Games as a tool for change

Games are a highly effective tool both for developing learning dynamics and in innovation environments.

Most people see playing games as the opposite of working, as an activity designed to spend our free time. In many cases we even perceive playing only as a frivolous activity to rest our minds when we are not using our talents for serious work aspects.

Actually, if we look at its definition, playing games is a structured and voluntary activity involving imagination. That is to say, it is an activity limited in time and space, organised by rules, conventions or agreements between players, not coerced by authority figures, and developed on the basis of a series of elements originating in fantasy and creative imagination.

Therefore, although playing games is generally fun, it can rarely, if ever, be considered frivolous. This is so because it is ultimately a universally inherent human activity. All of us have learned to relate to our family, material, social and cultural environment through games.

Precisely, the characteristics of the game itself are what make it a very powerful activity for knowledge transmission:

  • Voluntary participation. It is not necessary to persuade or recruit participants. The individual is the one who wishes to participate without needing to be encouraged to do so.

  • Progression. The difficulty level increases progressively as the player’s skills improve.

  • Clear rules. The framework and structure of the activity are known and shared by all participants from the start.

  • Limited space and time. Before starting the activity, the participant is aware of both physical and time limits.

  • Real-world model. The story, the environment and the framework in which it takes place is a reflection of reality in which the participant can identify with.

  • Pattern practice. It is an activity in which improvement is achieved through repetitive practice of routines.

  • Feeling of control. The player has the power and ability to influence the direction of the game through free and personal decisions.

  • Freedom to fail. The participant can decide at any time at his own discretion and the consequences of his decisions only apply within the game.

  • Quick feedback. Successes and mistakes have a consequence in a very short-term.

Start using our dynamic design canvas to take your training to the next level.

The right game for every situation

Over the years we have had the opportunity to accompany a number of companies in their lean implementation in a wide range of sectors, countries and cultures. Our experience in these transformation processes has taught us that games are a key element in explaining knowledge before it is put into practice.

Games can be a powerful weapon when used correctly. We have seen organisations which systematically use games in their training and improvement activity development with very successful results.

However, every coin has its heads and tails. And the case of games is no exception: Simulation is a very powerful support and guide for training development. But it is necessary to respect some minimum conditions if we want to ensure the success of the result. That is why, before deciding to use a game in a training course, it is necessary to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • What do we expect from this dynamic?
  • How should the game help me to achieve this goal?
  • What is the link between the game and the next step in our activity?

When all the answers support the use of the game, you can start planning the activity. To do this, the next step before starting the activity is to assess (even if informally) the level of prior knowledge of each of the participants on the subject to be presented. Games are a good tool to transmit concepts because they allow knowledge to be built up. However, it can also become a boring activity if the contents to be transmitted are concepts already known by the group.

Finally, when you are clear on the objectives of the game and the participants’ level, you can start the training activity. Most of the games used in change or learning dynamics have a common structure and are developed in several rounds or phases. This structure allows for repetitive rehearsal of the methodologies that you want to transmit to the learners.

This routine constitutes a thread running through the training, helping the students to focus their attention on those elements that change from one stage to the following one, in short, the methodology to be learnt. To ensure the success of the game, it is necessary that each of these phases is structured according to problem-solving dynamics:

  • Understand the current situation (…and the problems it presents).
  • Describe a target solution and apply it in the simulation.
  • Verifying the result of the actions when developing a new simulation round.
  • Reflecting on the results.

Learned lessons

In the last phase of the game, at the end of the dynamic, it is necessary to take some time for reflection to discuss both the game results and the impact that each of the methodologies presented may have in a real environment. The learnings are essential to ensure that participants have been able to consolidate the knowledge derived from the activity.

We are at your disposal to help you design the game or dynamics you need to make change happen in your organisation.