Book Review: For The Win (How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business)

60-word Summary:

Gamification of learning and development has been en vogue for several years, yet so few organizations do it well. For The Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business goes beyond points, badges and leaderboards and offers a basic overview on how games work, why games work and some thoughts on how to combine game elements to achieve extraordinary results.

The Details:

Bright Spots:

The length: Weighing in at 126 pages, this book can be read from cover to cover in a couple of sittings (or a couple of cross-country flights!).

The examples: The authors obviously know their stuff and offer a variety of examples to ignite your imagination in how to transfer successful examples of gamified business practices to your own context. Equally important, the authors offer some powerful examples of gamification gone awry. When it comes to gamification, what not to do is as essential as what you’re thinking of actually doing.

The elements: Beyond points, badges and leaderboards, the authors offer an overview of game elements that too many attempts at gamification are missing. Dynamics (like emotions and progression), mechanics (like randomness and feedback) and components (such as boss fights and quests!) are all key pieces to any successful gamification effort.

Room For Improvement:

I’m not sure that I have too much critical to say about this book. As a learning and development professional, I would have loved to have seen more specific examples of gamification in the learning and development space. The wide variety of examples, however, offers plenty of ideas that are easily transferable to training programs.

Who Should Buy It:

I bought this book because I had begun to take a Coursera MOOC on gamification that was being taught by one of the authors and he recommended this book as a course text. I didn’t make it past Week 2 of the course (I’m just not into trying to learn new concepts by watching a series of 5-10 minute video lectures), but I’ve learned a lot from this book.

For The Win is perfect for someone who is either new to the concept of gamification or someone who is familiar with the concept but just doesn’t know where to start. It’s also ideal for training designers who have been trying to “gamify” their learning experiences with points or badges or leaderboards but just feel like there’s supposed to be more to a gamified experience (there is).

Honestly, this book isn’t just intended for training professionals. If  you’re someone in a position of management – either people management or process management – and you’re looking to truly understand a way to engage and motivate people using gaming principles, this book can offer a lot of ideas.

Book Review: Will Thalheimer’s Performance-focused Smile Sheets

Performance-focused Smile Sheets

102-word Summary: “The ideas in this book are freakin’ revolutionary.” So Will Thalheimer begins chapter 9 of his book. It’s hard to argue against the statement. In a world where the vast majority of training is evaluated on a 1-5 Likert-style post-training evaluation form, Will Thalheimer proposes a different way to perform a basic-level assessment of a training program. His thesis: while “smile sheets” aren’t the be all and end all of training evaluation, they’re the most common type of evaluation, so if we’re going to have our learners fill them out, we may as well get some good, useful, actionable information from them.  Continue reading

Clubbin’ with HR

Clubbin with HR

Imagine you’re standing in the rope line, waiting for a while but still excited about the prospects of getting in to a club so exclusive that few of your friends and classmates have ever been able to get in. Then the moment arrives. The bouncer points his finger at you. “Come with me,” he says, plucking you out of the line, escorting you past a bunch of other people and into the club.

The music is thumping. A few heads turn to look at you. One or two even say “hello”. Most ignore you. Should you go to the bar and order a drink? Hit the dance floor? Find a table? Decisions, decisions.

At the bar you try your smoothest move to get the bar tender’s attention, but he ignores you. The patrons around you laugh. “You’re not doing it right,” says another club goer, then walks away.

Maybe the dance floor will be a better place to start.

You quickly realize that the type of dancing – while it seems to be working for the folks on the dance floor – is like no dance you’ve ever seen. You give it a whirl, but your moves turn out more like Elaine’s spazz dance from Seinfeld. Being out of sync with everyone else means you’re stepping on toes and knocking people’s drinks out of their hands all night.

It’s not fun. But you come back the next night. And every night for months.

Eventually you start to get the hang of it, though it would have been nice if someone had taught you the secret to ordering drinks on that first night. It would have been much less embarrassing and much more fun for everyone if someone had practiced a few of this club’s proprietary dance steps with you from the beginning.

This scenario plays out every day in companies across the country and around the world. Your organization is a bit like an exclusive club. You carefully craft your recruitment and hiring process. You spend countless hours interviewing and meeting to decide which candidate to pull out of the “rope line” and invite into your club.

And then what?

The big questions that too many organizations don’t answer adequately are:

  • How do we effectively orient new employees to the organization during the first days and weeks?
  • How do we effectively integrate new employees into their roles and the organization’s culture over their first weeks and months?

Seriously, click the link below and download this book

Michelle Baker of Phase(Two)Learning helps HR professionals and hiring managers answer these questions with a new ebook entitled: Onboarding Tools for Hiring Managers: Tips, Tools & Rules to Set Your New Employees Up for Success. If you’re a hiring manager or responsible for the onboarding of new staff, I strongly recommend taking a look at this short book for two reasons:

  1. It helps answer the above questions in a short, succinct and easy-to-digest format, and
  2. It provides space for you to reflect on key points and to identify where your orientation and onboarding processes may have holes.

Onboarding Tools for Hiring Managers: Tips, Tools & Rules to Set Your New Employees Up for Success is part book, part workbook and (for the time being) completely free. So there’s nothing to lose.

If you want to squeeze every last bit of value out of your employees, then you need to begin on Day 1 with high quality, engaging and meaningful orientation and onboarding processes.

Have you found an orientation or onboarding strategy that’s particularly meaningful? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Know someone responsible for orientation or onboarding? Pass this link along!

Book Review: The Manager’s Guide to Presentations

69-word Summary:

New managers have a lot to learn. Supervising and coaching is a major element that most new managers lack and it’s a reason that many new managers struggle… The Manager’s Guide to Presentations won’t help you there. Managers also need to deliver presentations that motivate, persuade, inform and influence. This book is all about helping managers (and anyone else who presents) to prepare, deliver and assess presentations that motivate, persuade, inform and influence.

The Details:

  • Author: Lauren Hug
  • Price: $17.99 on Amazon; $7.99 as a Kindle book
  • 68 Pages

Bright Spots:

  • The Length: I’ve read a lot of books on presentations, and after the first 100 pages or so, they tend to get very redundant. In this book, Lauren Hug respects her readers by making her point and then moving on.
  • The Tight Organization: Related to the length and the author’s ability to make her point and move on, this book is tightly organized: what to do before presenting, during the presentation and afterwards. Period. There were very times that I thought: “Huh, that’s an interesting concept and if I had unlimited time I might someday try that, but honestly I’m too busy to ever actually do that in real-life.”
  • The templates! This isn’t just a book to read and put away on the shelf, never to be touched again. There are templates to help organize your thoughts on your audience’s needs and expectations, addressing your personal concerns and fears about public speaking, putting together your content, creating interaction with your audience and once your presentation is over there is a template for getting meaningful feedback. Truly, this is a book to work through… unless you buy the Kindle version, which makes it tough to write in. Which brings me to my next point…

Room for Improvement:

I do really like the templates in this book. It would be nice to be able to print them out and write on them. It would be great if downloadable, printable templates were available on the Hug Speak website. Until then, I’ll just have to re-create the templates in Word.

Who Should Buy It?

As mentioned earlier, this book is not only for new managers but anyone who finds themselves needing to put together a meaningful presentation. It’s $7.99 (e-reader version), it’s less than 100 pages, it can be read in one evening, it has templates for organizing your thoughts and it might even help you prepare for and deliver an engaging presentation that leads others to act. What do you have to lose?