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Gamification: Am I Doing It Right?

My boss is a wise man.  Any time someone on our team attends a professional development event, my boss requires us to share what we’ve learned and what we plan to do with it during a team meeting.  I’ve written about this before – a supervisor who holds employees accountable following a professional development experience is essential to ensuring transfer of learning.  During our team’s weekly meeting this morning, I plan to share the following idea:

The Challenge

My work focuses on developing the skills and abilities of eye bank (as in cornea transplants) professionals around the world (primarily in India).  Once a year we hold a managers’ retreat and over the past several years we’ve honed in on how to ensure these meetings produce a measurable return on our investment.  Every year we ask ourselves if there are ways to better keep our managers engaged and excited to develop new skills once they return to their home eye banks, where they are welcomed back with emails and voicemails and fires that need to be put out after having been away from the office for several days.

The Inspiration

The following idea has been percolating in my mind since viewing this video of Jesse Schell several weeks ago. Jane McGonigal’s general session presentation at last week’s SHRM Talent Management Conference and her book Reality is Broken have really helped paint a picture of what is possible.

The Idea

I’d like to begin this year’s managers’ retreat by introducing a fictional patient – perhaps we’ll call him Ajay – who is corneal blind in both eyes.  Over the next two days, it will be the attendees’ goal to provide two corneas that can restore sight to Ajay.

Where will these managers get these sight-restoring corneas?  They’ll have to earn them.

Biologically, a cornea has five layers.  Over the course of the 2-day retreat, managers will need to complete a series of five challenges based upon each presentation in order to earn a “full cornea”.

For example, we may have three different learning activities (“challenges”) that focus on quality control, another learning activity after a coaching skills session and a final activity after a key performance indicator session.  Pay attention during the sessions, successfully complete each challenge (sometimes in teams, sometimes on your own), and you’ve earned all five layers of your first cornea!

How will managers earn all five layers of their second cornea?  Come back on time from each days’ morning and afternoon breaks, and show up on time to begin day 2 (since the rules will not have been described prior to day 1, we’ll steer clear of penalizing people for tardiness on the first day).

Since certificates of attendance are a big deal for our training sessions, the certificates from this session will reflect how well each manager did when it comes to restoring Ajay’s sight.  Successfully earning all five layers of both corneas will earn a manager a Certificate of Alleviating Bilateral Blindness.  Those attendees who struggled with tardiness or didn’t quite complete one of the challenges will receive a Certificate of Alleviating Unilateral Blindness.

But that’s not all.  I envision creating additional challenges and certificates when managers apply these skills when they return to their home eye banks.  I envision additional fictional patients and additional corneas to be awarded for those managers who complete a prescribed set of online learning modules and for those managers who contribute a certain amount of content to our community board/wiki.

And I envision a plaque of recognition at next year’s annual meeting for the manager (or managers) who achieve a certain number of corneas following our managers’ retreat.

In Sum

I don’t hold a monopoly on bright ideas.  My team will debate the structure and the merits and we’ll go through a revision process and it could look very different if/when we choose to do something like this later in the year.  My point is that none of these ideas would have been possible if it weren’t for several amazing learning experiences and a supervisor to hold me accountable for figuring out ways to put these experiences into action.

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