Gamification: Exploring Narrative

The universe is made up of stories, not atoms.” Muriel Rukeyser

Narrative is a part of the fabric of life and has been used as a teaching tool in all cultures. In early civilizations, stories were passed down generation to generation and these stories contained information and wisdom the people needed to survive and grow. Story continues to be a big part of our lives, whether it is the stories of the people around us or fictional stories. They are a key component in information and ideas we have learned and according to a study done at North Carolina University, narrative has an impact on motivation in learning.

Narrative is also a key element in game design. Think of games you enjoy, many of them involve quests or narrative. Game quests generally fall into types such as delivery, find, destroy, collect, master a skill, escort/defend. Between a web seminar and blog post by Allen Partridge and starting to play Wizards 101, the idea of narrative and gamification has been in my thinking.

ScreenHunter_96 Sep. 27 13.01Currently, I have  scenarios for the learner. These scenarios are typical job situations, from the scenario, the learner has to collect information and then they are given a tutorial on how to accomplish the tasks needed. This is followed by opportunities for them to have practice and then there is an assessment of the goals. The quest, so to speak, is to complete the task for the customer (in this case back ordering material).

From my recent experiences, I have been inspired to consider how I can use embed narrative throughout the lesson, beyond just presenting a scenario. One of the key ideas to keep in mind when doing this is to make sure learning objectives and game-play objectives are aligned. Gamification needs to add learning value, not just to take the learning and place it into a random cute scenario.

I realize that wrapping up my scenario at the end will also allow me to show customer feedback and the role of customer service and the employees ability to perform tasks efficiently to improving the bottom line. I look forward to weaving this and other narrative feedback into the storyboards I am currently working on.

Some keys to remember:

  • The narrative objectives need to fit the learning objectives. In the end, it is the learning that needs to take the starring role.
  • Narrative can help provide a framework and a scenario that allows you to provide feedback elements.
  • The “quest” doesn’t have to be complex to be engaging.

Building Excellence

Excellence CycleDon’t settle for mediocrity or status quo in your job. Whether you want to advance with your current employer of make a career shift, we want to be excellent. I use the Excellence Cycle to stay out of the land of mediocrity and build excellence.

  1. Self- reflection
  2. Ask for and act on feedback
  3. Involve yourself and share


In order to be the best you, it is essential to know and understand who you are. This involves knowing your values and goals and understanding both your strengths and your weaknesses. On a regular basis I spend time thinking about what my goals are. One of my goals is to have a high impact on the people and environment around me. I value creating high quality work and building a relationship of trust with those I train. I want them to know I am giving the information they need to improve their bottom line and that they can seek me out to help with questions or issues they run into. For me, part of success lies in those I train knowing that when the formal training is over, I am there for them; we are a part of a team to build company success. I also spend time considering my strengths and weaknesses. I know I am an innovative problem solver, an engaging facilitator, passionate and committed to my customers. I also know that I need to broaden my areas of expertise in the electrical field which I work in. I find that regular reflection on who and where I am as a professional and reflection of specific projects helps me to revise my professional goals.

Ask for and Act on Feedback

Self-reflection is not enough though. It is also important to seek out feedback from others. This should be from internal customers, external customers, and colleagues and is a combination of formal and informal feedback. This helps you to understand how you are perceived and what strengths and weaknesses those around you perceive. In addition to the employee review system set up by my employer, I regularly seek out feedback. A few months back when I wrote a leadership statement, I provided a copy of it to my supervisor for feedback. I have also set up a formal feedback poll that we use after webinars that helps us to get feedback on the information presented, the presentation and solicit additional training learners are interested in. When I launch a new elearning lesson or conduct onsite training, I reach out to some of the first user/participants s for feedback on their experience. The key is that after receiving this feedback is to act on it. I take what I learn from feedback and put it into practice. Positive feedback is an affirmation of things you are doing well but also a reminder of strengths you want to not become complacent with; things you want to continue to do. Constructive feedback gives you performance targets. When I receive this kind of feedback, I also try to acknowledge it and let the person who provided it know what I am working on to improve.

Involve Yourself and Share

Once you have reflected and received feedback, it is important to learn new information or techniques to guide your improvement and to share what you know and what you learn. It is also imperative to stay on top of new industry news.  Involvement in formal and informal communities of learning is a place to do this. You might find yourself attending or presenting at conferences or industry meetings. I belong to the ASTD and attend the Boston chapter meetings to network and learn from my local colleagues. This might also be more informal communities such as twitter and blogs. I use both of these, as well as, Linked-In and places to learn from others but also share my strengths and areas of research and expertise with others.

All three parts of this cycle make sure that you do not stay static and continually feed into one another. Not only do these three things help you to constantly be in a state of improving, but as you follow this process, you will develop strengths that make you stand out from other professionals, which becomes your brand. Determining what those things are and communicating them through your actions and words allows you to not only be excellent, but to be known as excellent.
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Have a Plan…Have Flexibility

KnotsLike most training specialists, there are standard areas that I am engaged in on a buycbdproducts basis, but recently I got to go back to something I haven’t done in a few years, team-building facilitation. In my early twenties, I had been trained in team-building and low ropes and through my connection with a camp, had done team-building sessions for teen and adult groups. Recently I had the opportunity to do that with some folks as a part of an all-day retreat. As a part of most challenges that I facilitate, I have participants take time to put together a plan and have them explain it to me. When they a ready, I ask them three questions:

  1. Do you have a plan?
  2. Does everyone know the plan?
  3. What is the plan? (asked of one participant)

Part of why I ask these questions is so that I can understand what the participants will be doing so that I can make sure it is a safe experience for everyone, make sure the participants have understood the goals, and also so that I can provide the correct support as necessary.

