Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is turning 48 years old. He lives a monotonous and quite boring life of a rich man. He has practically everything. Not without hesitation he accepts a gift of participation in a certain game. From that moment on his life starts resembling an absorbing game. Likewise, the trainings become more engaging when we introduce games into them. What kind of games?

Scene no 1

A June day. Heat. You’re standing, no! You’re almost lying tilted at a breakneck angle. You’re touching the meadow only with your feet . You’re holding an almost 2-meter-long bamboo stick and your colleagues are holding you by…whatever they can so that you do not fall into the area separated by an orange line. You have a task to realize, your whole team supports you, the time is running and the emotions are rising… You’re not thinking neither of your weird position nor how tired your outstretched arms are. You are entirely wrapped up in the task at hand.

Scene no 2

You are at your desk, comfortably sitting in your favorite armchair smiling, looking at a picture of yourself holding an almost 2-meter-long bamboo stick,  convinced that you have learnt something important about yourself, your team and your company.

For the game to be effective, that is, to affect you/the participant in a certain way, we need three elements:

  1. Engagement
  2. Concentration on the task
  3. Difficulty gradation and feedback

Games increase the readiness for experimenting, thus mistake acceptance.

Why use simulation training games?

A game in an effective and quick way develops valued competences: intuition based on experience, learning from your mistakes, ability to try again, cooperation and seeing other points of view. When I conduct a training about leadership, management or communication I see how incredibly effective games are.

How should a well conducted game-based training look like?

I’ll start from the coach. A coach, who often feels like a star on a catwalk, has quite a different role here. What kind of role? He is also a moderator. Let’s compare his/her role in leading a game to a conductor of an orchestra.  The musicians have already sat down, the instruments are ready, notes are written out. Everybody knows their role.

What is the difference between an average performance and an excellent one?

A good conductor listens carefully to every sound, he/she observes the engagement of the musicians, pays attention to every single member of the orchestra. He/she communicates in a way that is understandable for every person. Is that enough? For an average concert yes but for an excellent one? A good coach leading the players will not only clearly explain the rules, supervise the whole process but will also sense when he/she should intervene and build the so called ‘golden bridge’.

The charisma of the coach?

Yes, it is an important factor so that it is not bland. The same game can be conducted with passion, for example with some story-telling elements, or in a boring way.

Evaluation as an important element of a training game.

The game is at its end, the participants have all realized their tasks. What’s next? A good coach will help the participants translate the game into their everyday life. During the game he/she listens in on the group, makes notes on the participants’ behavior. Then he mirrors those behaviors. Sometimes he/she even plays them out. Thanks to that, it is easy to understand and difficult to dispute. “I really do talk to my employees that way when I’m work under time pressure.” A good coach asks the participants open questions in order to let them see for themselves not only the results but also the reasons of their actions. The participants see the differences between various strategies they’ve taken, their advantages and disadvantages. What is important, is the fact that the coach is highlighting the most significant aspects which came up during the training.

The metaphor

between the game and reality helps translate the experience gained while playing into functioning in the real world. A good coach is able to build, or encourage the participants to do it, such a metaphor which will stay in their memory for a very long time. Later he/she dismantles it, so that the participants can see the mechanisms of their own actions. That is the usual complaint about trainings “there was so many of them but we don’t remember anything”. Sounds familiar?

Emotions and body in games.

Trainings using games are one of the most effective forms of learning. This type of activities uses the emotional involvement of the participants, and therefore the knowledge gained that way is more durable. It is also vital that, unlike during lectures, we engage our whole bodies in games: we walk, we build, we create. Games and simulations are not only a training tool. They are also used to diagnose the training needs of employees and evaluating their potential.