A gamified meeting

Over the last year I have been engaging more and more with gamification principles and concepts. A while ago I was introduced to the Gamification User Types, there are 6 user types that I am interested in:

  • Socialisers 
  • Free Spirits
  • Achievers 
  • Philanthropists 
  • Players 
  • Disruptors 

For more information on these user types from a gamification perspective please see Andrzej Marczewski’s blog on these user types here.

A collaborative session (be it a meeting, conference, workshop or something more), like any IT system requires an understanding of the users (participants or attendees), putting these user types into the context of this you have some interesting characteristics. Understanding the motivation and behaviours of each of your participants will give you incite into how you run the session and how you get the participation you require. This knowledge could even be used in the middle of the meeting to redirect inappropriate behaviour.

  • Socialisers participate to engage with friends and colleagues, they want to network and talk about common interests, these individuals are less likely to be interested in the business challenge at hand. They are also the individuals who are most likely to forward invites on to other socialisers and people of interest as this will make the session most interesting for them. They are most likely to attend a meeting if there are others of interest also attending.
  • Free Spirits  want to create, explore and discover newness, they want to get down to the new not discuss what they already know. They are most interested in talking about innovative or new concepts that push the limits of what is currently possible, asking the ‘what if?’ questions. These individuals want to explore, as such they want to be doing rather than being told, they are most likely to test concepts and ideas in detail.
  • Achievers want challenges to overcome, they want to learn and develop themselves. These individuals are more prone to boredom and will need challenging to ensure they remain engaged with the meeting. If a task is perceived to be too easy achievers will not want to perform the task, in some cases it is possible for achievers to create their own challenge and take the meeting off in a new, potentially beneficial direction.
  • Philanthropists are altruistic, they want to improve the system and help others achieve. These people are great to have at any meeting or collaborative session as they are always looking to achieve the common good. They are often the voice of reason when others are looking to help themselves.
  • Players Whilst philanthropists want the best outcome for everyone, players want the most reward for themselves. When it comes to the real world and physical meetings or workshops I personally believe that everyone has an element of player in their personality. Everyone asks the question ‘What’s in it for me?’ at some point in every conversation, they might not even be aware that they asked or even answered it.
  • Disruptors will push for change, these are your early adopters, your trend setters. These individuals can help make change happen but they will not always care whether the change is for better or worse. Disruptors are great individuals to have on board when you are looking to make any change stick within an organisation as these individuals will push for the change without being asked to.

In general people are not one or another type of user, they will be a mix of a number of different types that will change over time and dependent on the situation they find themselves in. If you consider all the user types you can ensure your session achieves the outcomes you have identified.

When you apply this understanding of the user types to this you begin to realise that you can get more from a participant group. The session needs to be designed in such a way that all user types are appropriately motivated at all times. This creates a set of questions that you can ask yourself when running through how any session will work from a participant point of view:

  • Socialisers – who will I work with? who don’t I know? who have I worked with already?
  • Free Spirits – what space do I have to explore the topic? what am I creating?
  • Achievers – how is this challenging for me? what makes this difficult?
  • Philanthropists – how will this help others? what is the collective benefit?
  • Players – what is in it for me? what rewards can i receive for this?
  • Disruptors – how will this be different? how does this change my work?

These user types have helped me think differently about my meetings and events, I hope they will help you too.


A spoonful of sugar…

Just a Spoonful of Sugar...

Just a Spoonful of Sugar…

…helps gamify the work.

The famous “spoonful of sugar” song is from the 1964 Disney movie adaptation of Mary Poppins and is a great example of everyday gamification of mundane and monotonous tasks. For those of you who have not had the opportunity to watch the movie, Mary Poppins is a rather special nanny for a pair of children. When the time comes to tidy the childrens’ play room Mary Poppins turns the chore into a game and starts to sing…

In ev’ry job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game

Having watched the movie again over this Christmas break I realised that for decades we have encouraged children to turn work into game, to find fun in the boring and to find interest in the repetative and yet it is only recently that we have started to explore how games can be used to improve our productivity.

