Can gamification make participants addicted to your meeting?

I’m sure you’ll agree with me, if I claim that the highly motivated participants are crucial to create a succesful meeting.

So who can we turn to, if we want to learn more about how to motivate people to cooperate and work hard? I would definitely look at the computergame Industry.

More and more people leave reality and immigrate to game spaces. In the US alone more than 5 million people spend more than 45 hours a week on computergames.

The Game developer and researcher Jane Mcgonigal explains this mass exodus:

”The truth is this: in today’s society, computer and video gamse are fulfilling genuine human needs that the real world is currently unable to satisfy. Games are providing rewards that reality is not. They are teaching and inspiring and engaging us in ways that reality is not. They are bringing us together in ways that reality is not.”

The average age for videogame players is 35 years and 44% of them are women. A study showed that 61% of CEOs and CFOs take daily game breaks at work. Game dynamics are apperently appealing to all kinds of potential meeting participants and not only young men, as many would assume.

The best games are so intrinsic motivating that you never want to finish them. To play the game is a reward in itself and both quitting or winning the game are equally unsatisfying outcomes because you had to finish playing. If you have been caught up in Tetris or absorbed into Angry Birds you know what I mean.

What if we designed our meetings like games? If we made them so challenging and engaging that the participants wish they could stay longer?

To do that we have to think like game developers. We have to make attractive goals, challenging rules a and immediate feedback systems, so participants can see how they progress on the tasks they are working on. And finally we have to make it voluntary to participate in the game, if it is forced it is experienced as stressfull work instead of as fun and satisfying.

It’s not easy to gamify meetings successfully but it is possible.

Recently I’ve developed a meeting concept with Visit Denmark, called the Pitch Perfect Game. In a gamified way, the participants experience a very unusual site inspection, that ends with them pitching the strengths of the Venue to each other. The Pitch perfect game has been evaluated unusually high on both satisfaction and learning outcomes.

Another example is the Danish company Workz, that has been very succesful in developing and facilitation board games for big meetings.

Sources:

Mcgonigal, Jane; Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How they Can Change the World.

This is how you increase innovation in group works

First thing most of us do, when we enter a conference room, is to look for people who are similar to ourselves or whom we already know. If you want innovation at your meeting, you should counteract this tendency by securing diversity when you seat and group people. But how do you do that most effectively?

A metastudy from the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation showed that diversity was important to increase innovation in companies.

The study found that diversity on gender increases the chances of innovation with 110 %. Apparently some magic happens when men and women start talking. Don’t we all know that?

If you increase diversity on educational backgrounds innovation increases with 50%. Put an engineer together with a doctor and see what happens.

If you increase diversity on ethnicity the chances of innovation increase with 30%. Create a mental Silk Road by letting an Indian share thoughts with a German.

Consider diversity when you seat and group people. Make sure to mix gender, educational backgrounds and ethnicity. Create a safe and positive atmosphere, where the participants are motivated to move out of their comfort zone.

But diversity does not automatically lead to innovation. The study showed that the chances of innovation are decreasing if you group people across ages. So be careful with matching the professor with the freshman.

Of course innovation can happen across ages, but apparently we have to make a bigger effort to succeed. So when you face diversity difficulties like language problems, religious opposites and age gaps, make sure to design a well thought through facilitated process.

Increased diversity of Increases the chances of innovation with a factor of:
Gender 2,1
Education 1,5
Ethnicity 1,3
Age 0,3

Source: ”Innovation & Diversity”, Forsknings- og innovationsstyrelsen 2007

The pschylogical rule that all meetingplanners should know about

Have you ever heard of the Peak-end rule? If you haven’t it’s about time that you do. It might be that piece of insight that may take your events to the next level.

Imagine this. You are on a fantastic holiday for two weeks in some exotic place. When you get home, you lose all your pictures and videos, moreover you are attacked by a rare virus that makes you forget everything you experienced on the vacation, in fact you can’t even remember that you have been on vacation. How much money would you spend on an experience like that? If you are like most other people you wouldn’t spend much. Why is that? After all, you had two great weeks, while you were there. The answer is simple, the most important for most of us, is not what you actually experienced, but what you remember. That’s why the vacation above is almost worthless.

Pschycologists destinguish between the experiencing self and the remembering self. The experiencing self is what you actually feel and experience during the activity. In this case all the wonderful moments you had during your two weeks vacation. The remembering self is what you remember after the activity. Which in this case would be nothing. The interesting thing is that the remembering self is more important to us than the experiencing self. That is probably why most of us are so eager to take pictures on holidays, instead of being present in the moment. We know that by taking all these selfies and shooting like crazy with our cameras, we are designing our future memories. A good memory or great picture can be reused again and again for the rest of our lifes, whereas the moment will soon be gone.

So what is it that shapes our memories? First we must understand that memories are not a 1:1 representation of what really happened, merely they are a compact half-fictive construct of reality, the same way a trailer is only the highlights of the movie and not the whole movie. The nobel Prize winning pschylogist Daniel Kahnemann and his reasearch team have found that what we remember of an event is the peak and the ending. The longitude of the event is not important. In pratice this means, that your memory of a vacation will be shaped by the best experience and the ending, whether the holiday was one or two weeks is not important. Daniel Kahnemann calls this the Peak-end rule. A rule all meeting- and eventplanners should know about, because it helps us design events and meetings that are remembered even better than they were experienced.

best_PeakEndRule

So how do you apply that knowledge to your next meeting or event?

