Capabilities

Gamification – It’s More Than Keeping Score.

As our previous posts have alluded to, gamification is the current hot topic in training.  And there is real power in well-designed, effective gamification in other aspects of life, as David Hutchens mentioned last week. Many people are now discovering the power of gamification combined with social networking to make positive changes to their weight and health through apps like LoseIt, and Fitocracy. Even insurance companies are developing apps to take advantage of the power, such as UnitedHealth Group’s OptumizeMe, an app that allows people to participate in fitness-related contests with their friends.

Building an effective game or engaging training experience that uses game elements is more than just adding score keeping, and challenges. Jesse Schell in his book, The Art of Game Design. A Book of Lenses, suggests that effective game design is all about creating an engaging experience – one that draws players in and that they would want to repeat. As training designers we need to consider not “what game elements can I add,” but what will make this experience memorable, unique and engaging. After all, retention of the experience (and thus the learning) is the real goal.

As David mentioned in his post, at Blueline Simulations, we combine the elements of play, competition, and feedback to enrich our designs. We enhance the power of these elements by placing them within unique visual and story contexts to make them both more engaging and memorable. Whether it is a one-of-a-kind Blueline Blueprint ™ (learning visual), rich with visual metaphor and client specific detail, or one of our custom eSimulations, the story and content always come first. They provide the context, rationale and “stickiness” that bring the training to life and make it effective at generating results.

Give us a call, and we’ll explore not just how to gamify your learning programs, but how to build engaging experiences that change behavior and get business results.

It’s Not a Game. It’s Gamification.

How Blueline Simulations is Creating New Levels of Learning Retention.

I try not to care about FourSquare. The simple location app, which my teenage daughter helpfully loaded onto my iPhone, encourages me to “check in” every time I go to Starbucks, to Kroger, or to the hip new restaurant downtown.

Help me. I can’t stop. Every time I check in somewhere, I earn points and am able to compare my activity against my friends. I even earn “badges” for dubious achievements such as “checking in at three places after midnight.” And it is a source of some kind of misplaced pride that I have been named “mayor” with the most check-ins at Nashville International Airport’s gate C-9.

Yes, I’m being self-deprecating. But the principles behind my behavior are no game. According to tech research firm Gartner, gamification techniques (like the ones I just described) will be used in 25% of all redesigned processes in business within the next few years.

The cynical view says this trend is little more than a trick of operant conditioning. (The rat presses the lever and a pellet comes out.) But gamification is much more than that. Employed strategically, it brings extraordinary levels of engagement to learning.

How? It does this through:

  • Play. Research is increasingly showing that play is a potent force in organizational contexts. Have you ever seen videos of adorable tiger cubs wresting with one another? This play is actually their primary avenue to learning key skills for hunting and survival. Freedom to experiment and joy are not techniques to enhance the learning process; they are the learning process.
  • Collaborative competition. How did I perform compared to Joe? Where do I rank compared to the rest of my team? In gamification, these questions are in no way cut throat. The stakes are bragging rights, and playful ribbing in the conference room.
  • Immediate feedback. One element common to most gamification techniques is a constant assessment of where one stands in the process of learning. This may be accomplished through badges, leaderboards, and other point-based mechanisms. When the boss tells employees how well they are advancing or regressing in their work, the result may be feelings of vulnerability.  When that feedback comes from an unbiased leaderboard, it is surprisingly engaging.

At Blueline Simulations, programs featuring gamification techniques have been transformative for our clients. In our next blog, we’ll take a look at how these technology-enable elements of play, competition, and feedback are leading to new levels of learner engagement.

Give us a call, and we’ll explore how gamification techniques can be used in your organization’s learning programs!

What if You Could Bring the Collective Wisdom of the Organization Together to Jump Start Critical Initiatives?

Each of us sees the world through our own lens. That is, we interpret data, events, and other intangibles of our organizational experiences through unique mental models made up of our closely held beliefs, and assumptions. This can make it all but impossible to honestly evaluate the organization – or to generate fresh insights in response to organizational challenges.

At Blueline Simulations, we help our clients to overcome this every day through our Voice of the Business Process – a comprehensive series of dialogues that encourage leaders in the organization to articulate and examine the beliefs they individually hold about the work, about the culture, about key strategies and change initiatives, and more.

It is, at times, a profound experience.

At the heart of the Voice of the Business Process, Blueline’s learning experts (who are, by necessity, external to the client environment) conduct dozens of expertly facilitated interviews with key executives on a strategic topic of the clients’ choosing.

In these penetrating dialogues, leaders are invited to speak in an unguarded way about their mental models – the insights, perceptions, beliefs, assumptions, and even emotions they hold– about a critical organizational challenge.

This is remarkable from the participants’ point of view. Many confess that they have never had the opportunity to reflect so thoroughly on the initiative in question.

The outcomes are remarkable, too, from the sponsor’s point of view. After the Blueline team is finished collating, dissecting and synthesizing all these unique perspectives, we share them with the interviewees through a series of facilitated group discussions.  What happens during these discussions is quite spectacular. Insights emerge.

