Reporting Live From NASAGA – The Fun Factor

Bernie DeKoven leads the activity Identity Exchange

Bernie DeKoven was this morning’s keynote speaker, and we were particularly excited to hear his presentation. An award-winning game designer, Bernie is also the co-author of one of our most popular training products, Junkyard Games: The Outrageously Fun Innovation Simulation.

In true DeKoven style, he kicked off his presentation with a fun activity called Identity Exchange. The idea is that you tell someone about yourself, and then that person uses your identity to introduce themselves to others. What was so fun about it? Finding out just how long it takes before you meet up with someone who turns out to be… you!

With the audience warmed up and engaged, Bernie’s presentation got down to business with provoking thoughts: What does fun contribute to a simulation game? To the players’ experience?  To the learning? To the effectiveness of the simulation? Indeed, these are interesting questions – and ones we’ve touched upon in more than one Inside HRDQ post.

Bernie’s point?  Fun = flow = happiness = better performance.

Having fun at work, and even worse, having fun while learning, is taboo in many organizations. We are taught that fun is frivolous—that people who look like they are having fun are not to be taken seriously.

But Bernie’s on to something. Think about it. Fun. The “F” word isn’t one that trainers use during consultations with decision-making executives. It’s not a selling point. Yet we as trainers know (and it’s been proven) that fun makes learning deeper, more efficient, and unforgettable. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what gets us asked back to do more training?

He referenced Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist best known as the architect of “flow,” a state of being “in the zone” or “in the groove.” Flow is an optimal state of intrinsic motivation. In other words, when a person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing – maybe even having fun – that person is most happy.

Getting back to Bernie’s original questions: in his opinion, the answers are all yes. Fun contributes a lot to learning. And simulations and games should be fun, whenever possible. Because when learners learn that they can have fun learning, not only do they learn more, but it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump for them to figure out that if they are happy and having fun at work, it may be a sign that they are working better, and possibly even working their best.

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