Gamification Leads to Better Design: Talk at Groupon's Geekfest

On November 10, 2015 I gave a talk on gamification at Groupon's headquarters in Chicago as part of their weekly Geekfest speaker series. They record all of these talks, so I am able to share this presentation, which used a handout and activities to engage the audience. 

The Difference Between Extroverts and Introverts in the Workplace

Understanding how personality type affects everyday communication can provide huge benefits, especially when applied in the workplace. Insight into things like how we prefer to give and receive directions and feedback or the way we want to structure a meeting can go a long way towards avoiding unnecessary frustration and stress. Examining the difference between extroverts and introverts gives us a lens to this experience!

Most people are familiar with extroversion and introversion, one of the four preference pairs in the Myers-Briggs system, but many people are not aware of it's application beyond knowing that it generally makes some of us louder and some of us quieter. By definition, our preference for extroversion or introversion is how we tend to focus our energy and attention, outward or inwards.  However, our preferences can create many differences in our go-to methods of communicating, that when acknowledged, leave employees happier and more productive. Here are some of the most common ways it can be addressed in the workplace.

Meetings & Brainstorming

Extroverts will generally prefer to have meetings be a lively place for discussion, where new ideas are being generated and vetted, with lots of verbal banter. In a meeting dominated by extroverts, usually the loudest prevail and only a limited number of people will have an opportunity to talk.

Introverts will usually rather have a quieter and more structured discussion with fewer people, if there is even a meeting at all. There is usually a preference for written notes rather than a group discussion. A raucous and fast-paced meeting will often leave the introverts without a chance to contribute, which creates a perception by others that they are not paying attention and/or don't have anything to contribute.

What to do: For the best outcome, structure meetings to include free-flowing brainstorming as well as designated time for everyone to talk. Provide a written agenda in advance that includes questions and issues that will be addressed during the meeting. Remember that everyone has something valuable to contribute, including those who do more listening than talking.

Personal Work Space & Small Talk

Extroverts will tend to want an open-office/open-door setting that allows for more socializing and small talk. Up to a certain amount, extroverts will get energized from social interaction, so having a workspace that facilitates connections with others can be very helpful. Extroverts will welcome distractions and enrich their ideas during pop-in meetings and water cooler discussions.

Introverts will usually prefer the exact opposite; more isolated work settings with less drop-ins and distractions. Interruptions to their concentrated work time can really get things off track. Brainstorming for an introvert usually means working and thinking alone.

What to do: Organizations can allow employees to design and structure their own workspace to match their preferences, such as getting to select low vs high walled cubicles. Although most workplaces need to facilitate some collaboration between employees, everyone can be given designated "quiet times" where they are not to be interrupted, or conversely "office hours" can be assigned where it is appropriate to pop in.

Feedback & Directions

Extroverts will usually prefer to be given feedback and or instructions verbally because they are better at working through ideas externally with others. For example, a performance review of an extrovert will go better if the majority of the feedback happens during a discussion, even through evaluating on a form is almost always a part of the process.

Introverts will tend to prefer that the majority of feedback and direction occur in a written format. They would rather have the time to read and process on their own, rather than have to relay their ideas on the spot to someone else or a group.

What to do: Organizations can proactively engage with employees to learn their preferences and then tailor communication to match. Both verbal and written communication will be a part of any workplace, but discussions, performance reviews, job/task assignment, and more can all have an emphasis on the style that works best for each employee.

Whenever applying type preferences in the workplace it's always important to not use the labels to put people in a box. Employees are much more than just extroverts and introverts, so it's not okay to use any designation as a definitive measure for someone's work style. However, understanding the real and applicable differences in personality type does give employees, managers, and teams a set of words and language they can use for discussions that lead to engaging and productive workplaces!

Does Corporate America Have a Personality Type?

Most people are familiar with personality type using the Myers-Briggs personality type.  It assigns people four letters which represent preferences for where we focus our attention, what information we value, how we make decisions, and how we structure our lives.  The introvert and extrovert classifications are probably the most well known aspects of the system and most people think they know which one of these they are.  Hint: it’s not just about how loud or quiet you are, but that will be a topic for another day.  

What many people don’t know is that Myers-Briggs personality type can be use to describe other entities in addition to people, such as pets, movie characters, and companies.  Oddly enough, it can even be used to describe groups as large as entire nations, but right now I am going to focus on the business world in the United States.  

Corporate America has an ESTJ personality type.  Those of us that interact with businesses should understand what that means and how it affects us every day.

E - Extroversion

People and organizations with a preference for Extraversion focus their energy outward and are energized by group interactions, rather than isolated settings. Most business want their employees to be outgoing and interactive. Collaboration is valued and encouraged, and employees are often pressured to be representatives of their company 24 hours a day.  Introverts may be talked over during meetings and often viewed as not having valuable contributions, even though it is actually the setting that is not setup to receive their manner of input.

S - Sensing

Those with a Sensing preference pay the most attention to information that is real and tangible.  They value details and specifics and usually like to see tasks completed in a sequential order.  Although their counterparts, future-focused visionaries, are celebrated at the CEO level, most organizations want their staff to have a keen attention to detail.  Projects and everyday tasks get boiled down to the numbers and facts, which can be great for people who love managing large amounts of data and information. Those with an iNtuition preference who think more about the next big idea rather than the numbers for the daily report may be viewed as meandering and rebellious.

