyone else loses or you played all the levels possible to earn a coveted award and your award is achieved. Think of a finite game as a tournament for example. In an infinite game, there is no real ending it continues on forever, you may find finite steps within the infinite game but each finite step unlocks further steps. Think of an infinite game as Lego for example, where you build one of the sets only to find more sets or to start afresh with a new vision.

When you apply this thinking to learning, then a finite game can be a degree course for example, where the end-game is clearly obtaining the degree certificate with a specific score. I would class courses and certification tracks in the finite game classification. Infinite learning needs a larger context such as career development or skills development and may contain lots of individual courses or even just reading or attending conferences that make up the infinite game of learning for that purpose.

Gamification design considerations

The traditional education system is the first ever example of gamification in practice: you start in year 1, you obtain scores in tests and exams, which unlock the passage to year 2 and eventually you earn your diploma or degree certificate. After this achievement and upon entry to the world of work, the game tends to change for most adults and it becomes largely our own responsibility to design learning tracks.

Some people will naturally take to picking up courses, books, etc and others are happy to just work with their day-to-day knowledge. There is no right or wrong way, we are in either case still learning and improving. Gamification has a place to encourage and nurture progression when no real structure is given as we experienced in the educational example. It can give mini-boosters in motivation, through recognition of achievement of a skill, completion rewards, etc. and gives feedback to the individual on their learning track record.

In an infinite game, feedback loops are more subjective and should be tailored to the individual and their preferences with an optional link to benchmarking data to give an objective perspective.

When a specific career objective requires a specific qualification, you will find people seeking out the certification courses. So the infinite game of learning in a lifetime may be littered with finite games to create the individuals’ career path.

When curiosity is your main driver for learning, you may or may not need any finite endorsement, you may just want to explore if a subject is of interest or not. I personally believe there should be exploration points in gamification, where the individual just dips in and confirms they got what they wanted but don’t want to pursue it further or vice versa they want to deep dive. I think this is the point recommendation engines and search engines are missing. If I research something one day, that doesn’t mean I want it every day going forward.

Finite or infinite?

For me, learning is definitely an ongoing activity and I will learn regardless of gamification being present or not. I would, however, say that it often enhances my experience. I may take a course to find out something specific and then drop it, once I found the answers I was after, not needing to continue on to completion.

What is learning for you, a finite or infinite game?

 

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Improving your recruitment with a game or gamification

To improve your recruitment process with a game or gamification is becoming a regular request we deal with at Gamification Nation. Often the recruitment team has identified stumbling blocks in their process, drop off points or simply isn’t attracting enough of the right candidates and they are looking for new ways of hiring young or new talent for their business. So what do you need to embark on a game or gamification design process?

Know the problem you are trying to solve

Our first question is typically why are people not applying or not proceeding in the process. Most HR teams can answer that question and occasionally, we help them research why the right people aren’t applying or not staying in the process. It is often easier as an outsider to the company to gain honest answers on these types of questions.

Some of the types of problems, we have seen to date are variations of the following:

  • The role is perceived to be boring or monotonous
  • People think the company is not hip, sexy or cool to work for
  • Everyone is attracted, but very few fit the real role description
  • Great on paper candidates, but poor when in practice
  • Crazy perceptions of how the role will work both positively and negatively
  • Lack of career progression

What can a game or gamification do to overcome these problems?

A game can make a candidate test the environment they will be working in and some of the role traits required in a virtual setting. It could be done anonymously or with feedback. For example the older example of the French Postal service using Jeu Postale to have people play postman for two weeks with all its requirements, ups and downs. This initiative gave insight into what it really took to be a postman and reduced the number of inappropriate applicants, who would love a stroll in the sunshine to name one crazy perception.

Gamification can keep people engaged in the process, the biggest difference here is that the process may remain very similar and game elements are added to provide feedback and progression to the candidate. For example one of our business partners created Multipoly for PWC Hungary to attract more graduates from different disciplines and not just finance and accounting, they entered the building and could take job tests, psychometrics, etc and receive feedback along the way of job coaches.

Both options can successfully help to overcome very specific problems in recruitment.

When does it not work?

If you are trying to fix all roles and recruitment issues in one go, we will often advise against using both games and gamification. Too general serves nobody. Each role will have some specific challenges and requirements, we recommend starting at role level. You wouldn’t put a sales candidate through the same kind of tests as you would your IT specialist, which goes without saying. Unfortunately, when it comes to game design and gamification we have had requests to make it the same.

When you are looking at gamification, think about the process and what is similar for all roles and then also what should be different for each of the roles. In a game, adding in life like challenges that are relevant will enhance the player experience, adding elements that aren’t relevant, tend to discourage continuation and gameplay.

