Why You Should Consider a ‘Game Layer’ To Boost Training Impact

While much of the training world seems stuck in a rut of game show quizzes, the rest of the world is actively integrating games into our everyday lives. From “checking-in” at our favorite stores to win discounts or freebies, to earning merit badges for our virtual farming skills, otherwise mundane activities have been transformed into behavior change with the help of games.

SCVNGR founder Seth Priebatsch even has a term for the growing influence of games on society.  He calls it “the game layer.”  Check out this TED talk with Seth to learn more about how he sees games shaping the future of learning and commerce.

Concepts like collaboration, innovation, problem-solving, leadership, and resource allocation – these are essential skills in successful game play and in the workplace.  But that being said, most of us aren’t game designers.   So what are some practical ways the rest of us can leverage games to add more impact to our training?

Don’t design new games when you can use board games.

When given the precious gift of face-time with trainees instead of another game show quiz, try using board games as a fresh way to liven-up training sessions, develop fundamental skills, and emotionally connect with your audience.  Save your talking points for a post-game debrief to make sure you connect the training dots to on-the-job experiences and performance. Here are a couple of unexpected board games that entertain as they deliver big training impact.  (Note: These are my suggestions, but you can use more mainstream games. Just make sure the game you chooses forces players to tap into the skills you’re looking for).

  • For building better collaboration between teams, reach for a board game like Pandemic where the team’s mission is to prevent a pandemic outbreak.  Along the way, teams gain insights into their own collaborative abilities that they can apply in the workplace.  (For those of you spooked by the game’s concept – yes, the subject matter might be a little icky for germaphobes – but the benefits far outweigh the ick factor.)
  • Need trainees to be better problem-solvers? Try a simple strategy game like Ricochet Robot.  In Ricochet Robot, the goal of the game is to identify a path from your robot to the target before your opponent does.  This game is quick to learn and fun to play, and since everyone is competing to solve the same puzzle it’s a really eye-opening innovation exercise.

Do apply game mechanics to make online training more fun.

If you don’t have the luxury of face-time with trainees (or management buy-in for playing board games) you can easily add a game layer to your online training strategy.

  • Give trainees realistic, measurable business goals to foster healthy competition and then regularly communicate progress to the goal (e.g., a weekly email or a line graph posted in the break room).
  • Create a sense of urgency and generate excitement with a time-limit for achieving goals. Have trainees do a virtual “check-in” via email to let everyone know who’s in the lead or have them make a recurring appointment to perform a required task for achieving the goal.
  • Reward achievement. Use email signature badges, certificates, or other small rewards to drive training completions and, more importantly, to recognize progress on the job.

Want to read more about how game mechanics are changing the world?  Check out this story from Psychology Today about the cool ways scientists are using a game to crowd-source a cure for Alzheimer’s.

Are you already using games to add impact to your training?  If so we want to hear about it!  Leave us a comment.