A Training Activity that Leads to Discussion Every Time

“G****mmit, I knew he was going to make this hard!” exclaimed one of the participants as we got underway.

Earlier this week I was asked to drop by a client’s meeting with a group of their trainers. I’ve worked with these trainers for several years and they have adopted the dialogue-based approach to training in which my company specializes. I wasn’t asked to help them work on their facilitation or delivery, I was asked to come in to help ensure everyone understands the “why” behind this dialogue-based approach. So I reached deep down into my bag of tricks to find a way to unearth any resistance or misunderstanding that may still exist among these trainers.

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A few considerations when designing a game for your next training

In Monday’s episode of the Train Like You Listen podcast, Heather spoke with our colleague, Lauren Wescott, about her recent experiences designing games for the training room. Lauren spoke briefly about cooperative vs. competitive games, and what each type of game could bring to the training room. If you’re looking to bring a game into your next training program, here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:

“Games” and “Gamification” are not the same thing

Games are something you play. Gamification is an intentional design strategy. Playing Jeopardy or awarding points for correct answers doesn’t really mean you’ve “gamified” a training program.

In their book For The Win, Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter suggest that true gamification goes beyond points, badges and leaderboards and includes a variety of elements such as:

  • Constraints
  • Emotions
  • Narrative/storyline
  • Learner growth and development
  • Relationships
  • Challenges
  • Elements of chance
  • Competition or cooperation
  • Feedback
  • Resource acquisition
  • Rewards
  • Transactions between players
  • Turns
  • Win, lose and draw states
  • Achievements
  • Avatars
  • Badges
  • Boss fights/culminating challenges
  • Collections (of badges, resources, etc)
  • Combat
  • Content unlocking
  • Gifting
  • Leaderboards
  • Levels
  • Points
  • Quests
  • Social graphs
  • Teams
  • Virtual goods

If you’d like to read about real life examples of some of these elements in action, Zsolt Olah chronicled his experiences in this 2018 case study published in eLearning Industry.

Pros and Cons of “Competitive” Games

As mentioned above, competition can be a key element in games – whether it’s a board game you play at home like Monopoly, a game played on Sundays (like football) or a game you’d play in the training room. In my experience, competitive games – a game in which there is one winner (and potentially a lot of losers) is the most common type of game used in training settings.

Competitive games offer a variety of pros, including:

  • Engaging those who like to win
  • Offering a sense of “play”
  • An experience similar to activities (such as Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit) that learners have played before
  • A goal
  • Some competitive games include teamwork
  • Simulating the competition that some in industries such as sales may experience in real life
  • Opportunities to simulate real life challenges

Drawbacks of competitive games may include:

  • Participants focusing more on the rules and winning while losing sight of the intended point of the game
  • Games designed after Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit focus more on knowledge and less on the demonstration of skills learned
  • Some participants may be turned off by needing to engage in competition and/or may fall so far behind in the game that they lose interest

Pros and Cons of “Cooperative” Games

I’ll admit that the genre of cooperative games is relatively new to me. It’s not uncommon for others with whom I’m talking to look puzzled and ask: “What’s a cooperative game?” when I’m speaking about different types of games, which makes me think I’m not alone in my lifelong ignorance to the existence of cooperative games.

Cooperative games, in a nut shell, are games where players work together to accomplish a common goal. “Winning” is often measured by “beating” the game. In the game Pandemic, for example, players work together to try to stop a global outbreak of diseases. Winning happens when all of the diseases have been snuffed out. Losing happens if the diseases take over the world. Win or lose, all of the players are in the experience together.