When your candidates are not technology savvy and your recruitment game is fully technology driven. In those situations, an analogue game in the interview or an assessment centre may work better. Analogue games can be card games, board games, treasure hunts, etc.

What else should you consider?

Time and budget are the obvious things to consider for any project. Gamification can be rolled out in a matter of weeks and months, bespoke game design tends to be a longer process purely because every element has the be created.

Bespoke or off the shelf is another consideration. Existing platforms such as Arctic shores, Pymetrics, Hackerrank and others, may already have a fitting solution that doesn’t require bespoke new design and all of them till offer some element of tailoring to suit the role. Bespoke is useful when the problem is very specific to your company or industry and you want to stand out from the crowd.

Setting expectations of reality after the process. If your game was great fun to play, then it is not unusual for your candidates to expect a fun environment. if reality is different from what you raised as an expectation, you may find retention of new hires to be your next problem. We recommend keeping it real and aligned with your existing model and values.

What have been the benefits of using gamification and games for recruitment?

Here is a list of top benefits, we see and our suppliers mentioned in this article have experienced:

  • Better fit of the candidate to the role and company values
  • A reduced bias in terms of background, ethnicity, hiring manager preferences, etc.
  • Quicker selection with better results
  • Fewer applications, but more of the right ones
  • Longer retention after hiring
  • Etc.

So the question now is, when will you get in touch to discuss your recruitment problem with us to check if a game or gamification can help you?

 

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What do you need to develop a corporate boardgames for communication and education purposes?

Boardgames can provide an ideal launchpad for a new corporate strategy, a behaviour you want to nurture or educate your people about in the organisation. Whether it is sales, leadership, strategy or culture related topics, there will be a board game that can be designed to encourage what you would like to achieve.

What do you need to start?

We recommend starting out by deciding whether players play together in a collaborative way or against each other in a competitive play. We also want you to be clear on what the objective or core purpose is of the game. If you want to get people to talk, a board game can be ideal, because to play you need them to sit around one table in the same physical space, which by the very nature will encourage conversation. I have yet to experience a silent board game or card game.

Getting them involved in the creation

When you are creating a board game, you will need an army of willing playtesters. We would recommend that you pick a good mix of people with different abilities, some gamers, some non-gamers, men and women, all age groups etc. After each playtest collect feedback.  Playtesting has different reasons as you go further in the development process, initially you look to confirm if the gameplay delivers objectives, then if the gameplay works and increasingly you test for tweaking of gameplay.

If you want to deep-dive further into this, come and listen to my talk at Gamification Europe in November, dedicated to playtesting, you can book your place on the link.

By involving your target audience in the creation of your game, you also increase excitement and a transfer a little bit of ownership. Ownership will give people a bit of pride in having contributed to something that will be rolled out further in the organisation. Playtesters tend to also spread the word and if that is what you want to achieve, allow them to share just that, if not it may take a bit of effort to keep the rumour mill quiet.

What else is useful

It may come as an obvious statement, but playing the kinds of games that you intend to create will be helpful. It helps you to identify what could potentially work and inspire your audience. Find out who the gamer geeks are in your company, they may be able to lend you some of their favourites. If that is not an option a lot of cafes and pubs have board games that can be played at any given time by customers. Convening in those may be great for research purposes and can build team spirit.

Once you have embarked on the game design process, leave the balancing of gameplay to the designers. It is what they specialise in after all. Get them to share concepts and then guide them in the degree of difficulty each part should be. If you are our for an easy game, then communicate that at the start and vice versa if you want it to be difficult to win. Knowing those elements upfront helps designers tremendously.

When a concept is communicated to you, that is the starting point for the engagement. It usually doesn’t end up being the very final product. Through design workshops and client feedback, the concept is improved several times, before you have a game that can be played.

Ask us to help you

We have a fixed price package for board and card game design, which we would be happy to discuss with you. The number of pieces, your quantity requirements will determine the print pricing. Just complete your game details here and we can start the conversation.

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Gamification of the blockchain

Gamification of the blockchain and businesses using blockchain technology is increasing. I saw it as a good way to reinforce educational credentials. Like with all new technologies someone will have found a way of making it a game or gamelike. I am thinking Cryptokitties, which can be bought and traded on the Ethereum platform and if I am not wrong were the first blockchain game or at least the first one that went viral. The gameplay is simple, you buy cats, breed them, collect them and sell them.

However, the requests we have seen coming in from blockchain related business and the kind of gamification they want to create is actually pushing the boat out a lot further with more virtual economy linked to tangible and intangible benefits.

The blockchain is a technology where multiple parties confirm a transaction instead of just one (your bank for example) and create smart contracts building trust along the way.  I wrote about game companies using blockchain to raise funds for their next release and creating tokens that also enhanced your gameplay.

