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Learning, Gamification and Serious Games Series:

Interviews with sales, customer service, operations and learning, serious games, gamification experts, who discuss, "how they learn" and the best practices of learning adoption and games-based learning.

Girl Talk about Serious Games Interview with Phaedra Boinodiris, Global Program Manager of Serious Games and Gamification at IBM

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Phaedra Phaedra Boinodiris, former CEO of and current Global Program Manager of Gamification and Serious Games for IBM. She works out of Raleigh, North Carolina.

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Use Bio-Mimicry designs to build high-performing teams and use Games to reinforce the right behaviors. Conversation with Ken Thompson, Bioteaming and Change Management expert

As a consummate change-maker and a Games-based learning pioneer, Ken Thompson writes, speaks and deploys Games to teach corporate teams, the consequences of their decisions and help them manage change in business processes. He is the managing director of BioTeams Design and Swarm Teams.

RD:> Are you a gamer?

KT:> My kids are fanatical gamers. They humiliate me all the time, when I play with them. In fact they no longer include me even when they play Xbox soccer. So! I would not describe myself a gamer.

RD:> How did you get into Games and stuff like that?

KT:> I am a social mathematician. My educational background is in mathematics. Then I worked for more than thirty years in change management. I wrote books about teams, social networks and change management. I gave a TedX talk about high-performing teams.

Over  two decades, as a hobby, I have been building these models, simulations and games. In the last five years or so, my clients started asking me to commercialize these simulations and games.

Some are pure simulations. For example, I have a simulation that optimizes how one organizes a sales process; another is about determining ROI from social campaigns.

Many are games and are based on immersive-learning principles. Most of these games are paper and pencil and role-based games, i.e. hybrid or blended learning game. Typically, a game runs for a full day with a leadership team.

RD:> I completely relate. We did those for twenty years prior to starting PAKRA.

KT:> Yes! In these games, I add:

(1) Realistic and relatable constructs i.e. stories with artifacts.

(2) Then there are, what I call, “golden rules”. By “golden rules” I mean: You should “Always do this” or You should “Never do that”.

(3) Basic resource constraints.

(4) Dilemmas and conflicts. Dilemmas, such as, “I want six pack abs” and “I love chocolates”.

(5) There are, of course, roles and metrics.

(6) The component of social learning where I facilitate in-person or online.

They typically play these games for 3 rounds. The first round is to normalize the mechanics and at the end, the players will be supremely confident. Then in the second round, the unexpected happens; for example, the suppliers increase prices, the market demand collapses, competitors eat their lunch, Euro spins out of control etc.  In the third round, the innovation happens. Almost all participants find these blended experiential learning as the best way to learn.

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Playful curiosity leads to better learning and faster change adoption. Conversation with Michael Hugos, Gamification and Lean expert

As an Agile and Lean expert and a Gamification pioneer, Michael Hugos writes and speaks passionately about Game mechanics that help enterprises achieve their goals and adapt faster to new processes, new initiatives and new technologies. He is the managing principal at SCM Globe and CIO at large at the Center for Systems Innovation.

RD:> We engaged in a conversation via LinkedIn, and I read your book, Enterprise Games: Using Game Mechanics to Build a Better Business. How do you learn?

MH:> I approach a subject with playful curiosity. This works extremely well for me. There are different ways to approach, such as grim determination, rigid discipline — or you can flee in terror after the first try. If you approach it with playful curiosity, learning retention is better and faster.

RD:> How did you gravitate toward Games, as not only the way to improve business performance, but to sustain those improvements?

MH:> I was trained as an architect. I came to Chicago to be among architectural masterpieces such as  Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings within the Loop and Oak Park. During my work as an architect, I took up computer modeling, which led me to become very interested in designing simulated complex systems. In the early ’90s, for a multi-billion-dollar company, we designed a sales-enablement system using Game mechanics, Game metaphors and simulation techniques. This project exceeded the expectations of the executive team. And it made me realize this is the best way to engage salespeople, teach and change behaviors. It led to faster adoption of behavioral changes and to sustaining those changes.

RD:> Your architectural background came through in your book.