So how do you make work fun and still productive? I believe the key to answering this question is in the title of this song and the opening 4 lines, in short the key is to find the sugar that helps to make the medicine more pleasant. Find the element of fun that already exists then exploit it rather than forcing something else into the equation and never forget that too much of a good thing becomes a curse.

How the NHS thinks about its customers

I recently had a short stay in the hospital to have my appendix removed, I am now feeling much better and have had some time to reflect on my stay. The National Health Service (NHS) has always had to balance providing a good service and providing an efficient one. During my time in hospital this balancing act was something that I often noticed, thinking back through my stay there were 3 key stages that I would like to share with you


From my work in the ASE I know that understanding what every customer wants and needs is crucial to providing a good service. To ensure that their experience is a positive one you need to understand the customer in as much detail as possible. I noticed that this was done in a couple of phases and a couple of overarching questions apply to each

1. Who is the customer? – When I arrived I handed the receptionist a note from my GP, other individuals in the room were given forms and a small group of people were asked the same questions directly.

2. Why are they here? – A junior doctor spoke to me to understand my current ailment that brought me to hospital, they asked questions and ran some physical tests to understand my condition in more detail. I was then seen by a more senior doctor to confirm the initial thinking and to identify the possible solutions to my symptoms.

This triage process provided the hospital with all the information they needed to identify the problem and the possible cure. This process is replicated in other companies and other scenarios across the globe and follows a simple pattern of information gathering, verification and reallocation of work. Whilst it would be nice for the senior doctor to be able to see each and every patient at the start of the process to talk through their name and address it is not an efficient us of their time. Especially when there might be another patient who requires that expertise more urgently.


Throughout my time in the hospital I moved between wards, the operating room and the recovery room and was looked after by a team of doctors, anaethetists, nurses and consultants. Every new person who I met, every time I was given drugs or moved to a different location I was asked to confirm my name and date of birth. In short I was asked to confirm who I was, they were tracking me through the hospital. This has the potential to become annoying after some time until you realise the scale of any hospital, the number of customers each individual in the hospital meets in a day or even an hour. I can imagine it would be too easy to confuse one patient with another and provide them with the wrong cure.

Any good customer service requires the ability to track its customers, to understand what has happened to them since they were last spoken to, to know what has changed and what is different and to know who you are talking with. What is recorded in that mechanism will depend on the service provided and the customers themselves.

Follow up…

Following my appendectomy I was asked to come back for a follow up appointment to review my progress and check on my condition. The importance of after care when it comes to customer exerience can not be over stated, it provides the opportunity to review the service given, understand else can be done and resolve any issues that may have arisen since the first visit. In NHS terms, if I hadn’t healed properly and didnt have the knowledge to realise then I would have to go through the whole process again without a follow up session.

Do you triage, track and follow up on your customers?

Taking a Holisitic Point of View

Over the last few years I have encountered a number of client problems where I have not managed to understand the complete context of the situation. With hindsight, I have discovered that this was because I was unable to break up the context into its component parts and in some cases I was unaware that those component parts existed in the first place. The Vantage Points model (copyright © MG Taylor Corporation 1980-2013), shown below has helped me to structure my conversations and ensure that I understand every problem, both in terms of current conditions and future vision from every vantage point.

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The model breaks up into 7 key components that, for me, help to construct an holistic picture of any given scenario be the current or possible future. I will share my thoughts about how each of these can help define a problem from bottom up or as I see them from core beliefs to activities:


…makes up the fundamental and core beliefs that unite the organisation or part of the organisation depending on the scope of your problem. These beliefs are not necesarily obvious and are very rarely articulated in any official documentation. This is one of the hardest components to fully understand when trying to understand any given problem as your own beliefs can often change the way you percieve other beliefs. Very few companies or individuals can clearly articulate the beliefs that drive them, even harder is to narrow down the beliefs that they actually have rather than those they want to have or want others to think they have.

You can see philosophy exist both strongly and weakly in organisations, the stronger the philosophy of the organisation the more it is seen in the other vantage points. Companies like Wikipedia, Apple and Google have very strong philosophies that has filtered all the way down into every day tasks such as greeting customers in a shop. Where the philosophy is weak in an organisation it is more likely that you will find individual pockets of belief that surround individuals or groups of individuals who view the world in their way.


