Tag Archives: #fun

Why Turning Project Management Into Games?

Reading time: 7 minutes

Let’s look at the reasons why it makes sense to turn project management, among everything else, into fun games.

The order below feels right to me right now (note: it’s not hierarchical), but you are free to read these reasons in the order that feels most appropriate for you. Each paragraph is a reason for itself. I numbered these reasons for your convenience.

Please note that this list is not exhaustive. Use the space at the end of the chapter to add your possible reasons why Gameful Project Management makes sense.

  1. Projects are building blocks of our lives. Most of our days have to do with projects, either work or on a personal level. So if we want to make our lives more joyful, then approaching the building blocks of our lives needs to be joyful too.
  2. Drama falls away in games. If we look at what we want or have to do as a game, then the stakes are not that high, are they? It’s just a game, isn’t it?
  3. We are less reluctant to start playing a game than say yes to a real-life project.
  4. We are less critical to ourselves in games. In games, we don’t dwell on bumping a car into a wall if we want to continue playing that game. Instead, we notice what happened, rear back, turn the car around if necessary, and carry on. We can do the same in our real-life “games” (including projects and project management activities).
  5. We are less afraid to fail in games. In fact, failures in games often are not considered as failures but steps to the win. That is true, especially for game design. All the discarded game designs are rarely regarded as failures. They are scarcely analyzed for why they “failed” at all. They are just the natural steps to that successful game design.
  6. When you see and treat whatever you are up to as a game, then you can better deal with fear and anxiety. Self-Gamification and its three components can help you to address and bypass fear and anxiety, which are as present in project management as they are in any other activity, in which we want to succeed. The more we want to succeed, the bigger the fear, both failing and succeeding, as well as what people might say in either of these two scenarios. But if what we do is just a game, then the fear diminishes considerably, and we are more willing to try again or try something new.
  7. And in games, you don’t stay upset for too long. If you do, then you stop playing the game. To continue playing, you need to put your upset aside and focus your attention on the next move in the game. Or to another game. Imagine how much easier real-life projects can become if you proceed with them in the same way. In real-life projects, you can do the same: acknowledge the upset and move on.
  8. When you don’t spend so much time on upsets and complaints as you did previously, then you save an enormous amount of time. I observed this consistently in many projects, which I turned into games. What happens then is that the projects or tasks are completed with much less effort than anticipated and often before the deadline (or at least on time). So you save also money in the process. And because of the great atmosphere in the project, and better results than expected, you might even get referrals, not only from your customer but also from your customer’s customers — all as the result of awareness, small steps, and gamefulness.
  9. When we see and treat our projects like games, which we both design and play, then we can stop seeing the challenges the project poses as hardship, but instead something to be addressed with curiosity and creativity.
  10. You might even become curious about something you resented before. You might observe yourself to be eager to start your work on that project now, just like you couldn’t wait to try out a new (or old but newly rediscovered) toy or a game when you were younger.
  11. It seems to us to be much easier to be present and give our best so in games. We don’t try to get done with the game if we enjoy it. And if we don’t have fun playing it, we either leave it for another game (or something else) or modify the design so that we enjoy it.
  12. As a game designer, you feel in control; you can be that in project management too. Because as a game designer of your projects and project management games, you can adjust one or both of the following: the way you approach them and the way you record the progress.
  13. Game designers are utterly resourceful. And you can be that too, in an instant, if you become aware that you are both the designer (or co-designer) and player (co-player) of your project games. If you consider anything you do as a game, of which you are the designer and the player, then you immediately become resourceful on how to adjust the flow of your work so that it becomes fun for you and all involved. With gameful practice, resourcefulness becomes effortless and extremely fun.
  14. Empathy is more natural in games, and we judge our partners in games less than partners and customers in projects.
  15. Turning your life into games allows you to treat yourself as your best (customer) player and at the same time, your favorite game designer, to whom you gladly give your feedback to make your favorite games even better. And when you treat yourself like that, you also treat others with kindness more consistently. The result of that might astound you, but it will not be surprising because people tend to mirror our behavior toward them.
  16. In games, we don’t resent recording or documenting our progress; in fact, we love it because, with each move of our figurine on a leaderboard, we get closer to winning the game. If you despise writing reports or creating and updating checklists, project (or business) plans, road-maps, and others, then seeing them as your project game feedback system can help. And then modifying these in a fun and creative way will help you put your resentment aside with almost no effort.
  17. Gameful Project Management enables low-budget, effortless, enlightening, and fun optimization of all facets of your project management. You might frown at this sentence, but this is precisely how the management of your projects and your time can become when you turn them into exciting games and treat yourself as if you were both the designer and the player of your project management games.
  18. Turning project management into games will not require you to buy a new software system or hire new personnel. Instead, you can concentrate on how you can improve your project management activities with what you already have at your disposal and with little additional effort. With a self-gamified attitude toward project management, you will become aware of what you need for your work (and even life in general) and make conscious decisions on what to do next. You will also acquire skills of gameful resourcefulness and motivation in any of the situations, including tight deadlines when increased motivation is hard to achieve but often needed.
  19. Games and game design are an endless well for creative solutions for project management. “The design and production of games involves aspects of cognitive psychology, computer science, environmental design, and storytelling, just to name a few. To really understand what games are, you need to see them from all these points of view.” — Will Wright in the foreword to Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster. So why not tapping into such a multidimensional and fun discipline for inspiration?
  20. Since games are fun and contain elements that contribute to our happiness, why not approaching all our projects and activities in such a way that they become fun, engaging, and entertaining for us in the same way the games do? If we use fun as the goal, compass, and measuring tool in our projects along with awareness and progressing in small steps, then quality, excellence, success, improvement, productivity, efficiency, and all the other criteria of a successful project and business will come naturally as by-products.
  21. Any project is already a game; we just might not always see them that way.
If you want to learn more:

