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Voluntary learning – a response

A friend and former colleague, Joe Houde, posted the following set of thoughts on his Brass Ring Blog, which led to a long response from me, which I am expanding upon here. The quote  about training that set me off was started off with how training is like a game, except most games have voluntary participants. Joe continues and says:

We often do not get voluntary participants. People are forced to come to programs and consequently, it undermines the implementation of other game mechanics. How do we overcome the challenge of voluntary participation?

Man Women - one has more buttons

My response:

  • First, there’s an assumption that participants DON’T want to go to training — I think they do. I think their work gets in the way. If they had their druthers, they would volunteer to come, but the system they are a part of (aka, their work environment), prevents/hinders/discourages them from doing so. If it’s choice between learning and utilization, utilization wins (particular to professional services.) Examine the SYSTEM they are a part of.
  • Motivation comes from goals. Perhaps if were to get clear on the learner’s goals, we could more clearly map to motivation. If they don’t know their goals, their motivations will be fuzzy, IMHO. If their goal is to figure out their goals, then even that helps.
  • The tension in most learning, as was noted in Joe’s post, is that is about the “message” that the organization wants their employees to learn/regurgitate/live. So absolutely, there are training situations where there is a need for compliance and people are forced to go. We look for ways to make those trainings more palatable (like gamification) rather than stating quite clearly, in this GAME of WORK, here are the rules. This is what you must know to survive and thrive. If your goal is to keep your job, guess what, you gotta play by these rules.
  • The medium in which this message is given (yes I’m channeling McLuhan, he is Canadian after all) usually kills the motivation (yes, I’m thinking death by powerpoint)
  • The challenge is the capture the energy in a forced training situation. Where is the energy? In onboarding (new hires or acquisitions), the energy has to do with anxiety of joining a new organization. The motivation is to understand the lay of the land – expectations, tools, etc. How does one channel the energy into something positive — either connections with each other, with their new organization, or voicing/airing concerns in a safe way. This is not new.

I think with gamification and voluntary participation we are perhaps asking the wrong question. It’s not just about the individual but the system they are a part of. Use gamification, but use it in a way that makes the experience more authentic — bring in randomess and the gaming aesthetic it creates rather than a point system. Allow rules that channel and focus the energy in the room — rules that open up the experience rather than shut it down by someone “telling” you what to do. Create teams that support collaboration rather than competition.

Gamification can be useful with the right framing.

Posted in business, games, OD.

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2 Responses

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  1. Saqib Ali says

    and you can not buy gamification.

  2. JOE H says

    Evidently, Squaresoft does not send me a note when I get a comment. I totally missed all of this, which is ironic, because I started blogging to get conversations like this. Expect a response when my work week ends.

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