And the best part is that they’re not our insights – they’re yours.  We’ve just created a forum for your people to view the organization and its challenges through a different lens.  So by the time we’re done, everyone has already bought into the action plan.

We’d love to tell you more about Blueline’s Voice of the Business Process offering, and explore how this disciplined process might jump start your most critical initiatives. Call us today.

Data You Can Touch

How Blueline is using new “digital textbook” technology to engage learners and increase retention.

Whenever we build custom learning solutions for our client partners, most of them request some kind of pre-work or pre-read document. This usually leads to a conversation during the design process that goes like this:

“We need to create an exercise that establishes the foundational ideas and definitions.”

“But we already put that information in the prework document!”

“Yes, but we have to assume that some percentage of people won’t read the prework, so we need to get them caught up.”

Then why even give them prework?!” Hand wringing commences.

Okay, so maybe this kind of behind-the-scenes confessions of a harried learning designer isn’t so relevant to you and your world.

But what is relevant, I bet, is the need to create and deliver your key messages in a way that your people will consume, engage… and even integrate into their paradigms and behaviors.

At Blueline Simulations, we are constantly experimenting with new approaches, new technologies, and new ways of creating enrollment within organizations like yours. Sometimes we come across a new media that gets us excited. That happened just recently, and I wanted to tell you about it because I think there are some opportunities here for you.

This Is Not Your Father’s Data Dump

A big part of organizational learning is assimilating data. You know: those reams of charts and data that you need to somehow transfer to your audience’s brains. As much as we love experience at Blueline Simulations, sometimes there is a need for a “tell” approach. (Often we use the term – somewhat derisively – of “data dump.” This is where the dreaded pre-work document often makes an appearance.)

In a recent program, we dramatically increased engagement and retention of this data dump by using new technology provided by Apple’s iPad.

As you may have heard, Apple has made a significant entry into the world of textbooks. With their iBooks platform, Apple intends to revolutionize how students consume information. Apple has also released the free iBooks Author content creation tool to allow designers like us at Blueline to repurpose and design content in a highly engaging, multi-media, iPad-ready platform.

For our recent program, we created a pre-work document that rivaled the actual learning program in terms of generating participant enrollment. We delivered the client’s key content in an iBook format that included:

  • Embedded videos – from YouTube, and also TED Talks – that deliver a more penetrating look at related content.
  • Embedded graphics and charts that could be scrutinized with the iPad’s now-familiar “pinch and zoom” gesture.
  • Links that take learners to related websites, the company’s intranet, or other content located elsewhere in the document.
  • Short quizzes that allow learners to demonstrate that they have indeed internalized the material.

The game-changer here was the kinesthetic nature of the document, thanks to the iPad interface. The ability to touch, swipe, click, watch, and listen to content proved to be highly immersive. Learners, and the client, were unanimous: More of this, please.

Whenever we have an opportunity to add to our toolbox of approaches, we get excited. But the bigger opportunity here is for you. What is the key content that you need to transfer to your team in a change context? Rather than distribute another 60-page PDF document over email, what if you could deliver it in a novel medium that allows your audience to touch, move, and manipulate the content – thereby practically guaranteeing that they engage?

We’d love to show you a demo.

And if that’s not what you’re looking for, that’s okay. We have a few other tricks in our toolbox as well.

Give us a call. And let’s make some change happen in your organization.

What’s Next after Experiential Learning? Welcome to Full Immersion.

Here’s how it usually plays out: Client X comes to us with a PowerPoint deck of 300 bazillion, text-dense slides and says, “this is our old training program. Can you do something with this?”

If you’ve clicked around this website at all, you know the answer is yes, we certainly can.

Through simulation, narrative, game mechanics, and more, we transform content from our client partners into a rich experiential learning event that is informed by the latest research in adult learning theory. The applications are nearly endless. And we’ve spent our careers creating some groundbreaking, experiential programs for our clients – in the classroom, and virtually.

But there’s another level that we offer; a fully immersive approach in which your learners step away from the training room or computer, swing open the doors, and step outside into the sunlight and a broader world that is dense with learning opportunity.

Last year, we sent the sales staff of one of the world’s most influential biotech firms to Disney World. Our guess is that a few of them squeezed in a ride on Space Mountain, but that’s fine with us because the purpose was to observe, capture, and reflect upon the ways Disney is able to deliver its legendary, exceptional customer experiences.

We’re talking about a whole-body, fully kinesthetic learning in which learners are plunged into a world that is dissimilar from their own… all for the purpose of unearthing big ideas that can transform their own businesses.

(We even sent those same biotech leaders to Starbucks and Apple stores to explore different varieties of customer experiences. The insights they brought back to their own business were revolutionary.)

In our next blog entry, we’ll take a closer look at these “full immersion” learning events, and draw out some principles that will allow you to begin considering your own.