Over many decades the paraphernalia of corporate life has changed beyond recognition. Typewriters are more commonly found in museums than offices. Fax machines are rarely seen. Photocopiers have survived but have transformed into multi-function juggernauts able to copy, print and scan. However, one innate aspect of office life has, by and large remained unchanged: the humble business meeting… that great staple of every worker’s life! To some, meetings are an essential business tool where decisions are made and ideas are born. To others, a time wasting, energy draining gathering and a poor way to conduct business. It is, of course, wrong to caricature meetings using such polarizing descriptions. But, nevertheless it helps to stimulate discussion around whether companies are getting the best from their meetings, which, after all, are a cost to business. Next time you are in a room it might be an interesting exercise to calculate how much it costs, in terms of each participant’s hourly wage!
So can meetings, like other business tools, be updated to adapt to the ever evolving and hyperpaced world in which companies operate? Georgie Mann, Director of Green Hat People, believes that gamification techniques can breathe new life into the tired old meetings format.
“We thought it was an innovative concept. Everybody is fed up with ineffective meetings. Our methodology makes meetings immersive to the core.”
Mann uses proven gamification techniques to embed two-way communication, promote active listening and boost immersive participation. The company was created ten years ago in Stockholm with a mission of making business meetings more interesting, fun and effective, which was what inspired her to bring the concept to the UK.
Her team create bespoke gamification techniques for companies who may have a specific need – anything from helping teams to bond, to creating a sense of common purpose, to uniting employees behind a set of core values. The techniques do require companies to take a leap of faith, and indeed courage, to invest in them – not least because they may come across to some cynics as mere gimmicks – the modern day equivalents of away days where employees have to build rafts or go paintballing. But that would be too simple a way of dismissing how gamification can be deployed to truly stimulate employees to get out of ‘business as usual’ mindsets.
Green Hat People has a range of techniques that can be applied depending on a company’s need. Each technique supplants the traditional meeting format with games which have a purpose. It is important to say, of course, that the game is not an end in itself but the means to meeting an objective.
For example, Mann points to the Exploration Challenge game which physically gets teams out of their offices. The aim is to visit ten major landmarks in a city. On arrival at each destination they must complete a series of challenging tasks, which can be linked in some way to their business. It is a way of getting participants out of their day to day environments so that they can be stimulated to think more creatively.
Case study 1
Among the organisations that use Green Hat People’s gamification activities is Zurich Insurance. They needed to create a corporate meeting for 160 delegates that was less about reporting hard numbers and statistics and more about what makes employees feel for the job. “The message was all about giving employees a greater sense of purpose and understanding the difference they make for their clients.”
Green Hat People involved the participants in workshops that highlighted the importance of thinking from a client’s perspective. “The workshops were performed both at a venue but also in cafes and restaurants in the city. Using our game Exploration Challenge, teams were sent on missions around town and breaks in the game were scheduled so that the teams could find areas to sit down and conduct the workshops.”
Additionally, during the Core Values workshops, the delegates accessed a game board with the core values. Teams were asked questioned about those values and they scored how they thought they lived the values in the workplace. They were also given case studies of situations that actually happened at work and they discussed those situations in teams. Employees put the answers in their tablet and all the feedback was given to the management team so that they could see how people were really living the values and what those values actually meant to the attendees.
Case study 2
Another good example comes from the augmented and alternative communication company Tobii Dynavox. They needed to engage their employees around the organisational values and goals and create a common, winning corporate culture. “The two-day meeting was built with a number of agenda points, including organisational purpose and goals, the importance of cooperation and communication and a deeper understanding of corporate values and their role in the organisation.”
Aligned with Green Hat People’s philosophy, the presentations from the stage were kept to a minimum. Instead, “focus was geared towards group discussions, workshops, and business games that triggered engagement, networking, and shared insights. Our business game Deadline set the scene by instilling a cooperative and problem-solving attitude among the teams.”
A workshop on goals and activities clarified organisational purpose and goals, and a team-building game called Green Hat Challenge lightened up the mood and created informal networking connections between the individuals.
Finally, “a tailor-made valuation game was used to communicate and achieve buy-in on corporate values and identity.”
The benefits of using gamification in the workplace
Mann points out that game design has shifted from the development of games for entertainment to the creation of games with a more meaningful purpose. And she believes that there are a number of benefits of using gamification at work. “Gamification will become a key tool used to improve the performance of organisations. It will be used to manage information overload. Incorporating gamification into e-learning raises engagement to ensure key messages are remembered.”
For Mann, mobile learning will also increase in popularity. “People born in the 1980s and up to the mid-1990s, are now in the workforce. They grew up with computers, gaming, and social media. Organisations need to incorporate gamification into training, systems, and processes to ensure they are utilising the talent of the tech-savvy generation.”
In fact, she explains that audiences remember only about 10% of a PowerPoint Presentation and that 10% often differs between individuals because “we all have cognitive filters that trick our mind into changing what we hear to something that fits with our current beliefs.” Instead, active learning and discussions among peers greatly help audiences to relate to what is being communicated and break down the information to match things that matter to them.
Indeed, being open-minded to how gamification techniques can revolutionise meetings is something that the Green Hat People team focus on as part of their mission to create efficient, fun and cost-effective ways of adding value to any event. They have designed a flexible workshop and game building tool that enables their consultants to create new games and workshops or adapt existing ones. For example, “a Customer Centricity Workshop can be changed to emphasise the learning part of the workshop over a discussion. Or an Exploration Challenge can be mixed with a Values Game so that teams solve the business related dilemmas while playing the city game.”
Mann encourages organisations to think carefully about the messages they want to convey and the outcomes they want to achieve and communicate effectively with Green Hat People to ensure the content of the game is exactly what it needs to be. And she is keen to suggest implementing gamification techniques even prior to the event – they have a simple web app tool that does this very effectively – to engage the delegates right from the outset.
Gamification at work
Mann points to Learning and Development as one business function where gamification can be very useful. “Since gamification makes learning a more enjoyable experience, participants will actually want to participate. In addition, information is assimilated and retained more efficiently and effectively meaning gamification can greatly increase your training ROI.”
But, a company can also easily turn the hiring process into a gamified experience. “Early involvement leads to stronger commitment and increases productivity and retention.”
The same applies to promoting a positive corporate culture. Indeed, keeping employees engaged and feeling like they are part of the team is critical for retention. Any organisation can use gamification as a simple tool that will increase motivation and activity among employees. “Staff can register activities and measure proactivity so that co-workers get the recognition they deserve.”
Gamification can boost sales and change behaviours too. Using their Booster Game, Green Hat People are able to take the outcomes from the gamified meetings and create a web app tool for delegates to use after the event to further embed change. For example, the Swedish company, Svevia, recently used this tool for their team of 1800 people where they had to log in the app each time they noticed a potential hazard on their construction sites. This has resulted in a reduction in work related accidents of 50%!
As Mann says; “It is a powerful motivation strategy, leading to employee satisfaction and productivity.”