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Games – Learn to Play and Play to Learn!

My brother, who is recovering from a recent operation, visited last week and we took the opportunity to break out one of our favourite childhood board games – Totopoly. 

A gold star to anyone who is a) old enough and b) geeky enough to know this one! For those who don’t, it’s a classic from Waddingtons (the company behind Monopoly) that involves training and then racing tin racehorses from two different stables. Different colour horses have a greater or lesser chance of winning.

The outcome was that everyone realised how little I’d grown up. My childhood emotional attachment to two horses was rekindled and I took huge delight in guiding one, the underdog “King of Clubs” to second place on his first outing in some twenty years!

This is one of the things about games that makes them so valuable to Learning and Development professionals. If the game is good enough, people get emotionally involved in them and soon forget they’re in a training environment. What you then see emerge are real behaviours; the behaviours managers and team members probably exhibit (perhaps unknowingly) in the workplace. What you won’t get is ‘acting’, which is what we often do see when using role play. 

Seeing how people really interact with others and the behaviours they exhibit can be incredibly powerful as an observer and, with facilitation, the learner. When I play games for example, it quickly becomes clear just how competitive I am, and how driven, which can make me impatient. (There’s always one player reminding those who aren’t focused, “It’s your turn!” and that one is generally me.) 

In the real world, it’s important for me to be aware of my determination and drive, and the impact they can have - if I don’t balance those ‘qualities’ with the needs of others. 

Games, as well as raising awareness of our preferred behaviours and development needs, can even help us develop new skills. After all, they often require strong social skills, logical thinking, creative thinking, the ability to absorb and follow instructions and trust, for example. They might require us to use our resources wisely or to make calculations. Success might be determined by our ability to use negotiation skills, to think strategically, work collaboratively, or form temporary or permanent alliances with others. 

In other words, the skills and behaviours needed to achieve success in games often mirror those required in the wider world. 

For all these reasons, and because, ultimately, they’re fun, I’ve made it my mission to encourage the use of games in Learning and Development, and to create games that are focused on exploring, highlighting, and developing vital skills needed in the workplace. 

Here are some of my favourites from those I’ve created for Trainers’ Library over the years: 

Murder at Glasstap Grange: A game that requires careful information gathering and logical thinking and where success can only be achieved if everyone works together.

Police Chase: On the surface, a simple game where robbers try to escape the police that requires strategic planning and careful use of resources. But there’s a twist – what happens when team performance is undermined by a lack of trust?

His Lordship’s Garden Party: Different tasks require different skills. This one is all about using team resources intelligently, setting achievable targets and working together to deliver success. 

Jack Fruggle’s Treasure (or Jill Fruggle’s Virtual Treasure Hunt if delivering remotely): A game that will reward teams that listen to each other, share information and don’t blindly rush in. 

Remote Teams: Teams trade answers for the pieces they need to complete their jigsaws; but to succeed, they’ll need to be aware of the bigger picture and avoid a silo mentality.

Island of Opportunity: What happens when four tribes with different, sometimes conflicting needs, discover an island on the same day? Will they find a way to divide their land and resources that avoids war?

July 25 2023Rod Webb

Rod Webb

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