Sign up to Optimist Writer’s Blog to follow the Gameful Project Management series.

Check out my coaching and consulting services to work directly with me.

Take a look into my book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula.

Go to this link for the list of all the resources I offer on Self-Gamification.

Self-Gamification News by Optimist Writer

I have some exciting news to share.

First of all, the Self-Gamification Happiness Formula, which I published in June of this year in e-book and paperback formats, is now also available as an audiobook.

The other news is that I finished writing the Gameful Project Management manuscript and sent it to my editor. In the coming few weeks, I will post some of the chapters, which I haven’t published as blog posts yet.

To celebrate both great news and because of the holiday season, I reduced the price for the e-books on Self-Gamification as follows:

The prices will go back to normal after the holiday season, so please make sure you let your friends and colleagues know so that they can profit from these books too.

 

Voluntary Participation in Gameful Project Management

Reading time: 6 minutes

“Finally, voluntary participation requires that everyone who is playing the game knowingly and willingly accepts the goal, the rules, and the feedback. Knowingness establishes common ground for multiple people to play together. And the freedom to enter or leave a game at will ensures that intentionally stressful and challenging work is experienced as safe and pleasurable activity.” — Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

Voluntary participation is the most important ingredient in the success of any project and any game. Successful exit from a game that is not rewarding or a project that goes in the “wrong direction” can be meaningful too. (See also the quote on the fun by Ariel and Shya Kane in “Fun is Not a Bonus; It’s a Must for Success.”) Also, when you might decide to return to it later. All are the parts of your path unfolding in front of you toward known or yet unknown goals. That is why I have put the definition of this game component at the beginning of this post and not at the end s for the other three elements of games (and projects). See also “Approaching the Goals Anthropologically,” “Embracing the Rules,” and “At Least Four.”

As you see in the definition above, voluntary participation is closely connected to goals, rules, and the way the feedback system is designed. So, if you see these three components as part of your game and do everything as a designer and player to keep them fun and efficient, then voluntary participation in your projects will become effortless.

In self-gamification, voluntary participation is (at least) three-fold. It includes the will:

  • to see your projects as games,
  • to design and never stop developing these games (that includes the will to learn from other game and gamification designers; also those who practice self-gamification and approach among other project management gamefully), and
  • to play, in other words, actively engage in your self-motivational, that is, your project and project management games.

