On the precipice of a six week long training stint of training the exact same course again and again, I have ‘urgent optimism’. That is what happens to ‘gamers’ when facing a major challenge – a win or lose moment where they truly believe that with intense, singular focus and attention, this time they will win! This is exactly what’s happening to me. Not that it’s a win or lose moment, it’s just a big, big challenge and I’ve decided to make it the most fun challenge of my career by making it a game.
After watching TED talks by Jane McGonigal, an online gaming expert from the Institute for the Future, I decided to follow her advice and create a game around my upcoming challenge. Over the next six weeks, I am embarking on a training stint, where I will be training the exact same course six weeks in a row. Even though this course is one of my favourites in the assortment of courses that I cover, I recognise from the onset that it is going to be difficult to keep up my energy and enthusiasm for six straight weeks in a row. According to McGonigal, by creating a game I will naturally instil a sense of adventure and higher levels of optimism, creativity and determination that may not be there without the addition of the game. Additionally, recent research conducted by Gartner, an IT research and advisory company, states that gamification has become a significant business trend in recent years. They suggest that using gaming principles, designs and approaches in a non-gaming context, gamification results in higher employee and customer engagement and increases skills and innovation. This is exactly what I am aiming to do with my Game.
Let the Game begin!
McGonigal suggests a simple four step approach to creating a game: Create a secret identity, recruit allies, battle bad guys and activate ‘power-ups’. First, I had to look up the definition of ‘power-ups’ as I’m not that familiar with online gaming terminology. Apparently these are items, icons, symbols or actions that give a player extra (sometimes even supernatural) powers in order to continue fighting in the game, such as an extra life, a stronger punch or more gold. As these are not really viable in my real life game, I had to come up with my own ideas to give myself natural energy boosts (see Activate ‘Power-ups’ section below).
Create my Secret Identity:
I decided to call my secret identity, Super Trainer, not only because it was the first idea that came to me, but S and T are also conveniently my initials. If this game was online, I would have created an avatar – a graphical representation of my character. I would have made her very tall wearing a power suit, a tiara and a cape. This, however, is a real life game and it would be a bit inappropriate, especially the tiara and cape. Instead, I’ve opted for wearing my favourite silver earrings every day. As I put them on in the morning, I will secretly know that these are my equivalent to Superman’s costume.
My first recruit is also the only one who knows that he’s an ally. As the one who could be most impacted by my irritability, frustration and/or exhaustion, I had to get my husband on board with supporting me through the six week endeavour. He agreed to be a patient sounding board to my ups and downs during the Game.
The other allies don’t actually know that they are allies. I made the decision to not openly recruit my training delegates into my Game. I don’t want any delegate to feel slighted or dejected because they perceive their Trainer has had to invent a game to stay engaged. When actually the Game is designed to boost my productivity and they will be getting an even better training experience than they would have without it. So instead, they are unknowingly allies in that they will be participating in the course and thus participating in the Game.
Other allies include the training companies that hire me, other Trainers and myriad of online training websites and forums. If and when I need support, advice or a new idea for a training exercise, I have access to a wide range of experienced Trainers to consult, in person and online.
Battle the Bad Guys:
The aim of the game is not only to finish the six weeks of training, but to grow my own skills and strengths along the way, all the while providing excellent training experiences to my delegates. In order to do this in a Game, I have to identify my bad guy and come up with a strong strategy to fight him and win.
My bad guy has been identified as the notoriously evil, Dr. Montgomery N Zane (aka: monotony insane), who is armed with four lethal weapons of Fatigue, Repetition, Boredom and Autopilot.
- Fatigue – exhaustion, low energy
- Repetition – saying the same things, running the same exercises, asking and answering the same questions
- Boredom – lack of diversity, more of the same
- Autopilot – unconsciously slipping into a repeated or common routine / script / exercise
To fight the evil Doctor, I have devised my own arsenal of 11 Challenges. Each day, I will roll dice to determine which Challenge will be assigned to me for the day. The randomness of the Challenges will keep me on my toes and extra engaged. If the same Challenge is randomly selected for more than two days in a row, it must still be completed, plus an additional Challenge.
11 Challenges (Starting with the number 2 – the minimum number in a dice roll, ending with 12, the maximum)
- Modify course exercises throughout the day to compel delegates to physically stand up, move about the room, interact with more delegates and give presentations
- Read a new project management article and incorporate it into the course
- Brainstorm 3 new exercises to complement the learning and implement one of them
- Create a new flip chart that illustrates a key point in the course materials
- Use the break and lunch times to get to know the delegates’ back stories
- Run one or more of the course exercises using a ‘real life’ delegate situation to connect the learning to their reality
- Listen to a comedy album
- Take a different route to work
- Create a Project Manager joke and try it out
- Take a 10 minute walk at lunch time (rain or shine)
- Wear a rubber band around my wrist and snap it every time I suddenly find myself in autopilot mode
I will then need to incorporate the selected Challenge(s) into my day. Every day I will keep track of the results on a Daily Progress Chart, reviewing and summarising the results of the Challenge. At the end of each week, I will compile my results into a Weekly Analysis Form and create a Leader Board of results – collecting gold stars for completing my Challenges. As I accumulate gold stars, I will move up my Leader Board, closer and closer to achieving the ultimate reward of an ‘Epic Win’.
The final step in creating and playing a game, is to activate ‘power-ups’. These are energy boosters along the way to ensure you have enough strength and energy to continue fighting. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz propose in their book, The Power of Full Engagement (2003), that energy has four dimensions and that to be effective, all four must be activated and exercised. The ‘power-ups’ I have chosen for my Game are required daily, weekly or on an ad hoc basis and address all four energy dimensions.
Physical Energy (Health, self-regulation and leisure):
- Get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night
- Eat breakfast every day
- Eat healthy snacks (No chocolate biscuits)
- Drink water throughout the day
- Exercise 3 times per week
- Book a massage, as and when needed
Mental Energy (Experiences of deep engagement):
- 10 minute meditations every day
- Weekly analysis of the Game and brainstorming and researching new ideas for improvement
Emotional Energy (Frequent positive emotions):
- Every day complete a 5 minute Gratitude Journal (a section on the Daily Progress Sheet)
- Watch cat videos, as and when needed
Social Energy (Having a ‘why’ to life and awareness of values):
- Donate to a ‘learning charity’ each week to widen the reach of my Game to benefit other learners around the world
Wish me luck. I’ll report back the results at the end!
Gartner, Ltd. 2015. Gamification 2020: What’s the Future of Gamification? Retrieved: https://www.gartner.com/doc/2226015/gamification–future-gamification
Jane McGonigal. TED2010. Gaming can make a better world http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world?language=en
Jane McGonigal. TEDGlobal 2012. The game that can give you 10 extra years of life. https://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_the_game_that_can_give_you_10_extra_years_of_life?language=en
Loehr, J. and Schwartz, T. 2003. The power of full engagement: Managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance and personal renewal. New York: Free Press (Simon and Schuster)
For more articles from Susan Tuttle, CEO & Founder of Terrapin Agrada, please click here.