Make a fantastic peak. Make sure that there are at least one time during the meeting, where the participants will have an extraordinary experience. And I’m not only talking about planning an amazing dinner in an old castle or in the nearby Opera. Those kinds of feel good peaks are of course worth a few pictures in the memory scrap book, but there are experiences more important than that. The best peak experiences are those that link to the objectives of the meeting, which has usually to do with increased networking or creating some sort of change or learning. The peak could look like this:

  • Change peak: Make sure the participants are taking part in creating something important and meaningful that can change the future of the company or the world.
  • Learning Peak: Make sure the participants learn something new and interesting that changes their behaviour or view of the world.
  • Networking peak: Make sure the participants make new and deep connection with other participants. The amount of connections is not as important as the quality.

Make a fantastic ending. Often we do a lot to prepare the begining of the meeting and tend to forget the ending. But imagine this; You have read a fantastic novel, an exiting murder mystery. During the 400 pages you are completly absorbed by the story, in order to find out who the murderer is. But then, at the end of the book, the last five pages are missing, and you never find out who the murderer was. Do you think you will have a good memory of that book? Probably not, even though the 400 pages were extremely entertaining. You don’t want your event to end like that. Make sure there is a fantastic ending, so your participants can leave fullfilled and satisfied. A well designed ending can even save the memory of a poor meeting, the same way a surprising and intelligent plot can save a poor movie or book. When designing a fantastic ending think of this:

  • Change ending. Wrap up the decisions and outcomes of the meeting and tell the participants what will happen next and how it will influence the future of their work, the company and the well-being of the customers. Make it short and precise.
  • Feel good ending. Make a funny, happy, energizing and engaging ending that makes the participants leave lightheartet in a good mood.
  • Learning ending. Make the participants wrap up, what they have learned and how they can apply it when they get home.
  • Networking ending. Give the participants a common experience where they feel they belong to a big community or even family.

Sources:

Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking fast and slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.

Meaning in meetings: Are you cutting stone or building a cathedral?

Have you ever been to a meeting, thinking ”What the heck am I doing here?”. You didn’t understand why you should be there and the objectives and content of the meeting seemed meaningless to you. I have tried it and it’s not a nice feeling. You want to get out and do something more important, something that doesn’t feel like a waste of time.

Nevertheless, thats what many meeting participants experience way too often. Obviously a loose-loose situation. The participant feels he is wasting his time and the meeting organisers have a participant who is demotivated and will loose attention and in worst case will start complaining and ruin it for other participants.

What’s lacking is meaning. Meaning is a key driver in human motivation. When we do something we experience as meaningful, we flourish and work harder, are more resilient and adaptive to change. Imagine how hard you would work to safe your best friend’s life or help your old mother? Imagine that the president of your country came to you personally and said – ”I need you for a special mission, that will save the future of the earth. I think you are the only person who has the abilities to do it. We are all dependent on you. Can I count on you?”. Would you say Yes? Probably you would.

When we feel indispensable on a very important mission, we are highly motivated. This is the kind of participants we want at our meetings. According to the psychology professor Martin Seligman, to experience meaning is one of the most important elements in a happy life. In his definition life is meaningful when you are ”Using your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are”.

For the modern employee value appropriation is not meaningful. To earn money just for the sake of earning money or to help the company grow just for the sake of shareholders is not an honorable mission that makes you want to get out of bed early in the morning. Instead we want to be value creating. We want to use our talents to make a difference for others. We don’t just want to be stonecutters, we want to build cathedrals.

According to the researcher Ib Ravn there are four kinds of meaning you can experience at work:
1. When you feel you fulfill your potential and use your strengths and virtues.
2. When you feel you give an important contribution to your work.
3. When you feel you do something important for your collegues or teammates.
4. When you feel your job creates value, by covering the real needs of the customers (and not just sell them some crap they really don’t need).

So if we want to create better meetings and happy lifes for other people, we should care about meaning in meetings. Instead of motivating employees with bonuses and material rewards, we should give them a decent pay and a mission they can’t deny.

And how do you do that?

  1. What Cathedral are you building? Why is this meeting indispensable? Explain the real reason behind the meeting. Why is this important on a higher level. How will this meeting change the world, the value for the customers or the future of the company?
  2. Clear objectives. Make sure the meeting always has an objective and communicate it clearly to the participants. Tell them what the expected output of the meeting is, and how they can contribute.
  3. Unfold the participants potential. Give opportunities for the participants to use their strengths and virtues to contribute to the objectives of the meeting. Make them feel indispensable.
  4. Let the participants help each other produce something important. Let everyone experience that they are an important part of a productive community.
  5. Engage the participants. Engage them before, under and after the meeting and invite them to help finding the meaning themselves.
  6. Think green and responsible. Make the meeting green and sustainable and add a social responsibility program, to show that you care about more than just yourselves.

Sources:
Ravn, Ib (2008). Mening i Arbejdslivet – teori og praksisudvikling. Erhvervspsykologi, 6, (4) 44-73.
Seligman, Martin (2011). Flourish – A visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. Free Press.