These three components of voluntary participation are essential for you to keep turning your projects (and life) into games if you wish to do so.
But there is also another, fourth dimension to voluntary participation in Self-Gamification and Gameful Project Management. I mentioned it above. “The freedom to enter and leave the game at will” is present in real-life projects too. It might not be as straightforward as it is in games, but each contract contains a clause of when a project is canceled.

Apart from that, you don’t have to close a project altogether to be able to “leave” it for some time. All of us have many projects we take care of. We go from one to another and later back to the first one. It is not very different from playing one game, leaving it for another (or something other than a game), and later coming back.

Moreover, if you stop recording points in your project’s feedback system (especially the additional one for fun, with points, badges, stars, or gems), then that is not a problem at all because it doesn’t mean a loss of something, or that your projects (or life) will take a turn for the worse.

After turning my writing into a game for the first time, I forgot about it but still felt its positive effects. I suspect that I turned bits of my writing process into a game without recording the points. After all, I did have a feedback system in the form of word count, and chapters reviewed and edited.

Equally for you, if you stop recording points, it doesn’t have to mean you will lose the fun you experienced in the projects. Even today, in some of my trickier projects, I use a simple feedback system (usually a scrap of paper) to get my work flowing, and as soon as it does, I stop recording the points and just enjoy the work on the project.

So don’t judge yourself if you notice that you aren’t following the plans for your games to the letter. You still have all four components of voluntary participation if you actively engage in what you are doing and have fun.

But if you notice yourself resisting and being “thrown out” of your game, then you can use the self-gamification tools in your always-available toolset to address the fear, resentment, anger, or anything else that hinders you in your project games, boldly, honestly, and kindly.

There is a clear benefit to turning our lives into games, which is also the reason I keep playing. The resisting thoughts and urge to procrastinate (including things we think we really want to do) will never stop appearing and becoming more sophisticated. That is probably why project management exists as an ever-evolving discipline.

These resisting thoughts might occur more rarely as we discover the fun in whatever we do, but there will always be a moment when our creative minds come up with some fretting ideas. In this case, Self-Gamification, and thus also Gameful Project Management, can help you turn the projects you fret about into Self-Motivational Games, in other words, real-life projects or activities that you love to engage in, both the design and the playing of.

When I got the feedback from friends who applied Self-Gamification, I realized something. Not only do Self-Motivational Games require voluntary participation for them to exist both in design and play, but playing them facilitates voluntary participation in our lives’ projects. It’s an utterly rewarding chicken or the egg causality dilemma, which helps us to experience the work on our projects as a “safe and pleasurable activity.” (See the quote by Jane McGonigal at the beginning of this post above.)

Here is where the synergy of anthropology, kaizen, and gamification embraced by Self-Gamification and Gameful Project Management (see “The Synergy of Three”) comes full circle.

So for your project management games to be successful, you must be willing to see what you do as games, design them, their rules, test the games, play them, follow the rules you have outlined, and through it all, be willing to have fun.

Please note, I don’t mean that you should expect to have fun. It is easy to take suggestions from others and test out whether they are fun for us, with the intention of proving it one way or the other. But what makes a game or any activity enjoyable is first and foremost, the willingness to have fun.

That is the fifth and the most important feature of the voluntary participation in Self-Gamification and Gameful Project management. The will to have fun.

P.S. If you haven’t yet, I recommend that you also read “Fun is Not a Bonus; It’s a Must for Success.”

If you want to learn more:

Sign up to Optimist Writer’s Blog to follow the Gameful Project Management series.

Check out my coaching and consulting services to work directly with me.

Take a look into my book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula.

Go to this link for the list of all the resources I offer on Self-Gamification.

Fun is Not a Bonus; It’s a Must for Success

Reading time: 5 minutes

We all grew up in cultures that taught us to be serious about life and what we wanted to achieve in it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t survive either literally or figuratively, or both.

If we wanted to achieve anything in life, we had to work hard. And to underline this seriousness and determination, we learned to complain and surround whatever we wanted or had to do with drama.

Somehow, the opinion of having fun being in the way of achieving anything in life seemed to have established as being true in many human minds.

But interestingly enough, the opposite is the fact. And thanks to globalization and due to the internet growing connectedness on our planet, we have become more and more aware of the fact that having fun is not impeding success, but instead leading to it.

