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Multiplayer Leadership Training

       Bridging the soft skills gap    97% of UK employers believe soft skills are vital for business success, with certain soft skills (communication and team work) being considered more important than academic achievements– yet more than half of UK workers admit to not listing soft skills anywhere  on their CV.  A recent report, prepared on behalf of McDonald’s UK, declares that in the next five years over half a million workers will struggle to progress due to soft skill short comings. This is estimated to amount to a loss of almost £923 million, a year, by 2020 and almost £1.08 billion by 2025.  This isn’t the only cost a skills gap is going to generate. Due to the shortage of workers with appropriate skills, there will be unfilled positions in companies. This shortage of workers will generate a loss of production, costing a further £7.44 billion, per annum, by 2020 rising to £14 billion by 2025. A huge hit to UK businesses! This outcome may not be able to be averted completely however the cost can be reduced if greater esteem is given to soft skills now.   So what are soft skills and how can we develop them?   According to the report, soft skills can be broken up into six key clusters:    Communication skills , for example: effective listening, appropriate and good use of questions, clear and concise direction     Decision Making/Problem Solving , eg. The ability to identify and analyse an issue, take effective and appropriate action, recognise effect of decisions     · Self-Management skills , eg. Self-motivated and proactive personality traits, loyalty, adaptability and the ability to work well under pressure     Teamwork skills , eg. Positive and encouraging attitude, accountability, willingness to share ideas and listen to others views, punctual     Professionalism skills , eg. Appropriate language use, trustworthy, accepting of criticism, realistic understanding of job role     Leadership skills , eg. Strategic thinking, conflict management, respect for others knowledge, recognise others strengths and weaknesses, ability to build relationships   These are the skills that need to be developed for businesses and workers to progress over the next decade. If focus is given to these skills now and our attitudes towards them change, the gap can be bridged to some extent. The huge losses in production and progress will be reduced.  One suggestion, by the report, is to make soft skills training available to employees, equipping workers with appropriate skills for the future. McDonalds showed their devotion to training, and innovative thinking, in 2006; serious games were introduced into employee training and it proved very effective. Since 2006 the serious game industry has grown and improved. They are being used in all sectors for training, growing awareness, even in the school classroom. Shouldn’t there be a game that can offer soft skills training already?  Here at Totem Learning we are happy to declare that we have a modern solution to this growing problem.  Introducing, Unlock: Employability and Unlock: Leadership!   Unlock: Leadership  is a leadership training game for corporate development. The key focus is on leadership skills; players can expect to have their strategic thinking, innovation, even conflict management skills tested, to name just a few. Players will need to recognise when to take the lead, when to follow.  Unlock: Leadership is a four player game; each player must assess their team mates and provide feedback on each individual. Skills and attitude are rated. Upon completion, a report is generated on each player, allowing a facilitator to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their team. The key focus is leadership skill development; however, users can expect to develop other vital soft skills: communication, problem solving, decision making are all key attributes focused on alongside leadership specific traits.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


         Unlock: Employability  is a serious game specific for the education sector. It enables soft skill development for students through immersive, challenging game play and team work.  As with Unlock: Leadership, the game must be played in teams of four. Communication is exclusively in game via an instant messaging window. This serves two purposes. The first is to train student’s communication skills, a vital soft skill for the workplace. Players will quickly learn, to succeed, they must give clear and concise direction to their team mates. The second purpose is so all communication can be captured and assessed. Teachers can use this information to guide students on any area they struggle with and also commend them for areas they excel at.  Screens at the end of each level also provide the player with feedback on their strengths and weaknesses. The feedback screens highlight how these traits are applicable in the workplace and further ways to develop them.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Unlock: Employability and Unlock: Leadership are just an example of how serious games can combat real issues in the workplace, healthcare, even the classroom. This article only highlights the learning benefits of these games and their applications, for further information on either serious game or developing your own contact the totem team today!   If you want to read the full report, you can find it  here .

