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Gamification - How can it help behaviours change and learning stick?

Gamification - How can it help behaviours change and learning stick?

Gamification - How can it help behaviours change and learning stick?

The landscape of learning constantly changes as academics and practitioners develop new insights into how the brain works and how this might influence the way we go about encouraging individuals to develop. As this happens L+D professionals are faced with myriad choices in their quest for more efficient or effective ways of getting clients to absorb content and make resultant changes in their behaviour. Often a senior figure in an organisation settles on an approach they believe to be the best for their people and the lives and careers of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of their people are affected by the way the organisations delivers training that reflects that one belief. In this rapidly changing professional environment it pays to look closely under the hood of each new trend and ask “what’s really going on here?” Gamification is no exception to this rule.

I last wrote about Gamification a couple of years ago in a blog where I offered this rather simplistic definition

“Gamification is the addition of game-elements into non-game activities”

Since that time RSVP Design has received several prestigious awards for our Gamification, yet it’s a word and idea that is rarely mentioned in-house. The main reason for that is that our practice pre-dates the label. Our mission when we started was about designing exemplary experiential learning tools and processes, that hasn’t changed, but if somebody else wants to describe what we do as Gamification we’re OK with that too. We think of Gamification as a technique that is one element in a larger, longer experiential learning process. It might be the element that attracts the eye, but without the supporting process it has little impact as an effective learning strategy.

Whenever I’m asked to describe the learning-design side of our business model I offer this response:

Typically we’ll be approached by a client organisation, often a company or business school. They will tell us that they have a defined population of employees who currently do A, they tell us that they need that population not to do A any more, they want them to do B. Our job is to design a process and journey of learning that will take that population and move them from doing A to doing B.

It’s important to recognise that our work isn’t often about what people know, it’s usually about what people do. New knowledge is part of this but we measure results not on what people know, but what they do differently as a result of this new knowledge. We are designers of behavioural change and that’s why our emphasis is on experiential learning as the most effective way we know to encourage and guide the behavioural change required by the client organisation.

So where does Gamification come in? 

As I said it’s not a term that we frequently use, and that’s because it’s a different label that the learning industry has hung on something that is central to how our designs work. We don’t call it Gamification, we call it Rehearsal.

In order to get people to change their behaviour in a considered way they usually need to do two things:

  1. Define what they are already doing and perhaps recognise that this might not be the best way.
  2. Experiment with doing things differently and consider the additional benefits that doing it this other way might offer

In an experiential learning process, particularly one that is ambitious in the change it’s designed to deliver, this is achieved in incremental steps. The key is allowing the learner to discover for themselves the benefits of change. If the steps are too large, or the pressure to change is too forceful, then many of the learners will feel that they are being manipulated and will become change-resistant.

Designing a learning process that uses effective Gamification is simply another way of describing the multiple cycles of rehearsal and experimentation that we would build into an experiential learning design. The Gamification element is the part of the process that is practical, playful and experimental, but it has to be backed up by the more reflective, applied parts.

As this blog goes out Graham Cook our CEO is about to go to Austin, Texas to present two of our designs, Challenging Assumptions and Colourblind (online version), in the finals of The Gamification Throwdown (No Tech and High Tech categories!) at Camp GamiCon 2022. While he’s there I’m sure he’ll be referring to Challenging Assumptions and Colourblind (online version) as a demonstration of excellent Gamification, but when he comes back to Scotland, (hopefully with a trophy), we’ll be back to talking about the role of rehearsal in effective experiential learning. 

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