That is easier to see in the entertainment industry. When talking about fun, I love quoting Heidi Klum, a German-American supermodel and television personality, and one of the four judges on America’s Got Talent (AGT) between 2013 and early 2019.

After the results show of the AGT 2017 finals, a reporter asked Heidi what advice she would give to the winner, Darcy Lynn, a twelve-year-old ventriloquist. Without hesitating, Heidi answered, “Always to have fun. If you don’t have fun, it shows in your performance. That is always the key number one.”

But also in other areas, including the most technical and business ones, the experience of fun sets you on the path toward success.

“Fun is an extraordinarily valuable tool to address serious business pursuits like marketing, productivity enhancement, innovation, customer engagement, human resources, and sustainability.” — Kevin Werbach, For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business

Here is another quote about fun, which is one of my favorite quotes by my favorite authors on living in the moment, Ariel and Shya Kane: “We have come to realize if we are not having fun, we are moving in the wrong direction.”*

But how to find this “correct” direction. What is fun anyway?

Fun is a complex term made up of just three letters.

What is fun for us might not be fun for someone else. What we find fun is not only subjective to various persons but even to the same person in different circumstances. We might enjoy playing a game one day and not so much on another.

But there is a great thing about fun. However difficult it is to define it with words (I counted, for example, more than ten various definitions of fun in just a few chapters of the acclaimed book Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster**), we all know what it feels like for us.

Fun can show in different ways. One time while we have fun and enjoy something we laugh, and other times fully engulfed into a video game we play or fantasy novel we read, we frown and appear quite tensed from the outside. But we will still have fun!

There is another excellent feature of fun. You can discover it anywhere and in anything. Even in those activities, you claim as not being fun initially.

We can either discover fun when we give that project or activity a chance and approach it with curiosity and without prejudice (open to recognizing the fun factors in there), or we can bring fun elements into this project deliberately. Or better both.

How can we do this?

Curiosity and passion can help us here. I call them to be the other two siblings of fun in this inspirational triplet, one preceding and another succeeding the birth of fun at each moment. This triplet helped us, humans, to choose and pave earlier unfathomable paths. See References and Notes to read one of my favorite stories on how curiosity leads to passion and fantastic success.***

Fun also lead me to unexpected initially but utterly rewarding places. I wouldn’t have become an author if I hadn’t let myself “taste” the writing out of curiosity and let myself follow what felt healing, rewarding, rejuvenating, but most of all, fun for me. I tried various art forms in my life, including singing, playing guitar, painting, making jewelry, and decorations. But it was writing that turned out to be the best to express myself.

Through all that experience, I discovered that fun equaled wholehearted and rewarding engagement. And that is what defines successful projects and those involved in them. The latter are wholeheartedly engaged and experience this engagement as utterly satisfying.

References and Notes:

* https://www.transformationmadeeasy.com/

** Here are just five of the shortest ones:

  • “Fun is light, energetic, playful and…well…fun.” — Will Wright in the foreword
  • “Fun is all about our brains feeling good — the release of endorphins into our system.”
  • “Fun is the act of mastering a problem mentally.”
  • “Fun is contextual.”
  • “Fun is another word for learning.” — Raph Koster, Theory of Fun for Game Design

*** “I was in the cafeteria and some guy, fooling around, throws a plate in the air. As the plate went up in the air I saw it wobble, and I noticed the red medallion of Cornell on the plate going around. It was pretty obvious to me that the medallion went around faster than the wobbling. I had nothing to do, so I start figuring out the motion of the rotating plate. I discovered that when the angle is very slight, the medallion rotates twice as fast as the wobble rate—two to one. It came out of a complicated equation! I went on to work out equations for wobbles. Then I thought about how the electron orbits start to move in relativity. Then there’s the Dirac equation in electrodynamics. And then quantum electrodynamics. And before I knew it… the whole business that I got the Nobel prize for came from that piddling around with the wobbling plate.” — Richard P. Feynman, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! Adventures of a Curious Character

If you want to learn more:

Sign up to Optimist Writer’s Blog to follow the Gameful Project Management series.

Check out my coaching and consulting services to work directly with me.

Take a look into my book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula.