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BRIDGING THE SOFT SKILLS GAP

97% of UK employers believe soft skills are vital for business success, with certain soft skills (communication and team work) being considered more important than academic achievements–

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       Liberating the Learning Process through the 'Sandbox' game design    Too much of learning is top down, trainer led, sage on the stage – these are the traditional models of imparting knowledge into a mass audience. Originally designed for educating workers during the industrial revolution the classroom seems to be a concept we are holding onto for dear life. But why does formal learning have to be this way? The classroom is a complete contrast to how we learn informally, where the world is our sandbox, our playground, a place where we discover, we learn, we remember. Where experiences are personal, and they mean something to us.  Why can’t we take some of the principles of this free form, learner driven experience and apply it to formal learning? Well, the good news is that we can! We can create environments that encourage exploration, that encourage curiosity that lead to meaningful ‘aha’ moments and environments that can be leveraged in many ways. The secret is working with elements of Sandbox Game Design and blending them with learning outcomes.       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Many think of a sandbox game as a completely open world where anything is possible, anything is achievable and there are no limits. However a sandbox game does contain structure, it contains rules, there are tools, but you are free to play in the ways you think are best. Sandbox games can be complex; to develop, to make, to maintain, to market and promote. Only a few make the big time, Sim City, World of Warcraft and Minecraft to name a few. However, reflecting on the name of this genre, ‘sandbox’, it conjures up the most simple of play experiences. A box of sand and a person’s imagination. Another way to think about sandbox game design is to think of a football pitch; a patch of grass with white lines and goals at either end of the field. Now you can have under 11’s play on that pitch or you can have Real Madrid vs Barcelona – the environment is the same; the same grass, the same goals, the same paint, but the strategy, the style and the pace of the game will be different. This is the essence of sandbox design – creating an environment that can be leveraged for multiple abilities and multiple learning outcomes – it becomes what you make of it.  The goal of a sandbox game designer is to create a world where players keep coming back. A world which players want to explore. However, learning designers have a different goal and that is to allow learners to discover content. You can use the design of a sandbox world to pique curiosity, revealing a certain amount of information to the learner when appropriate to drive them through the experience.  Of course you probably don’t have the budget to create an open world which is representative of your business. And the good news is that you don’t need to. You just need to create a world that feels big – it’s all an illusion. You can reference wider systems and consequences in the narrative, you can visualise mountains in the distance, or use clues to suggest a sprawling city. This ‘expansive world’ will feel like a playground and learners will want to explore and see what’s round the next corner.      
   
     “ Games in general refocus the learning experience onto the learner ” 
   
  
 
     Games in general refocus the learning experience onto the learner. They place an individual in a scenario and ask them what are you going to do? This isn't a mechanic limited to sandbox games, alone, it’s very common amongst game thinking but in a more structured game you can divert a learner back onto the right track or you can reflect consequences immediately. In terms of sandbox design, a designer needs to let go of the structured learning process and realise that through experimentation with the environment and the tools, learners will find their own way through the content. Therefore, you will find time on tasks varies wildly from player to player depending on how they go about completing tasks, which path they have taken, how they prioritised information, and their own individual approach to learning. Of course a learning designer, doesn't want learners to become lost or frustrated so the key is to create a world where the content can be discovered and use good sign posting on how to find it.  Sandbox game design allows learners to explore, refine and practice skills. The design principles behind the game Unlock: Leadership for example, don’t align to any specific school of leadership; rather the environment gives players a platform to try out behaviours and strategies to develop their own leadership methodology. The game doesn't tell you how to be a good leader, the design is more about the changing role of leadership, to be a leader as part of the team and seeing the bigger picture.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Providing this context for learning is important. Most sandbox games are multiplayer and the dynamics of the players impacts on the experience of any given user: change the players and the game changes. Each player comes with their own strengths, weaknesses, experiences and expectations and change the way the game plays out.  Multiplayer sandbox games also allow players roles to change. As the players are controlling their actions and choices, roles change and adapt. Different challenges may require different strengths and a sandbox game should be flexible enough to allow learners to showcase their expertise under different circumstances.  Because sandbox games are all about the players and the context, the ‘aha’ moments vary from player to player, from team to team. Because learners are placed at the centre of the experience and we make it about how they play, we make it personal. And by making it personal, by discovering it for yourself, we can make those lessons stick. 

