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Senior Rôliste

Blog sur le JDR, la littérature fantastique, des portraits de rôlistes, par un rôliste français vivant au Japon

Case study: Gamification in the workplace (English Version)

Some of you may have seen me mention, on other threads, the creation of a hybrid board game/role-playing game that I've been developing for the company that employs me.

For those of you who know me through this blog, I'm not telling you anything new when I say that I'm not only a role-player, but also a board game enthusiast. The gaming demon is in me and I don't deny it, quite the contrary, I fully embrace it.

Gaming is part of my way of being, of doing things, whether in the context of family, friends or work.

As we all know but can't quite put it into words, role-playing has many virtues that go beyond the simple act of sharing good times around a table, some of which I've already mentioned in various articles that I invite you to consult if you haven't already done so (Linguistic benefits, Sharing & collective stimulation of the imagination, and all the portraits of role-players in this section will tell you even more - French version only).

But in the world of work, and the adult world in general, play is, and I quote, "still associated with childhood and childishness, and which the numerous works on its relevance as a pedagogical tool are still struggling to rid it of". (link to said article - French only)

Although the quote comes from a defense-related magazine about the war games used by army officers to simulate attack plans, strategies and tactics, it hits the nail on the head.

For this association with childishness applies to all games, so it was in a setting hardly conducive to its development that the project whose history I'm about to trace, took place.

There's a lot to say, so this outline will be divided into several articles for ease of reading.

Ruminations on recurring workplace issues

Around 2018-2019, the craze for customer experience, the "Amazonian" concepts of being customer-obsessed or customer-centric, are making their way into the strategic outlines of companies, and even into their internal "branding", redefining the type of employee the company is looking to acquire and see develop over the long term.

Innovation, the importance of data and the customer are the pillars of this new branding. By analyzing quantitative and qualitative data, they must be able to identify, understand and, at best, anticipate what could undermine their loyalty to our products, and from this understanding, plan for the future by creating something new. 

My job is precisely to process this data, both quantitative and qualitative - as I'm also in charge of all the surveys and polls conducted on the market - and make it available to the general public (back and front office) via visualization tools that are more intuitive than an indigestible Excel file and, in theory, make it easier to understand. This work is part of the Business Intelligence (BI) branch, but my job also involves creating statistical models aimed at better understanding and anticipating our customers' purchasing and sales behavior.

But all this data, even if it's made available and formatted in the simplest way possible so that, optimistically, even a 12-year-old can understand it, doesn't meet all the conditions for achieving this intimate understanding of the customer.

For there are many obstacles:

  • The first is the limited ability of many people to analyze and understand data. It requires rigor, attention to detail, objectivity and, above all, an analytical mind.
  • The second is the weak link between the data and the person's work. Many people legitimately don't understand why they need to spend time looking at graphs and data tables to understand elements which have little direct bearing on the work they have to do on a daily basis.
  • The third is the problem of internal communication between departments, due to the phenomenon of silo structure, which encourages the tendency for teams to isolate themselves.
  • The fourth, which follows on from the third, is the lack of sharing of key information that could contribute to a better, more unified understanding of our customers.
  • The fifth is the absence of a clear definition of what every employee needs to know about the customer, and how to do it, in order to comply with internal branding standards.
  • The sixth is the impossibility of putting ourselves in the customer's shoes and claiming to "live their experience" in a safe environment. 

It's precisely on this last point that my role-player fiber had its first stirrings.

The birth of the game idea

An analyst must maintain his objectivity in all circumstances. It's easy to dismiss an employee with little interest in customer data, or even the customer himself, as lazy or unfit to work for the company, a tempting shortcut devoid of common sense and fairness. Nevertheless, it's extremely common, and leads to a sine die postponement of the search for an innovative solution, while the problem itself is still wallowing in front of you, eating chips and waiting for the next act.  

Conceptualization: cardboard, paper, pencils and chips!

But by asking the right questions, the perspective can change: Was the lack of interest due to the fact that the employee was not exposed to the data? Was it because they hadn’t been properly explained why this data was important? Even if they were, do they, or do we, understand how their work has a direct impact on the customer's experience*?

Questions whose answers, often in their majority, implied a lack of effective communication of information (due to a breakdown or inadequacy in the communication pipeline) and adequate training.

(*)Remember that customer experience, by definition, is the set of emotions and feelings felt by the customer during all interactions with the company. This begs the obvious question: how will a customer assess his or her experience when interacting with a company capable of putting itself in his or her shoes?

In order to break this hopelessly immovable status quo, we had to think of an educational/training tool capable of reconciling the needs of the following factors:

Time: the training tool should not exceed a session of an hour or even an hour and a half. The attention span of training participants drops after 30-40 minutes of intense listening. (even less for me!)

Participation: for training aimed at learning new things, participation should occupy 90% of the time, with the remaining 10% or even 5% devoted to explaining the mechanisms: yes, you've got it right, no more than 5-10 minutes to do your explanations, the rest is interaction!

Internal communication: bring together employees from departments that communicate little or never, to enable a better understanding of different points of view in situations requiring a solution during a session.

Data/knowledge democratization: A phenomenon I thought I had discovered, but which in truth has begun to make its way into analyst jargon, is "the democratization of data" ,the principle of which has already been discussed above, and which consists of giving easy access to data to all employees. Giving easy access to data is not in itself complicated, it's providing a context where the value of this knowledge will be instantly understood that counts.

Stimulated self-learning: the tool must be able to offer employees the opportunity to ask themselves questions about their work and how it relates to the situations they will be confronted with thanks to the tool, during and after the session.

Identification with the customer: the key to everything is to enable employees to put themselves in the shoes of a customer, in order to give them the opportunity to act accordingly in the real, listed situations they will be confronted with. Above all, it enables them to have those moments of "clairvoyance" when they understand something that could only be understood by putting themselves in the customer's shoes.  (The famous "Aha! moment »).

Finally, we had to ensure that the tool would be economically viable (lower costs, for a massive ROI), and reusable, with a mechanism that would allow us to diversify the experience and knowledge acquired at each session.

Grab your dices!

We thus thought of a format bringing together around a table a limited number of employees "playing" the customer under the supervision of a moderator/facilitator to ensure the smooth running of the session.

And role-playing seemed to me to be the best way to carry out this project, for which we initially imagined investing colossal sums with major consulting companies. But this was not the case. In fact, the first game prototype was designed with an investment in risk deemed acceptable, and where failure could even be tolerated.

Thus began, with the blessing of management, the project to develop the first in-house training tool in the form of a role-playing/board game in a Japanese company.

Now that we have our setting, in a new article, we'll look at the concept and initial results of this tool, which was tested from November 2022 to June 2023.

Stay tuned!

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