ATD 2016 Day 2

Day 2 started with the key note address by Simon Simek. As you can see it was popular. Simon is a brilliant speaker.

Image of a conference hall taken from in the audienceYou can check him out on Ted Talk and I recommend you do. Here are just a few jottings from his talk today: Leadership should be based on trust. If you trust your people (and they trust you), you can create an environment of co-operation and mutual support and the rest will follow. If you create a culture of distrust, then don’t be surprised if employee behaviour degrades to cynicism, self-interest and paranoia. He used the behaviour of the investment banks leading up to the banking crash (and since) to illustrate the poison in a culture based on an addiction to short term money driven goals.

It is not enough to have a vision just to be the best or the biggest –  the Vision must be visible (think Martin Luther King or JFK). A crystal clear sense of what the future looks like that your people can believe in will provide a sense of common purpose.

That clear vision makes it possible to measure progress along the way and incentivise it, give people a sense of achievement. But financial incentives don’t create loyalty (see investment banks again). Recognition; feeling valued; a sense of pride all release serotonin and are much more likely to make your people want to come to work, do a great job, and help their colleagues and stay loyal.

In a similar vein, companies that are driven by notions of maximising shareholder returns with for example a policy of layoffs if short term (and often arbitrary) targets are at risk, is destructive of long term value. I wish this were always true, but I fear the ability of shareholders to cash in quickly means that that long term failure is often not at their expense or that of the overpaid, bonus-led senior executives.

Simon’s final point was about the importance of unselfish behaviour and generosity to colleagues. Leadership is not about being in charge; it’s about taking care of the people in your charge.

Suitably inspired, we headed off to the Expo. Like everything else here it was impressively large. You can’t possibly visit it all, so we focused on mobile learning Apps and games. That narrowed it down very quickly. There are not yet many great products or applications in this space – but we did find a few. Mindmarker’s mobile reinforcement App was a particular stand out, as was UMU, and we’ll be following those up when we get back to the UK. SwissVBS (see yesterday’s blog) and GameLearn also have some innovative products that merit a closer look.

My next conference session was the renowned Michael Allen of Allen Interactions. Michael has been in e-learning as long as I have, and since long before it was called ‘e-learning’ so he has a long term perspective and is always worth listening to. His book, Guide to E-Learning is a classic of the ID world.

Michael began by asking, “has ID kept up with learning technology?” (answer No (!)), but did not expand on that thought and moved on to focus on the hot topic du jour – serious learning games. He summed up the tension between learning design and games design brilliantly in the remark that, “there isn’t a game that ID can’t suck all the fun out of”.

Some good common sense followed in Michael’s 7 Simple Success Factors, and here they are:

Screen showing a drop down of key points with a highlighted title

The importance, and the difficulty, in adding game features that enhance but do not distract from the learning is one of the great challenges for the learning professional as we struggle to bring together two very different cultures – maximise fun vs. maximise learning. These are pioneering days.

It was fitting then to move next to the session on “Playing Games to Learn” with Sharon Boller. This was a highlight session. Sharon succeeded brilliantly in demonstrating the essence of a good game whilst teaching us all at the same time, almost without us realising it.

She achieved this by getting us to play games and then drawing out the key elements in each case and applying them to a learning context. For example, our table of 10 played a game called Timeline, which is in essence a simple alignment game – put cards in the right date order. Sounds pretty mundane but as a game it was great fun. We then evaluated it along the lines below:

Closeup of screen showing bullet points and a small image at the bottom

You could apply this game based approach in any e-learning that involves processes or work flows.

I recommend you try Password Blaster (it’s available from the App store) –  a delightful little example of an effective learning game, especially if you remember the Atari 2600 or Space Invaders.

One final takeaway: points, badges and leaderboards are ok, but they are the least effective game design elements in the longer term.

The day ended with a visit to the Wynkoop Brewing Company for a craft beer party, an essential networking event as I’m sure you’ll agree!

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