Posted on 23-Mar-15

Let's play a game. In this game, your job is to lead me to a destination. First, before we play the games, just a few rules for the road. 1) You select the destination 2) You can't force me to do anything that I don't want to do; this includes agreeing to go on the journey in the first place. 3) I can only bring on the journey whatever I already possess (and am willing to contribute) and whatever you decide to provide to me. 4) You can ask whoever you want to go on the journey with me; just remember, you can't force me to play nice with them. That's it! Four simple rules!

Now you're ready to begin the leadership game. Select your destination and begin. Does this game sound like a fun one to play? What the right elements it could be. Only this isn't really a game. This is what we live out every day in the workplace as leaders. Think about it: 1) You set the vision (i.e., destination) 2) You work hard to gain commitment to the vision 3) You equip your employees 4) You build and empower teams your ability to "force" employees to do anything is limited to your ability to fire them. You can't make them engage in your vision. You have to motivate them to do so. When you look at it from this lens, why can't gamification be used to help teach leadership skills? All the elements of a good gaming plot are there. You have a goal, a potential for dynamic storyline full of unpredictable characters, challenges to overcome, and limited time and resources to do so. But it's not as easy as it sounds.

Before you begin do the leadership gaming path, there are some perils to consider. In this blog, we'll touch upon just a few. 1) Cost: Developing dynamic, unfolding storylines that are realistic for your environment is expensive. However, not doing so reduces or even eliminates the learning benefits received. If the individuals aren't learning how to better perform within your environment, then what's the point? 2) Bandwith: Supporting complex gamification routines across multiple delivery platforms (e.g., smartphones, PCs, smart-TVs) are resource intensive. If you want people to really engage in the game to the level required to realize its intended benefits then you have to make it available to them in a way that's convenient for them. With all the different technologies out there, this is a real challenge. 3) Transference: Ensuring that the lessons from the game carry over into the workplace requires additional wrap-around support. If a broader performance support strategy doesn't exist, the benefits from gamification will not be realized. Do you have the resources to provide this support?

Gaming can be used to teach leadership skills or soft skills if you perform that term. It can be used across a broad realm of soft skill topics including conflict management, emotional intelligence, team building, and more. It can be used to teach strategic thinking, project management, change management, and other meta-skills. However, not all games are created equal and not all companies are created equals. Games can be fun and engaging without developing the intended skills. This risk can be mitigated. The bigger risk is the fact that games can be properly focused on the intended skills but not have the intended outcome because there is a cultural mismatch. So, the real question isn't whether gaming can develop skills but rather, whether gaming is the right answer for your situation. Without further analysis, the only possible answer to that question is - "it depends". Join us to discuss how you begin to undertake such an analysis and determine whether gaming is truly the right strategy.


Tiffany Crosby, President
Petra Learning LLC

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