In my limited experience with these types of games, here are some of the pros I’ve found:

  • Learners must stay engaged or they’ll be letting their colleagues down
  • While there’s always an emphasis on winning, learners generally don’t lose sight of the point of the exercise and argue with one another over the technicality of certain rules
  • De-emphasizes competition while emphasizing skills such as group decision-making, collaboration, cooperation and communication

Some of the drawbacks of cooperative games include:

  • Because this genre is less common and rules of the game can sometimes be complex, learners need some time to grow comfortable with the rules and the activity… I’ve not yet seen a “short” (15-20 minute) cooperative game
  • Planning and design of a cooperative game can be intensive

If you’d like to explore the genre of cooperative games in more depth, the two examples that Lauren offered during Monday’s podcast were:

A few final considerations

Games can be fun, engaging and memorable ways for learners to grasp important concepts and skills. Take great care, however, because as many people noted when I posted on LinkedIn about using games in the training setting, games can also turn many learners off. Some comments included:

“I use [games] sparingly because games for the sake of games is annoying as heck.”

“Pictionary with a group of medical assistants to practice vocabulary, always a huge hit. Build a spaghetti tower that can hold a marshmallow with a bunch of programmers.. no.”

“I tend to see games being used where there’s not really a good link to the learning, applying or recalling the actual concept that should be supported. Plus, I personally am not a game person.”

“Earning badges probably works for many people especially if there are incentives connected. But for me, not even then. It always strikes me about the same as training dogs with treats.”

As these comments show, great care should be taken when it comes to designing and incorporating games or game elements into your next training program.

If you’d like to know more about a cooperative game our organization created for training and presentation skills (called: Train the Trainer: The Game), drop me a line!

What do you think? Competitive games in the training room? Cooperative games? Stay away from games? Let’s hear some thoughts in the comment section!

Train Like You Listen: A New L&D podcast

Welcome back and happy new year!

In 2020, we’ve decided to mix things up a bit. You’ll still find two posts each week, but now on Mondays, you’ll find our new podcast – a short audio clip offering insights and bite-sized nuggets on trends, cool tools and tips for L&D professionals. Our first episode explains a little more about what it is and offers some thoughts around the best piece of career advice we’ve received as L&D professionals.

Give it a listen and let us know what advice helped you become more successful as an L&D professional in the comment section below!

Great Presentations Start Here

A great presentation involves planning, evidence-based instructional design, engaging delivery, compelling visuals and some way for people to do something new or differently or better as a result. Easy, right?

Maybe not so much. I’ve never met a single person who could do every one of those things well. So how can someone cobble together a great presentation with all of those elements? Continue reading

4 Activities for Group Problem Solving

We recently wrapped the first round of beta on our new presentation creation tool, Soapbox. A piece of feedback that we received quite often was that people were excited about all of the fresh activities that Soapbox provides. Beta users were energized at the prospect of trying out new activities suggested by Soapbox to add depth and engagement to their training. Chances are that if you’re tired of your learning activities then your learners are too. Here are four application activities straight out of Soapbox to try as your next problem-solving activity.  Continue reading

Four Steps to More Engaging Training Design

A little while back, I was showing a tech industry executive – someone who knows both his way around the C-suite and who knows his way around training design – a lesson plan that was generated by our training design tool, Soapbox.

“Hmmmm. When you first told me about this, I thought I’d see some sort of instructional design model integrated into the way you designed this.”

I pointed out that the lesson plan actually did follow the formula of a 4-step instructional design model. He looked at the lesson plan again and smiled. “Ah, I see it now. Yes, this is good.”

Being intentional about the design of your next training program by using a model rooted in adult learning theory can make the difference between a meandering, ineffective session and an engaging session that leads to change. Following is the model we use Continue reading

The STORY model for storytelling

Sometimes the simplest way to bring your content to life is to tell a story. Storytelling is a means of educating people that has been around for millennia.

Just because you have a story to tell, however, doesn’t mean you know how to tell a story in an engaging, effective way. The S.T.O.R.Y. model can help give structure to the way in which you plan for, and ultimately tell, your story.

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Leveraging Pinterest as a Learning and Design Tool

People have their opinions about social media. Believe me, I have my own. I do, however, play on Pinterest every so often and I have found a few useful things when searching for ideas for my kid’s school project or gardening tips. As a site that is geared toward the DIY mom type, there is a surprising amount of teaching resources. Continue reading