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Games in training are no game play

The use of games for business training purposes is still a technique that is met with a certain dose of skepticism. The fun and entertaining nature of games goes against the serious attitude of business. Add to this a faulty implementation of gaming principles and mechanics in a training program, and no wonder there are plenty of managers who consider gamification a joke.

But gamification can lead to impressive outcomes, and the main reason for this is that it drives engagement. To some extent, it is like a spoonful of sugar for the training medicine.

Gamifying serious learning content

Doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, construction workers — these are serious people with serious jobs. And they're not the only ones. All the business world is as serious as it can get.

How could a colorful badge or a shiny trophy have any power over busy grown-ups who deal with real problems — saving lives, building roads, or designing plane engines?

Well, perhaps one "Level up!" won't have too much of an impact, just like one swallow does not make spring. But more gamification incentives, included in the right places, can keep learners' interest at high levels.

A common problem to all learning materials of serious business fields is that the content comes in a significant quantity and it is mostly dry. Law school isn't easy; becoming a doctor isn't easy; making bridges isn't easy. And things don't get easier after getting a serious job. On the contrary, continuous learning on the job makes for the best experts.

People are not automatic machines, and the human brain can only take in a limited amount of new information at any training session. The more senses we involve in the learning process, the better. Learners need diversity in the learning materials, as the combination of text, images, graphics, videos — and games — keeps them focused for a longer period of time.

But the most important aspect of including gamification in serious learning content is the possibility of making mistakes. Games provide a safe environment for testing any business hypothesis without real-world consequences.

Being able to immediately see the result of an action and, more to that, being able to go back and modify said action and see another result, makes learners better remember the content. When real life will demand it, they will already know the best course of action.

Gamifying serious training materials is not impossible. Any definition or theoretical concept can have a practical alternative. The challenge is to find the right balance and don't gamify a course for the single sake of gamification. And this leads us to...

Games in training as part of the L&D strategy

Business training should not rely solely on gamification for the best results. There are plenty of other factors that influence the outcomes of an online program.

From the user interface of the LMS, technical connections, and mobile availability, to internal communications, or managers' support — and everything in between — various things can go wrong and negatively affect the results of the training.

That's why a blended learning strategy can ensure the best delivery of all learning materials and their most effective reception. Some things in the workplace are best learned through human interaction, others don't require too much consideration, others demand a traditional instructor-led approach, while others simply need a touch of interactivity and a dose of fun to become more engaging. That's where games in training play their part.

What do you think about gamification in training? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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