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Gamification for Business:

Why innovators and changemakers use games to break down silos, drive engagement and build trust

As I prepare to present to my fellow HR and L&D colleagues at the World of Learning event (16-17 October 2018), I have been reviewing my 18 years’ experience of how our business games and simulations have helped organisations change their strategy, culture or undertake a major transformation. At the event I will be speaking about why we use games and introducing an exciting, new publication, “Gamification for Business” (Kogan Page 2018), which we are proud to have contributed to.

Games and Learning – it’s a tried and tested approach

Games and simulations have been around for centuries and have been used by different cultures to teach practical and social skills. For example, Senet, an early board game discovered in Egyptian burial sites dated between 3500 BCE and 3100 BCE and Knights practising their jousting skills before tournaments, which were themselves preparation for battle.

In the UK, the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) recognises the importance of play within children’s education.  Children learn as they play without even realising it. They learn how to count, how to communicate and how to interact socially. As adults, we demand that learning should be structured and controlled. The term ‘games’ when applied to an adult activity implies no learning is taking place.

However, research shows ideas and experiences offered through these methods result in higher retention and transfer rates. A good game or simulation is a blend of structure with directed learning and fun, providing the opportunity to learn through discovery and interact with others.

The benefits of using business games and simulations

Considering all the benefits of learning through games why wouldn’t you choose to use them in your business to increase the effectiveness of training or change programs? Some of the issues games and simulations can address include:

1. Breaking down silos

Rapid change generates a greater need for collaboration across an organisation. The exploratory setting of a game or simulation extends the boundaries of discussion.
Management games stimulate discussion amongst participants. People are exposed to different ideas and can see beyond their own silo. This reduces communication problems and encourages cross functional collaboration.

2. Making discussions meaningful. Words with action.

Experiential learning is an alternative to traditional teaching methods and truly engages participants. PowerPoint presentations and demonstrations can be very dry when used primarily to present information.
Research by the National Training Laboratories suggests passive learning models like lectures drive only 5% retention, whilst experiential learning engages participants in ‘learning by doing’, driving at least 75% retention.

3. Break the stalemate of ongoing operations vs. innovation

Games can reach people with different learning styles. Simply telling people how to do something isn’t going to work for everyone and doesn’t allow anyone to “give it a go.”
Business games allow concept testing in a safe environment.

4. Untangle complex problems

Business games allow participants to take risks, practise new ideas and skills, show imagination and solve problems (individually or as part of a team). We value exploration and provide safe but challenging environments that support and extend learning and development. There is an opportunity to reflect on the outcome. People have a chance to think about the consequences of their actions and come up with alternative approaches.

5. Shake up the roles we play in an organisation

Everyday organisational politics can stand in the way of meaningful conversations that will drive an organisation forward. Taking people away from the daily routine and structure of their organisation and creating a ‘level playing field’ gives everyone the chance to contribute whatever their job role or title.
A game or simulation provides a structure within which new conversations can occur.

6. Bolstering trustworthy relations

Increasing complexity means the product or service that one organisation offers is often closely linked to the product or service offered by another organisation.  In this climate there is a need to develop solid relationships not just within an organisation but between organisations.
Traditionally, business games have been used internally within organisations to develop leadership and management skills or help an organisation communicate a key message. However, as business partnering becomes more important they offer a fantastic way to engage and align suppliers, business partners and even external stakeholders.

Our business games have been effective across many industries

Business games and simulations are effective within organisations across industries, international borders, as well as applying to corporate and academic fields. We have worked with a variety of organisations. Here are just three examples of how we have successfully improved performance for our clients.

Oracle

We worked with Oracle, the world’s largest enterprise software company, when they wanted to make a strategic change and to transform the organisation’s cultural mindset.
Peter MacNaughtan, from the Oracle project team said, “The power of being able to develop a simulation that reinforces a message of a particular training or development programme is shockingly powerful. I was amazed at the effect it had.”

London Borough Newham

More recently, we worked with London Borough Newhamat a time when they were making organisational changes. Using a business simulation game, we helped the organisation to assess Commercial Awareness, identify areas for development and build competency amongst existing employees.

O2

We are very proud to have worked with O2 to help them develop the commercial awareness of their store leaders. Using a business simulation, we were able to support their stores’ succession programme.
Feedback was positive from participants and the learning and development team. Mark Spiller, O2s learning consultant, said, “Business simulations as provided by Elgood are a step forward into new ways of learning at O2. We found that not only was the simulation a great learning aid for those that took part, but it also was engaging and thought provoking too. Many of the participants rated the simulation as excellent and some said that it was the best part of a year-long development journey. Working with Christine and team to develop the solution that we delivered together was simple and rewarding.”

To read any of our case studies in full, please visit our website.

The future of games

I think there are a number of reasons why the use of games and simulations remain relevant and valuable in today’s environment.
Technology is constantly changing which affects the world and industries that we work in. Mobile and social electronic learning programmes can be used to help communicate new information, learn factual information and some new skills.
However, they do not offer the depth of social interaction of experiential learning. To be successful in a work environment most people need ‘people skills,’ they need to be able to clearly articulate their viewpoint, have a robust debate and work collectively to solve complex problems. This requires basic learning but also practice, to develop solid skills.

My experience of working with diverse clients over many years has shown that business games and gamification really do have the power to break down silos, drive engagement and build trust. It’s a subject I am passionate about and I will be at this year’s World of Learning event on 16thand 17th October at the NEC Birmingham. If you would like to meet up and discuss our experience, the book or how gamification can drive your business outcomes get in touch.

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