We receive regular enquiries now to assist companies with gamification of their blockchain venture.  I read their whitepapers and speak to the project leaders to understand their thinking.  The gamification requests, in fact, are typically top notch and thought through, linking it to the likes and motivation of their target markets, for now, is a bit hit and miss. Some understand their target audience well and know what will drive them, others just want to develop what they see as great individually.

I have seen membership organisations, verifying membership activity with tokens. Ideas for a fantasy super league, where the top players receive a percentage of the value in the virtual economy for sharing knowledge and skill, a bit like subscriptions on Twitch for example. And then the earning of tokens for positive behaviour in the membership organisation.

I like the blockchain technology for collaborative efforts to achieve something and seeing growth on the chain in a more visual display. The use of tokens (virtual currency created on blockchain) can function in a similar fashion as point systems or collectables in regular games.

My fear for the technology at the moments is that end-users are still a bit wary of using it. It is the privilege of a group of tech-savvy early adopters and I see the vast majority of people not yet ready to adopt this technology.

I hope that gamification efforts can increase adoption and increase participation, part of that is making it enticing to engage and easy to set-up. After that engaging on what truly is of interest to the target audience will remain key as is the case already with most membership or passion focused businesses.

 

 

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What should a call centre focus on in gamification for their employees?

Call centres have been relatively early adopters of gamification to motivate their employees. I would even say from my experience in my student days in technical support and subsequent coaching and training businesses, that some call centres already differentiated themselves in the positive by looking after their employees. But we still receive the question, what should a call centre focus on in gamification for their employees?

Employees

The first and rather obvious answer is the employees. For a lot of call centres the focus is first KPI’s and then employees, so I would say for gamification to work well let’s flip this equation and focus on employees first. What are the employees motivated by in their on the job tasks and the benefits the job may create.

For example, a customer service agent for an airline may like a happy ending at the end of their call with a customer and at the same time they find it motivational to track their progress towards travel related bonuses. So if this was the case then in the gamification design we would create shout-outs to the agent every time the customer also gave them  4 or 5 stars at the end of call survey and give an indication how their work is contributing to their travel benefits.

Understanding motivation at an individual level is key. Surveys and observation can give an initial baseline. Then allowing for their preference setting over time and options to choose from, may finetune these. Think about it in a similar way to an Amazon store refining what you are shown over time and please do it with their permission.

If you find the same motivational factors exist amongst larger groups, then make those visible on the statistic dashboard. I could imagine a team seeing the number of happy customers, leaving those 5-star ratings, increase on a real-time basis, also aiming for more of the same, when they are motivated by those very indicators themselves. Some call will not hit the big numbers and that is a fact of call centre life, seeing that others are still achieving it in your team will give you hope that you can too. Oh and just to be 100% clear this is a team statistic, not a named individual one.

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Key customer indicators

Most organisations will have a few things their customers expect from them such as call efficiency, finding solutions to their problems or answers to their questions, amongst others. Knowing what your customers want and expect and what would constitute expected +1 is a great yardstick.

For example, if a customer places an order, they expect to receive the parcel with the product in good condition. I think this goes without saying these days, but then the +1 could be a personalised note on how to use it best or a call in the 24 hours that follow receipt to check if it is all working correctly.

I would even argue for changing the wording of call centre key performance indicators to customer expectation ratings and mapping them along the lines of what customers would expect. In most roles, it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to dream up new wording.

Personal feedback

When I worked in call centres, I used to wonder how my manager knew whether I was doing a good job or not. One performance review, I asked him how he knew and he explained the typical indicators he was looking at. I have to say in those days they came from excel sheets with formula’s he didn’t create. But if I had them in a dashboard so I could monitor and knew what to aim for, I could have probably done even better.

With today’s gamification platforms, the feedback dashboards can give an agent a lot of good information on their performance and keep them on track to achieve their best day. It can also be useful to see progress over time and how I perform in comparison with my direct teammates.

Team targets and benchmarks

In some cultures, team achievement supersedes, individual performance and there team goals would be much more effective. Celebrating together is often also much more fun. Having a single winner of a competition, may cause a bit of envy and potentially discouragement for others, but maybe also a bit of competitive spirit to do better next time.

Giving individuals and teams benchmarks as to how they compare with others is a positive idea. You can achieve this with leaderboards or you can simply show how a person or team is doing against the company average.

Co-create

My last top-tip for call centre gamification, however, is to co-create it with your employees. Let them have a say, it will give you probably more ideas and spur on a bit of motivation too. Get them involved in the design phase, then have them give feedback on pilots and continual improvement for future iterations. Keeping gamification updated and fresh should follow similar trends as fashion with seasonal campaigns and then some core basics that remain. So there will always be scope to have them give input.

 

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