What’s the first thing that comes into mind when you hear the term “gamification”? Take 20 seconds to write the first three words or phrases that come to your mind.

If you thought about avatars, gaming consoles, multi-player online scenarios and cutting-edge animation, you are not alone. Many training professionals’ first thoughts about gamification are actually what prevent them from using it, especially in cases when it would be the perfect method to transfer learning and develop potential, emerging and experienced leaders.

Gamification is more than the technology; it’s a way of organizing an instructional event so that the learner is able to apply the concepts IRL (in real life). In the game of Monopoly, the goal is to buy desirable and strategically located properties and move around the board to collect money and receive rent from other players who land on your properties. In leadership development, the goal is for leaders to demonstrate desirable behaviors while leading and moving through the organization and the industry, leveraging positive results from those behaviors to help the organization accomplish its mission and achieve its monetary objectives.

How can we use gamification to deliver leadership development programs when the first thing that comes to mind when we think about the term is imaginary beings, contrived competition and cutting-edge technology?

Start With Leadership Competencies and Examples

A big problem with instruction of any kind is that we often have in mind the method of instruction before we consider the goal of instruction. In gamification, it’s especially critical to determine the desired behavior change or other results we want leaders to demonstrate. If we don’t, the learners are just playing a game.

To identify the behavior results, your organization should have a leadership competency model in place that it created through interviews, focus groups and/or surveys. This model should have demonstrable, organization-specific examples of each competency in addition to the underlying knowledge, skills and behaviors that leaders need in order to demonstrate this competency. These examples should come from real-life situations and be observable interactions with team members, peers or customers.

You can then put these examples into a rubric with discernible, concrete levels of progressive performance. The rubric should contain good definitions and evaluative criteria at each level, and you can use it to link levels of achievement when connecting game elements to behavior change. Test your understanding of these behaviors with others. Can you imagine how many iterations the designers of Monopoly went through to arrive at the player’s option to “pass go and collect $200” as one way to collect money to buy properties?

Connect Leadership Development to Gamification

To connect behavior change to leadership development using gamification, determine the desired performance outcome. Consult a list of acceptable performance-based action verbs, or refer to Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. Too often in leadership development, we only concentrate on the “knowledge” verbs. Gamification is perfect for leadership development, as you can integrate knowledge into performance.

At this point, the rubric of behavioral descriptions is helpful. For leadership development, you will be using higher-level thinking skills, such as comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Link your rubric to the type of learning so you can create objectives that are relevant, are practical and integrate levels of experiences that simulate actual behavioral change. You can create these experiences with written scenarios, role-plays, situational cards, in-box exercises, scavenger hunts and other gamification strategies, not just with technology.

Again, test your understanding with others. Employees in the same organization often see situations differently. These differences often translate into different approaches to progress through a game. Capture this feedback, and use it to improve the design of your leadership development program.

You can design learner-centered, performance-based leadership development that helps your potential, new and experienced leaders pass go and collect results using gamification.

To learn more about this topic, attend the Training Industry Conference & Expo from June 17 to 19, 2019. During Adelle’s session, you’ll have the opportunity to see real-life examples and explore how to apply gamification concepts to leadership development.