Monday, June 7, 2010

The play is the thing

Have you ever played a game? Did you enjoy it? (I know, these seem like silly questions, right?)

Then why is there all of the fuss about using the word "game" in relation to learning? Who said that learning can't be fun?

Now, I know...we all went to school and learned in classrooms and we were taught that it was serious business. Studying is hard. You need to read quietly. No talking during tests. We even call it homeWORK. We were conditioned to think that learning had to be serious and dry and boring. 

But what if we hadn't been? 

I was watching my 3 year old playing a game today. I realized she was learning about pattern recognition, but she wouldn't have told you that. She would have told you she was playing. She would have said she was having fun. Was it any less learning than if I had given her worksheets? 

So let's think about corporate learning. If you want employees to "know" something, sure...let them read about it, go through an e-learning module, answer some multiple choice questions. If you want them to "do" should have them practice it. Practice builds expertise, practice implies repetition...and games are a great vehicle to allow for practice. How do you get better at a sport? Practice. How do you get better at selling? Practice. How do you get better at solving problems? Practice. 

How much more would your employees practice if it was fun? 

Let's not vilify games for not being brutally painful to play. Let's explain the elements of games that make them more appropriate than most other learning methods for improving skills, increasing knowledge and encouraging practice. I'd bet that manager who dismisses games for learning might even be watching the ball game on Sunday...


  1. I bet that same manager who dismisses games for learning is the same person who plays Wii bowling with their kids!

    Great post Koreen!

  2. I've found that corporate America is much more open to games in the workplace (for learning and for other things) than ever before. Ten years ago, mentioning a game ended a meeting. Now managers reach out to vendors looking for them. Finally turning the ocean liner around...