T - Thinking

People and organizations with a preference for Thinking typically value logical decisions rather than decisions based primarily on emotion.  Considering makes sense ends up trumping what feels good.  When empathy is not given the same weight as logical analytics, employees become just another line item on a budget rather than an invaluable and irreplaceable asset.  With a few notable exceptions such as Southwest and Trader Joes, organizations want employees that will make decisions that put the need for profit above than the needs of the staff.  People with a Feeling preference who give precedent to emotion and values may be viewed as too soft or sensitive for dog-eat-dog corporate environments.

J - Judging

A preference for Judging doesn’t mean the person or organization is judgemental, rather, it indicates a desire to process the world in a planned and organized manner.  This manifests itself in ways such as calculated schedules, project due dates and midway check-in points, clean and categorized work areas, and a strong desire to stick to plans once they are established.  Corporations want both short and long term plans for the work of their employees as well as the company’s growth.  Obviously this is a necessary and important aspect of the business world, however, a constant implementation of deadlines may actually decrease the productivity of people with a perceiving preference.  

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The main takeaway here, as it almost always is in matters of personality type, is that all the types are important, there is no bad or wrong combination of type.  Corporate America is an ESTJ for good reason, it’s a type that will likely produce valuable results and output. What we need to keep in mind is that every day at every organizations there are moments where financial value is not the most important result.  At those times other type preferences should not only be recognized but utilized for the value they will add to the organization.  Give the introverts a chance to talk and let the perceivers challenge the upcoming deadline; the results will be a more robust and effective work space with satisfied employees.

Contact me to set up a Myers-Briggs session for you and your team!

What is Gamification?

Simply put, gamification is when game elements and game design techniques are put to use in non-game scenarios and contexts.  Although the term gamification is relatively new, most of us are probably more familiar with the concept than we realize.  Take the social networking check-in app Foursquare for example, that’s a gamified system.  Consider reward points at your local grocery store or gas station, that’s gamification too.  We most often see gamification through the use of PBLs, or points, badges, and leaderboards.  However, according to Kevin Werbach, a professor of business ethics at The University of Pennsylvania who teaches a class on gamification and provided the definition I gave above, there is a lot more to the concept than only PBLs.

Gamification delves into matters of motivation, psychology, and economics.  It’s not limited to any one field of study and instead sets out to answer the multi-faceted and complex question of why do humans behave in certain ways.

When considered as an important tool for motivation, the applications of gamification are many and fall into three main categories:

External - Companies use game elements for marketing, sales, and customer engagement to boost sales and market presence.  

Internal - Within organizations, gamification is used for productivity boosts, garnering employee feedback, and other human resources related functions.

Behavior Change:  Utilized in individual or group applications, gamification is a powerful tool for health & wellness motivation, sustainability, or even personal finance.

Professor Werbach points out a few other key points of gamification in the online class he teaches on the subject.  First, there must be alignment between the outcomes in the implemented game and the goals of the organization.  For example, a game system applied to a call center would be more effective when points are earned for high customer satisfaction ratings rather than speed of the resolution of calls.  Points awarded to fast calls may actually leave customers unhappy.  

Next, participation must be mandatory.  If someone is forced to “play” against their will, all of a sudden that person is no longer playing but is once again at work.  One of the reasons why gamification can be so successful is because often participants will leave behind the feeling of doing work, but this can only be achieved if they are participating on their own will.  Additionally, gamification should instill some learning or problem solving.  For example, if a marketing campaign has users scratch off tickets to win, but they continually win every time they play, there is no problem present, the system stops being fun and engaging, and people will quit participating.  Think of the McDonalds’ monopoly game; one of the main reasons it’s fun is due to the good chance of not winning and it taking continued engagement to work towards the bigger prizes.  

As a professional, gamification combines my passion for training and development with my life long love of board games.  At their simplest, games are a great way to bring together and spend social, face to face time with other people.  When implemented at the organizational level, games can break new ground not only in personnel participation, but also sustained improvement over time.  Every application is unique and presents its own opportunity to overcome challenges and create never before thought of solutions.

What examples of games and gamification have you experienced in your workplace?

Contact me and let's talk about implementing gamification at your workplace. 

Insight: Quick and Fun Team Discovery

One of my favorite experiences while working with teams are those moments when the light bulbs turn on over someone's head as they're discovering something new about the people they work with or learning more about themselves. 

Insight, a training game I developed, is full of those light bulb moments!

I have had so much fun playing it with teams who want to learn more about each other, boards of directors who are assessing their skills, and groups of young people who are investigating their career options. 

Are you a part of a group that could benefit from a new and fun method of team discovery? Contact me to begin setting up your session. 

This summer I had the pleasure of working with Omar Ortiz, a finance and marketing student at DePaul University who was placed with me through DePaul's Coleman Entrepreneurship Center. He provided a variety of valuable contributions and took the lead on some projects, including this video that previews Insight! Check out his work and learn more about the game.