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LIBERATING THE LEARNING PROCESS THROUGH THE 'SANDBOX' GAME DESIGN

Too much of learning is top down, trainer led, sage on the stage – these are the traditional models of imparting knowledge into a mass audience. Originally designed for educating workers during the industrial revolution the classroom seems to be a concept we are holding onto for dear life. But why does formal learning have to be this way?

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       Levelling up Leadership with serious games    Leadership, like many other soft topics which are classed as critical 21st Century skills is a tough nut to crack. There is only so much theory one can learn about a soft skill before you need to bite the bullet and head out to the real world to practice your new found knowledge. But therein lies a challenge; to practice leadership skills you need people to lead and said people may not be immediately available. And to top it off, if you turn out to be a poor leader, you risk widespread damage amongst the team.  So how can we address leadership development using games? Or to put it another way how can a game produce a better leader? Using the lessons Totem Learning learned from the development of a multiplayer leadership game I wanted to share the top tips on how games can help build this critical skill.   The top 3 areas where I believe games can bring real benefit to leadership development are;   To allow skills practice  To observe emerging leadership skills  To evaluate leadership capabilities   Those 3 criteria really became the foundation for a leadership game which I absolutely loved designing and love seeing people play.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Early cardboard mock-up of one of the puzzles in the game  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     From my own perspective when I sat down to design a leadership game, it was really important that every person in that game had the opportunity to become the leader during at least one point in the game. I didn’t want to create a game where there was a leader role and the rest of the team were forced into the follower category.  So that was my first challenge. How was I going to create an environment where there were multiple leaders? Well who’s to say that your role in a game stays the same from start to finish? Why can’t it evolve and change? I felt this was a good reflection of reality in that we all have our strengths and weaknesses and our jobs change overtime. So that revelation really set the foundation for the structure and flow of the game moving forward. I knew I wanted to create a scenario where the game changed, roles were fluid and opportunities were aplenty for those willing to grab them.  Provide the raw information about the situation and see what conclusions are drawn  The design incorporated changing the nature of the connections between the team members throughout the experience. They began as single players, isolated from one another, and so there was great individual responsibility. Gradually we built mini teams by introducing players to one another over time, before connecting them all together into one homogenous team.  The benefit this design decision brought was that each player made their own conclusions about the environment, even though every player started off with the same experience. This was a great eye opener into how each of the team members felt about individual working and reading their environments.  Introduce Multiple Goals  As in the real world, leaders have to balance differing priorities and goals. In our game design we represented this through personal and team goals; through setting up an initial competitive environment, where you were in a race against other players to reach the goal. But over time we introduced the concept that the final goal could not be achieved alone. It was very interesting to see how players reacted to sacrificing their personal gain for the benefit of the team.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Players need to collaborate  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     Use pressure techniques to explore behaviour in different scenarios  Throughout the game, players were faced with the overarching goal of escape and completion but also a series of challenging puzzles along the way to push their individual coaching, team and leadership skills. We applied time pressure to these situations where the faster the problem was addressed the more points the team received. As well as these pressurised situations we mixed in non-pressure situations where they had time and no consequences to solve problems. Using a mix of these situations we could assess how each player behaved differently.  Make sure you have a solid foundation  Throughout the design we underpinned the game design with a foundation of leadership development strategy crafted by subject matter experts.  Leadership is about getting others to do things by creating the environment where progress is possible. In our game design, progress was not possible unless the player cooperated: setting aside personal gain for the good of the team. We built in situations where innovative responses were required from the players, often under pressure and in non-routine situations. Influencing skills were an essential ability team members required to ensure a high score.  Another critical aspect of leadership is coaching, a method of directing, instructing and training a person or group of people, with the aim to achieve some goal or develop specific skills. We built in specific scenarios where users had to coach others through situations. These puzzles involved;     Identifying goals  Removing obstacles  Generating options  Planning actions  Actioning the plan   It was important for us to give everyone an opportunity to coach so we always provided opportunities to repeat skills and practice, but in new contexts therefore reinforcing strategies and behaviours.    Problem solving was a core component to the game. A definition of problem solving is that an individual or a team applies knowledge, skills, and understanding to achieve a desired outcome in an unfamiliar situation. Problem solving is central to many games and underpins many of the design decisions we made.  We wanted our players to objectively identify possible causes of a problem and then proposing potential, often creative, solutions to the team. The great thing about using problem solving in games is that it leads to permanent information retention because you come to the conclusion yourself; you make your own connections rather than being told the correct answer. Problem solving is the opposite of memorization where information is often forgotten after testing.  The final component that was important to our foundation was that we had to make the team feel like a team quickly! We had to give the players a common purpose to (finally) align their efforts to. This was achieved through the use of the storyline, repeating subtly through the game the need to work together, the gradual connection of players into the overall team and the gradual increase in difficulty level, building camaraderie.   And finally give good feedback!     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     A sandbox, experimental environment, is no good without guidance and feedback. Because we wanted this game to be used without the need for a facilitator to be present, we had to make sure the game provided all the feedback that was needed. Through the process of highlighting successes and learning from mistakes we were able to bring about a new level of personal effectiveness.   Read more on Unlock: Leadership  

