Don't play the game

By William Seidman In “How Deloitte Made Learning a Game,” Jeanne C. Meister explains how Deloitte used gamification principles—essentially making learning and development activities more like games—to increase participation in their training programs. “Since the integration of gamification in to Deloitte Leadership Academy,” Meister writes, “there has been a 37 percent increase in the number of users returning to the site each week.” Still, I am NOT impressed. I know that gamification is a big fad right now, and lots of companies are going to pay lots of money to gamify their learning activities. I also know that gamification appears to increase participation. But in my direct experience with gamification, I found that people became skilled at beating the game, but didn’t really learn the content. They learned how to improve their competitive scores by developing game management schemes, but few people cared about or got engaged with the content. As a result, reporting an increase in participation isn’t particularly meaningful. If anything, gaming undermines learning by focusing attention on the game, not the content. The deeper questions are: What did people learn? And do they use the learning on the job? Over the last 15 years, we have developed many learning programs that consistently produce high performing “cultures of greatness.” These are based on the newest sciences of positive deviance and the neuroscience of learning. In these programs, people stay extremely engaged by doing small, highly practical learning tasks each week for up to six months. At completion, the employees are evaluated to see if they have applied the learning. The evaluations show that almost all personnel are thinking and acting like the top performers. This is because the learning programs are powerful, tangible, well-supported with a coaching and technology infrastructure and, mostly importantly, incredibly useful. Gamification is a cover-up for poor learning programs and insufficient organizational commitment to learning. If you give people great learning programs and the support to learn, they will make it a priority. True learning is rewarding on a more profound level than any game can ever be.  ]]>

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