Why Leaders Succeed When Playing Games: Lessons And Confessions From An Online Conference Using Gamification

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Virtual Leader Conference 2014: "Empowering the Advancing Leader in You"

Virtual Leader Conference 2014: “Empowering the Advancing Leader in You”

The notion of playing a business game might either intrigue you or make you hesitate. Why do we claim that you will succeed as a leader when playing games? We are approaching the end of the learning game component of the Virtual Leader Conference 2014 (#vlc14) and I want to give you a glimpse of what is going on in this real life business game so you can make an informed decision on how you feel about playing business games yourself.

The #vlc14 game is aiming at enhancing the learning experience for the conference participants through a variety of gamification elements and game design techniques. The game is structured by exercises and challenges based on our conference sessions and contributions from our speakers on a LifeVille game card where each player generates points.

All players are distributed into teams to co-create solutions. The players may access the game cards of other players and provide feedback. When sharing occurs, both the giver and the receiver will get extra points. Players may engage in full transparency or privately to share their findings. The challenges are launched gradually during the game and spontaneous play may occur. All players will appear on a Leader Board with their current score, and the team’s performance will also be visible.

Simply following instructions is not really a game as it doesn’t have the aspects of fun and spontaneity that a true game does. According to LifeVille Game Creator Carina Kindkvist, a key success factor when creating a real life business game is to reduce the number of instructions to an absolute minimum. Instead, we are looking to motivate the players to explore, experiment and have fun doing so by sharing their experiences with the other players.

There are benefits as well as challenges in creating business games:

Benefits of playing business games:

Some of the benefits of playing games are obvious: It is fun going on discovery! Great real life games create opportunities for unexpected results as the players are combining their own learning with feedback and inspiration from other players.

There seem to be certain characteristics that are common to those who are engaged and playing well. They are motivated by visible results and feedback, and they are open to demonstrating vulnerability when playing.

One of the #vlc14 top players so far, John Rasiej, shares his experience:

“I am half way through the #vlc14 game and have experienced that it’s a way of creating another motivation to get more engaged and perhaps even listen more closely to the content since you will have more reasons to share what you have heard.  It’s also been gratifying to get added validation seeing people’s comments that they have gotten a lot of useful ideas from my webinar.”

Challenges of playing business games:

Some of the challenges of playing games are found in our attitudes about what is acceptable behavior among professionals. It can be uncomfortable and different than how professionals normally learn or solve problems, it might even be perceived as childish.

Specifically, it is challenging to professionals who are looking for “perfection” as the game pushes them to share with strangers and take imperfect action. One of the #vlc14 players who were reluctant from the start, Marie-Claire Hermans, shares her experience:

“’I don’t have time to play games!’ That was my first thought while reading the announcement that all leaders and participants of the Virtual Leader Conference were invited to play a game. Games are serious. You have to win them. They create pressure. We didn’t play games at home because they were a ‘waste of time.’ So my perception of ‘playing games’ is not one of being ‘playful.’ Nevertheless, playfulness is a characteristic I own despite my reluctance to play games.

I needed to unlock my mind to enter this game. It was a challenge. But… I love challenges so I did enter. Hesitating. Not feeling like it at all. A waste of my precious time as a busy professional. I started playing while sighing, exploring what “they” wanted from me. Then I answered one question. Wow, what was that?! Fireworks! Hm, that’s nice. Let me answer a next question. Fireworks again! Yesterday I was answering questions just to see the magic of the fireworks pop on my screen.

I am enjoying playing after all. I am counting my hearts. I am engaging. Of course, being used to always winning in competition when I was young, that old fire arose inside of me too. But then something occurred to me. We are all winning this game. Because we are learning, picking up the content and rephrasing it. And I have to say that, as an eternal student, I always love to learn. It’s fun to see all these leaders and adult participants play the game, interact, give hearts and connect.”

According to Game Creator Carina Kindkvist, not all players will engage fully in voluntary games. Compared to e-learning though, the engagement level is significantly higher and in fact exceeding 50%. Are you curious to check it out for yourself? There is still time to join our game until September 21!


vlc14If you like this topic, you will love the last days of our #vlc14 Virtual Leader Conference game running September 15-21, 2014 where other speakers and attending Advancing Leaders are playing to inspire, learn and implement success strategies in pursuit of their next big thing as a leader. You are welcome to join us in the game on demand and free of charge via http://vlc14.katycaroan.com