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LEVELLING UP LEADERSHIP WITH SERIOUS GAMES

Leadership, like many other soft topics which are classed as critical 21st Century skills is a tough nut to crack. There is only so much theory one can learn about a soft skill before you need to bite the bullet and head out to the real world to practice your new found knowledge. But therein lies a challenge; to practice leadership skills you need people to lead and said people may not be immediately available. And to top it off, if you turn out to be a poor leader, you risk widespread damage amongst the team.

So how can we address leadership development using games?

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       New leadership game about to launch!       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     A ground-breaking new game for leadership training is being launched at leading L&D exhibition; World of Learning.   The 3D, online, multiplayer game is set on a tropical island, in which players must work together, communicating only by instant messaging to solve puzzles and succeed. Each level challenges players on different leadership skills such as problem solving and negotiation, and switches the lead role between players allowing each a chance to shine.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
          
             
                  
             
          
             
          

          
           
              Communicating in Real Time  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     Peer and self-review are integrated into the game and whilst four players must play together simultaneously, their physical location is immaterial. There are similarities to ‘Outward Bound’ experiences, but with added benefits such as reduced cost, more targeted results and re-usability.  The game was created by, and can be purchased from Totem Learning; a serious games studio based in Coventry. It has already been taken up by Management Centre Europe, Europe’s leading management training company, for use in their courses. The two companies have signed an agreement that focuses on promoting and delivering serious games and e-learning programmes to MCE’s clients in the EMEA region. Mr Rudi Plettinx (Managing Director of MCE) says “Serious games are now a crucial element in the learning and development journey and with this new partnership, MCE are pleased to be part of these exciting developments.”     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        Attendees at World of Learning can also catch Totem’s Head of Design and Development, Helen Routledge delivering a presentation on using serious games for leadership training, ahead of the release of her forthcoming book, “Why Serious Games are Good For Business”, to be published by Palgrave Macmillan in November this year.  For more information about MCE please go to  www.mce-ama.com . To try out the game visit stand C110, World Of Learning, Birmingham, 29th and 30th September. Register free at  www.learnevents.com/   For more information about Totem Learning call Richard Smith on 02476 555 904. To hear Helen Routledge speak at World of Learning, please go to Theatre 2, from 14.45 – 15.15 on 29th September.

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NEW LEADERSHIP GAME ABOUT TO LAUNCH!

A ground-breaking new game for leadership training is being launched at leading L&D exhibition; World of Learning.

The 3D, online, multiplayer game is set on a tropical island, in which players must work together, communicating only by instant messaging to solve puzzles and succeed. Each level challenges players on different leadership skills such as problem solving and negotiation, and switches the lead role between players allowing each a chance to shine. 

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