MH:> Thank you for saying that. It helps me find the vulnerabilities that lead to a better design.

RD:> How would you measure the worth of a digital bit of information, (a) for an employee, and (b) for a business?

MH:> I think we must keep it simple. To an employee, the leadership should communicate 3–4 important objectives of the company. These objectives are typically business-performance metrics. In this context, the value of information from a digital bit is how effectively employees can achieve the performance targets by using the information. By the way, this is where real life provides design ideas for an enterprise Game.

RD:> In your book, you discuss voluntary participation and feedback loops. Can you discuss the importance of “roles” in Game design?

MH:> Roles define the types of actions a person can take. The designer needs to balance between flexibility and easy logic. If the roles are too narrowly defined, the behaviors displayed are too rigid, and the players will not get the nuances of a complex problem. If the roles are too broadly defined, it introduces unnecessary confusion. Also, allowing the roles to evolve over time is a good design principle to consider.

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Where is the “Learn This” button? And Stop building Lame Games. Conversation with Maria Andersen, A Learning futurist.

As a learning futurist, an educational hacker, and a game designer, Maria H. Andersen speaks passionately about how technology, Serious Games and social media are making us learn and engage faster and how these are making “learning” free to anyone who is connected digitally. Maria is the Director of Learning and Research at Instructure.  She will be teaching a Canvas Network course on Social Media that starts later this month.

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Agility and personal touch gives a technology company their biggest differentiator in the marketplace: Conversation with Jeff Eskow, Account Executive at LinkPoint360

As a veteran sales leader at and gamer, Jeff Eskow is passionate about enhancing customer experience and having a trusted advisor relationship with prospects and customers. He has helped small to medium enterprises grow. Prior to LinkPoint360, he sold variety of products and services for companies such as All-State LegalUltimate Office, and Paige Box Company.

RD> Jeff, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. We met on LinkedIn and over time built this wonderful relationship of being a mutual trusted advisor. What are the biggest differentiators for Linkpoint360?

JE> Our customers say that our ability to listen and respond to customer needs quickly (i.e. agility) and the personal touch behind all forms of interactions (whether it be chat, email, phone, web self-service or social) helps us acquire and retain customers. Our customer base includes large enterprises such as CocaCola, Dell, Adobe, Prudential to individual sole proprietors. Our company has done extremely well in creating the importance of personal touch.

For example, when you buy our products, an automated email goes out to the buyer, but I follow up with a personal email providing my availability and contact information and how we can help them configure and set it up correctly. Also very early on, our company recognized the value of being agile in responding to the changing needs of the marketplace. The product development, sales, implementation and customer support works hand-in-hand with complete feedback loops and no visible bureaucracy to the customer.

RD> I completely relate to what you just said. Lately you and I have been discussing on LinkedIn, how consumers or users like you and me are finding customer experience to be really so bad that we feel lucky whenever we actually experience something seamless and trouble-free.

JE> It just continually amazes me that in this economy and with all this technology, how companies accommodate sales reps or customer service reps, who don’t return phone calls, and when you call them, they say, “we will get back to you” and proceed to give a scripted non-answer” — all with an attitude “good luck with that”. It really does not take that much effort, to say, “I don’t know the answer to that, let me look into it. I will reach out to within X hours. What would be a good way to reach you?”

Sometime ago, I was installing a sprinkler system for my new house. The salesperson drove to my house to collect the payment. Then few days later, construction came to a halt because of the malfunction of this system. It took more than 5 different calls and call transfers and hours before they could find someone to talk to me. When it comes to money, they were all there with their personal touch but when it came to answering a question, it took such a long time with impersonal touch.

I see a lot of discussion about sales versus marketing misalignment. That is not the debate. The question should be, how can your company have a single-point of accountability in the entire customer experience, i.e. viewing it from a customer’s perspective. It is customer relationship in CRM not sales relationship.

