employee engagement

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!

“Maps to Go” We’ve Pioneered an Exciting New Application for our Signature Blueprint Learning Tools!

Just ask our clients — Blueline’s signature Blueprint Learning Visuals are incredibly powerful tools for driving change and engaging audiences. But many clients have been asking for a simpler, faster, less expensive alternative to visually depict complex messages. Introducing the newest category in Blueline’s solution suite: the Journey Map.

Whereas Blueprints are designed as concentrated learning experiences, Journey Maps are built to move. A Journey Map is a smaller, 11 x 17 rendering that visually depicts complex messages. By design, these highly flexible images can carry change messages quickly and efficiently through your organization over a variety of media. The icon-driven approach, simple timeline presentations, and short marketing-style copy have been proven to be the perfect combination when rendering complex systems with simplicity and emotional engagement.

Our clients immediately recognize the Journey Map’s unique ability to deliver important messages with power and retention.  And what they discover soon after is that it can also be used as a cognitive organizer, with a series of images and icons that can be repurposed to create continuity across other applications – from the company intranet, to employee handbooks, to strategy presentations, to internal communications branding.

From collaborative “napkin sketch” to professional rendering to multiple applications, the Journey Map is an incredibly adaptive tool that keeps delivering value.

When creating a Journey Map, our Art Director and master artists collaborate with our clients through a simple three-step process that speeds development and keeps costs low:

  1. An initial “napkin sketch,” developed in collaboration with you. We will facilitate the process in which we help you render your strategic messages in a rough, metaphorical format.
  2. A first draft of the full image in highly polished Adobe Illustrator format (also known as “vector art”), accompanied by the copy messages.
  3. A final rendering, with individual icons and image elements isolated for you to apply to other communications.

    The visual approach to the journey maps have proven to be effective in rendering robust information in an accessible, graphical format.

Every Journey Map visual meets the highest quality standards:

  1. It is a colorful and dynamic visual, graphically consistent with other solutions developed by Blueline.
  2. The document will be formatted with “tabloid” dimensions of 11 x 17 inches, and delivered in PDF format. (Upon request, we can also deliver the document in Photoshop, EPS, JPEG or other graphic formats.)
  3. The primary design elements of the document will be isolated and delivered as individual graphics for use in other applications. (For example, individual icons may be placed within explanatory documents in Word format, or used in online documents.)

You may be squinting to view the details of the Journey Maps depicted here. (See how engaging the approach is?) We’d love to give you a much closer look… and help you envision how your critical, strategic messages can be rendered in a highly engaging narrative/metaphorical format. Give me a call today, and I’ll tell you how.

Take Your Instructor-Led Training. Take Your Virtual Learning. Now Put Them Both Together, And…

We feel your pain, because we’ve been there, too.

We love our face-to-face classroom training, but in the age of tight budgets and geographically dispersed workforces, it’s fast becoming a thing of the past.  It was fun while it lasted.

I know it’s easy to dis on e-learning and e-simulation. And while there is still a plague of shallow point-and-click programs out there, a lot of folks are savvy enough to build in richer methods of engagement. But I frequently bump up against the limitations of online interaction. Don’t you? There is almost always content that requires the benefit of interaction with other learners and a live facilitator.

If only there was a way to create a hybrid that delivers the best of classroom and e-learning.

Enter virtual instructor-led training, or VILT.

Okay, don’t tune me out yet. Plenty of us have had lame experiences with new technologies like Acrobat Connect, Live Meeting, GoToMeeting, and others, which have simply become another medium for slogging through PowerPoint with a little bit of Q&A thrown in. (And if we are being honest, no one wants to look stupid by asking a question that they fear might have been answered while they were instant messaging a friend, or catching up on the latest web news.)

VILT took a good concept – less time and money – to its logical conclusion. Along the way, it lost sight of how people really learn.

But all is not lost.

We have discovered that VILT can be engaging, interactive and built on solid adult learning principles, while still saving time and money. Blueline designers and developers are pushing the envelope of this new medium with a broad range of proven immersive teaching methods including story lines and passports, online team assignments and collaboration, and rich interactive debriefs.

Imagine highly engaging team-based activities including Socratic discussions, remote synchronous role-plays, networking, and competitive team challenges.  And individual exercises that create “whole brain” learning through visual templates, use of competition and interactive quizzes.

Yes, it can be done. And when it all comes together, it is a thing of beauty.

Do you have existing instructor-led content that needs to be transformed into high-impact, engaging, VILT?  We’d love to tell you about some of the methods that we have implemented in organizations all around the world. Call the training experts at Blueline Simulations today.

Blueline Applies its “Secret Sauce” to Booz Allen Hamilton’s Award Winning Onboarding Program

If you recall in a previous post we shared the “secret sauce” that distinguishes the onboarding experiences Blueline creates for its clients.  Now let’s look at how the four elements we identified amount to a “quadfecta” and form an award-winning onboarding program for Booz Allen Hamilton.

1. ContextBlueline created two immersive classroom-based experiences for Booz Allen new hires. First, a Blueline Blueprint learning visual engages new hires in a visual and interactive tour of Booz Allen’s history and culture. Learners work in teams to answer questions, move along a visual timeline of events, and interact with illustrated data.  They see the “big picture” and gain insight into the core values, seminal events and cultural underpinnings of this distinguished organization.

Next, a simulation situates participants in the role of a consulting project team at Booz Allen. Through competition, experiential learning and teamwork, they make decisions and experience consequences that fast-forward them through the learning curve of “what is it like to work here?”

2. Impression – We never get tired of hearing participants in the onboarding programs we create use words and phrases like: “Wow” or “I’ve worked at a lot of companies and have never experienced something like this…” or “This really demonstrates a commitment to employees that I’m excited about.” Blueline and Booz Allen have had the pleasure of being awash in these comments every time this program is run.

3. Engagement and fun – Koosh balls and Lincoln Logs may equal fun in some training experiences, but to what end? Booz Allen new hires represent some of the most experienced and intelligent former military, corporate and government talent in the world. Blueline’s definition of fun in this, and frankly, all of our efforts, is much more sophisticated. In Booz Allen’s onboarding program participants debate ideas (that’s fun for geniuses), compete (of course), and explore information (root cause analysis anyone?) in ways that keep them wanting more.

Teams move along a “game of life”-type visual; making decisions based on knowledge they acquire in experiential activities. Decisions affect consequences that earn or lose “chips.” These chips amount to points accumulated against three key dimensions that represent real-world success at Booz Allen. Events intervene, setbacks occur and promotions and accolades accumulate. We have to practically force them to take breaks!

4. A Culture Focus – There are few corporate cultures we have encountered as diverse and inclusive as Booz Allen Hamilton’s. An administrative new hire from Mumbai may be seated in the onboarding classroom next to a former full-bird Colonel. Blueline and Booz Allen collaborated intently to be sure this experience represents and includes the myriad of roles and textures that make up the Booz Allen organization. The Blueline Blueprint learning visual grounds each new-hire in the cultural foundation of the organization, then allows every participant to find him or herself in a character or a role represented in the simulation.

Stay tuned for the “rest of the story.” In our next blog we’ll share what has happened at Booz Allen since our intervention and where Blueline is going next in this dynamic onboarding space.