While I use these questions when I facilitate team-building challenges, these are important questions to ask any team that you are managing. As a good manager, it is important to know the approach the team is planning so that you can understand the direction, make sure it lines up with the goals, and be able to provide the necessary support.

In this recent experience, the participants were asked to cross a “rushing river” that was about 25 feet wide with the help of four magic turtles. The turtles would help them by allowing them to step on their backs and prevent them from being washed away in the current. The stipulation was that the turtles would only help if they felt needed, which the turtles judged by physical contact. As i as they were in physical contact with someone, they would stay and allow their backs to be stepped on, but if that physical contact was absent, they would swim away. After developing a plan and getting the green light from me, the group started to cross the river and they were immediately challenged when one of the turtles lost physical contact and swam away. As they made their way across the “river” the flaws in their plan became apparent and with some on the fly changes involving passing one person back and forth between the backs of two others, the first three people made it across. It had worked for these three but it became clear this was not going to work for the whole group. The participants then spent some time revising the plan and determining a new method to cross the river and plan two was born. This plan involved people working in pairs of two in very close proximity and the group got four more people across and there were only three people left to cross. Well this presented a new challenge because their system needed pairs…and plan three was born and the last of the group made it across.

While the group had a plan to start, it was their ability to adjust and develop new plans to meet changing circumstances that made them a success. This is also true of project teams in the workplace. A good team will be able to develop a working plan but also be able to react to changing circumstances and challenges. This became one on the points discussed when we debriefed this exercise.

It is essential that we create a plan based on the information we know but we must also be ready to react to issues that arise and changing circumstances. If we lack the agility to evolve that plan, success will rely on a perfect initial plan, something which rarely happens.

Winning the Sale with Stakeholders

Buying Wedding Bands

A few weeks ago my fiancé and I were shopping for wedding rings. We had seen the ring we were interested in online but were hoping to see it in person to make sure it was the right one. Because of some email correspondence with Lynette from Long’s Jewelers, we ended up at a wedding band event where Lynette arranged to have the ring we were interested in for us to see. The week of the event, I confirmed this with Lynette and she told us to ask for her when we arrived and she would show us rings. We arrived at the event, and after looking and about a dozen rings, made a decision to go with the ring we were initially interested in. Lynette was offering to sell that for a little over $100 more than the online price…but we still chose to buy them from her. Why, you ask? Well price is just one cost when buying something.

Cost ChartTime – Lynette made our trip to the wedding band event efficient. She knew where the ring we were interested in was and took us straight there. She also showed us other rings that were similar and ones that offered some of the same features we were interested in.

Effort –  When I first emailed Lynette a picture of the ring we were interested in, she did the legwork to find out who made that design and arranged to have it at the show. We didn’t have to traipse all over the place find and look at rings. We were able to show up at one place and see what we were interested in.

Emotion –  Lynette made the experience stress free, offering expertise and advice but not pushing us to rush a decision. When we first arrived, I told her my exact goals for this visit and she immediately made those happen and we ended up buying our rings that day. She took time to focus on us and make sure we knew we were important to her.

In order to have a satisfied customer, you need to make sure that your customer doesn’t exceed their budget in all of these areas. While Lynette’s monetary cost was higher, she met our needs in all the areas of cost and won the sale.

Selling Performance Solutions

As instructional designers, we are working with stakeholders to develop performance solutions to meet their needs. When we develop and sell a solution to them, we need to make sure it is within the monetary budget but we also need to make sure that we don’t exceed our stakeholder’s budget in any of the other areas of cost:

Time Be sure to value the stakeholder’s time and make the most of meetings with stakeholders, and do the legwork and solution development outside of meetings.
  • Use meetings to understand needs, goals, and other information
  • Use email to collect data and share information to be reviewed in meetings
  • Have proposals , plans, and implementation completed in a timely manner and when promised
Effort Limit the efforts you require of stakeholders to that which only they can accomplish.
  • After understanding the issue, do any necessary data collection to further understand and determine solutions
  • Determine the best “success” criteria and determine how to measure that after a solution is implemented
  • Take care of material development and implementation of the solution
Emotion Make sure stakeholders know that you understand the issue and want to find the best solution for them, that you value the opportunity to be of service to them.
  • Be able to define the issue and outline stakeholder’s goals
  • Involve stakeholders in important decisions, not every decision or issue
  • Follow up on the solution to make sure it was successful and met the need and ask for feedback that can be used to improve future solutions.


By making sure that stakeholders do not exceed their budget in all areas of cost, we develop satisfied customers. This means we will have their trust for the future and they will see our value as a resource. Our solution may not always be the cheapest, but they will know that we are giving them the best we have to offer.