Go to this link for the list of all the resources I offer on Self-Gamification.

Gameful Project Management Versus Project Management Gamification

Reading time: 5 minutes

When I first embarked on the adventure with Gameful Project Management, I couldn’t find many resources on approaching project management gamefully. I was searching for the following combination of words “gameful project management.” (See “Gameful Project Management: A New Blog Series Now, and Later More”.)

A bit later, still not believing there was nothing on it when there were so many gamified software solutions for project management out there, I searched for the combination of words “project management gamification.” And sure enough, there were many articles, at least one master thesis, and various books addressing the topic of project management and gamification one way or another.

I started reading eagerly, determined to learn from, and quote as many of the sources as possible.

But the more I read, the more I felt I was moving in the “wrong” direction. A quote by the award-winning authors Ariel and Shya Kane, whom I mentioned in the post “GPM and the Synergy of Three,” came to mind. They once said, “We have come to realize if we are not having fun, we are moving in the wrong direction.”

So I wondered, why reading about gamification and project management didn’t seem exciting and fun for me, even if I was very interested in the topic? Was I maybe mistaken thinking that Gameful Project Management and project management gamification were the same thing?

As I continued to read and learn, trying to approach the learning process anthropologically, in other words, non-judgmentally, I came across a gamification definition that gave me a key to my puzzle.
Here is this definition:

Gamification “is simply applying the techniques used in games in non-gaming contexts, in order to increase the involvement in the activities.”*

The addition in for of the words “in order to increase the involvement in the activities” to the classical definition of gamification** opened my eyes to the difference between gamification and a gameful approach to project management.

Here it is. Gamification has as its purpose of using game elements to improve one or more parameters in an organizational unit, wherever or whatever it might be.

However, the wish to change or manipulate something into changing, like to improve something, would be an impediment to turning your projects and project management into fun for you and all involved games. Because you won’t be simply playing a game. You will be too “stressed out” trying to achieve your goal. No game elements will make such an activity fun. (We addressed improvement in “GPM: Achieving Improvement Without Forcing It”).

When you choose to play a “traditional” game (those you want to play to have fun), you rarely try to improve your current situation or reach a certain outcome in any of your projects or your life.
You just play the game and enjoy it.

It is true that by choosing to play a fun game, you might be looking for improving your mood, but not in order to manipulate the status of your projects (or your life) in any way.

And as soon as you play the game, or start learning its description, your attention will shift from wanting to improve your mood to the goal and the rules of the game in front of you.

Thus, Gameful Project Management is the same as the gamification process of project management. It is not about distracting you from work either, although once in a while, having a healthy break could be beneficial.

It is about cultivating an ability to see what you do in your project and project management as a fun game (we will address this later in more detail). You both design AND play this game. So, Gameful Project Management is about giving you tools for supporting yourself in your work and bringing fun factor into your projects without trying to manipulate its outcome.

I am wondering whether this approach might be the solution for the current challenges the gamification solution designers face when they try to sell their products and services to their customers. Their customers and in some cases, the solution designers themselves too, don’t see their work and their projects as games. But this ability can help us all put the drama we tend to create about projects aside and instead find inspiration in games and bring their lightness, fun, and joy factors in whatever we do.

I know from experience that it is possible and easily achievable.

Here is how. Both providers of gamified solutions and customers, need to study themselves and each other, as well as their interactions anthropologically, that is non-judgmentally and with utter interest. And along with that, play games of designing and playing their project (and project management) games while using (and considering) the gamified solutions like exciting game gadgets and feedback systems, which they are.

P.S. Gameful Project Management doesn’t result in Serious Games either. I will address this topic in the next post.

References:

* https://twproject.com/blog/project-management-gamification-using-games-project-management/

** Gamification is “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts” — Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., & Nacke, L. (2011). From game design elements to gamefulness: defining gamification. In Proceedings of the 15th international academic MindTrek conference: Envisioning future media environments (pp. 9-15). ACM.

If you want to learn more:

Sign up to Optimist Writer’s Blog to follow the Gameful Project Management series.

Check out my coaching and consulting services to work directly with me.

Take a look into my book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula.

Go to this link for the list of all the resources I offer on Self-Gamification.