Every bit needs to be aligned from buyer going to your website and calling you, to negotiating sales, to selecting you as a solution provider, to implementing/launching your product or service, to receiving customer service, to having questions answered, to having issues resolved and continuing to buy more from you. From user’s standpoint, you the vendor have only 1 face (not 10 different faces, not 5 different departments). Accountability does not end with signing that contract and meeting your own sales quota. Best part, having this 1 face, is neither hard nor a costly effort. It is what agility-driven companies (and mind you, not dependent on the size of the company) can do very well and very effortlessly.

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How can LinkedIn help with your social selling efforts? Conversation with Ralf VonSosen, Head of Sales Solutions, LinkedIn.

As a Social Marketing thought leader, triathlete and Head of Sales Solutions at, Ralf VonSosen is passionate about Technology enabling more meaningful and productive relationships among professionals. His experience spans from industry giants such as Siebel (now Oracle) and SAP, to a series of smaller companies including MarketLive, and most recently InsideView. He is a pioneer in the area of social selling and continues to be not only an active evangelist for Social Selling, but instrumental in creating the next generation of Social Selling solutions.

MD> Ralf, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. We would love to hear more about your thoughts on the future of Social Selling and insights regarding LinkedIn.

RVS> Having lived through the evolution of CRM, and seeing how social media is changing CRM and also how social media is effecting online collaboration, I find that there is enormous opportunity for improvement.

There are great collaboration tools (and everybody uses something different) such as WebEx, Go-To-Meeting, and Skype.  My theory is that, there is enough human interaction in these kinds of collaboration software, that’s it’s time to throw all the processes out the window.  People logging on and off, some use the phone, some use the computer, different screens/one screen, different channels etc.  There is enormous need to unify the interactions and have a new CRM mindset.

My passion is for the technology being able to create more meaningful relationships.  Now, we can have these meaningful interactions and conversations and this technology enables us to get a better picture of each other and follow the relationships.  They provide a new level of trust and background with that person and that can change how we approach and do business.  It adds humanity and integrity to the process.

We all move on and leave behind the people we worked with in the past, but now we can have meaningful conversations with them and grow our future contacts.  Technology keeps us up-to-date and reminds us of the person and our previous interactions.

MD> So true.  My first question to you:  Are you a gamer?  If so, which are your favorites?

RVS> (Laughs.)  I’m not really a gamer, but the one thing that I do play with on an intermittent basis is the Game mechanics app FourSquare .  When traveling, I can take pictures and keep track of where I am going and what I am doing.    My brother-in-law updates his during his travels, too, and I try to beat other peoples’ high scores.  A trip to the East Coast with my family gave me a great opportunity to beat my maximum points, and now my kids wait for me to check in on FourSquare.

MD> You are competitive!  I am getting a better picture of you and have an idea of how you might answer this next question:  How do you learn?

RVS> I learn through doing and interacting:  very experiential.  I empathize with people and kids in school who learn that way.  I am starting to use sproutsocial to manage all the social feeds.   I was recently on a one-hour webinar where they were presenting a demo of the product and I realized I just needed to start using it hands-on and playing around with it.

What I think is so exciting about LinkedIn is that you are trying to create a new experience within the sales process. On an individual basis, you are talking about something that people are already using and are familiar with.  That’s one of the things, in trying to get user adoption, is that you get this concept of “this is intuitive and they are already using it”, rather than having someone learn the nuances of another software program or system.  It certainly makes life a lot easier.

MD> As you know, we effectively use LinkedIn as our primary channel of doing sales. In fact, we were discussed in a case study in a recent edition of Harvard Business Review. Last time we chatted, you and I were discussing the drawbacks of cold-calling since we can now use social tools and learn more about our potential client and how to meet their needs.  That led to a conversation about using CRM programs. Can you tell me more about the connectivity of LinkedIn and CRM programs?

RVS > We provide connectivity with and Microsoft Dynamics.  You can integrate the two, right within your CRM, as you are working with a contact or opportunity with the account.  You see all the information we have available on LinkedIn about that individual within the context of the CRM record.  It really brings the two together and gives you a more unified view and message.

MD> PAKRA uses in which InsideView is a great value-added feature.  All of this innovation has made for a much neater sales process.

You recently were brought in to lead the Sales Solutions’ marketing initiative for LinkedIn, what information can you share about the Sales Solutions?

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