…is often identified as the behaviours exhibited with the organisation. These behaviours are typically a direct physical manifestation of the philosophy or the beliefs within the organisation. There are a number of ways to understand the culture of an organisation, you could talk to those in the organisation to understand how they behave uner normal conditions and how they think people should behave or you could observe those in the organisation to see the behaviour. Questions will never give the full picture and the ‘Hawthorne effect’ has pointed out that observation changes the behaviour of the observed individuals so understanding the culture of any organisation difficult.

Cultural problems exist in an organisation when the behaviours exhibited by individuals do not help to achieve the desired vision or they actively hinder the vision from being achieved.


…states the rules of the game, it includes the purpose, the goals, the rules and the boundaries. Most organisations have many policies and usually many documents to define them. Policy will govern whether behaviours are appropriate, they will determine how the organisation operates. Some example policies include vision and mission statements to share purpose, HR, security and anti-corruption policies to share the rules and boundaries of the organisation. Unlike philosophy and culture the challenge with understanding policy is the quantity of information available and the possibility of conflicting information.


…is the organisation of resources to achieve the objectives stated by the policy, this usually includes an attempt to maintain growth and ensure sustainability. At a high level this is often represented as organisation diagrams showing business units and hierarchies. At a lower level of detail this can often be represented as delivery plans and roadmaps. A strategy that does not achieve the understood policy creates conflict and suggests that one or the other is wrong, this will also confuse anyone new to the system.


…is the efficient and effective use of available resources to achieve the desired goal. Strategies and tactics are often confused, tactics can be defined as a number of activities to acomplish the overall strategy. I have learnt that the important thing to think about when understanding an organisation’s tactics is how they connect to the defined strategy and policy. Where tactics and strategies conflict is usually where delivery challenges will arise as team members will not know what they are trying to achieve.


…concerns the distribution, management and storage of resources including but not limited to capabilities, knowledge, energy and individuals in the system. Understanding the flow of resources round an organisation will help to understand the context within which people are working in. For example, an individual starts in a company and it takes 5 weeks for him to receive the laptop he requires to do any work. This could make the individual believe that the company doesn’t care about its employees, which will affect his behaviours in the future which could mean that he performs his job below expectation.


…are defined as the jobs that needs to be done and how they are done, these are not the tactical activities but the jobs that make up those and other activities. These jobs may include typing documents, creating reports, attending meetings, talking with clients, developing software. The tasks individuals and teams complete on a day to day basis can be traced back through the previous vantage points to understand why those tasks are accomplished in the way they are.

This model has helped me to ensure that every problem I attempt to solve is solved holistically rather than ignoring fundamental compenents that can be easily overlooked. 5 of the above components are well understood in many organisations, it is with Philosophy and Culture that the least time is spent and yet they often contain some of the most powerful insights.

I discovered the Vantage Points model shortly after I started in the ASE and since then I have been on a voyage of discovery with it, every conversation I have with a client shows me a new aspect of the model, a nuance I hadn’t seen before. I hope you find this model as useful as I have, if you would like to read more about the etymology behind the model please click on the image above to go to the MG Taylor website

“If I had an hour to solve a problem…

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Albert Einstein

To successfully solve any problem, the most important thing to do is understand the problem in its entirety. 

The rate of change in society today is exceptionally quick and it is accelerating at an exponential rate. This acceleration is putting a pressure on organisations and individuals to make decisions before fully understanding the context.

For example… someone tells you “I have a problem…I can’t read road signs” at this point there are a number of possible problems depending on the context. They might not be able to read, they might be short sighted and be wearing the wrong glasses or not have any glasses at all, they might have a multitude of other problems. Without exploring the context of the problem any solution you put in place could be more detrimental than helpful.

Any problem can be defined by understanding both the current conditions and the desired vision. It is important to remember that the problem is the gap between these conditions and the vision not the conditions themselves. I encounter this every day in the ASE, what are seen at first as problems are often only the symptoms and conditions of real problems and the first step is to understand it.

Have you ever been in a situation like this, where a problem has been ignored while the symptoms are treated?