Tag Archives: #improvement

Gameful Project Management versus Serious Games

Reading time: 4 minutes

Acronyms and definitions: GPM = Gameful Project Management, SG = Self-Gamification; GPM is the application of SG to project management.

In the last post, we have discovered that Gameful Project Management (GPM), in other words, a gameful approach to project management, is not the same as project management gamification.

So, if it is not gamification, could the GPM or its outcome be a serious game or a collection of serious games?

After some research and contemplation, I realized that that wasn’t it either.

Here’s why.

Serious games are “full games that have been created for reasons other than pure entertainment.” — Andrzej Marczewski, Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play: Unicorn Edition

In spite of being called “serious,” these games can be very much fun for their players. My son and his classmates love playing grammar and math games at school, which are a combination of learning grammar, math, and other subjects with a ball game or another fun sport activity.

On a more “serious” note, serious games are also used to bring awareness into the intricacy of such issues as patient care, vaccination, and many other for medical personnel*, as well as many other areas.**
So similarly to gamification, serious games also have the purpose of achieving a specific goal, which is often to educate but not exclusively so. For example, “Genes in Space,”*** is “a space shooter game that uses gameplay to map genomes to help the fight against cancer in the real world!” — Andrzej Marczewski, Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play: Unicorn Edition

Here is a quote showing the common side of gamification and serious games:

“Serious games and gamification have in common that they both use game design and game elements (Marczewski, 2013) and they both serve a business purpose: increasing employee of customer engagement, improving the learning curve in education…The main difference between gamification and serious games is that gamification is not using gameplay where serious games do. Some of the most well-known examples of serious games are Plantville from Siemens (a serious game focused on educating plant management) and “Pass It On” from AXA Insurance (a serious game focused on personal financial planning) (Marczewski, 2013; AXA, 2011).”****

In contrast to that, the goal of the GPM is not aiming to increase productivity or motivation or engagement, to educate or facilitate learning. All these are the are byproducts of the GPM but not its goals.

The goal of GPM is to turn any project as well as the management part of it into fun, engaging games, of which you are both the designer and the player. GPM assumes that you are open to the possibility to see projects and project management tasks (regardless of whether you claim to like them or not) as games. When you see what you do like games and each of its components as a game component, then you quickly realize how to modify those components so that your projects and project management “games” entice the players, in other words, all involved in these projects.

The outcome of the GPM could be a serious game or a gamified solution, but it doesn’t’ have to be that way. The main outcome of GPM is the ability to see what you do as a game and approach it both as a designer and the player of it. In other words, it is about taking ownership of how these projects and project management games turn out to be, especially how fun and engaging they are for you and all involved, as players.

Thus, serious games are “created for reasons other than pure entertainment,” even though their players can be entertained and have fun while playing them. On the other hand, the Gameful Project Management can guide you to make your projects and project management processes entertaining and fun, regardless of whether you initially preferred doing them or not.

P.S. We will discuss the necessity of fun for your project and project management success in a later post.


* Focus Games in the UK create board games for these and other areas. Their page has a great collection of case studies for the serious games they develop: https://focusgames.com/case_studies.html

** There are many successful companies creating serious games for various requirements. Many of them are also situated in Denmark (the country I live in). Here are just two of these: https://www.seriousgames.net/, http://cphgamelab.dk/en/vores-spil/

*** https://www.genesinspace.org/

**** https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/gamification-project-management-5949; The references quoted in the article:

  • Marczewski, A. (2013, March). What’s the difference between Gamification and Serious Games? Retrieved on 29/08/2013 at http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/AndrzejMarczewski/20130311/188218/
  • AXA. (2011). Company debuts the game of life…insurance. Press Release 13/09/2011.
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.

GPM: Achieving Improvement Without Forcing It

Reading time: 4 minutes
Abbreviation: GPM = Gameful Project Management

Recently when I shared my project on Gameful Project Management and its non-judgmental core, the person I told about it asked me what I thought about change management. After a few minutes more into the conversation, I understood that with “change,” she meant improvement. So what she asked about was how to adjust project management to achieve improvement.

Why is the word “improvement” tricky?

I hear the question about improving what we do or even ourselves a lot recently. Even kaizen, which is one of the techniques I practice every day, and which is part of the Self-Gamification approach, translates as “continuous improvement.”

However, this expression can be understood as if improvement was a goal of kaizen. But I experienced that it should not be a goal. If it is a goal, then I label the way I am now — or the status of my projects — as not good enough. However, labeling something as bad or not good enough is not only stressful and confusing, but it is also counter-productive and not meaningful.

What is the best way to improve something?

As it turns out, the best way we can improve anything, including ourselves, is to stop trying to improve it.

That is what Gameful Project Management can do for you. It enables you to achieve improvement without forcing it.

When you approach each of your projects, as well as the project management project itself, as if they were fun games — of which you are both the designer and the player — then each moment of your work (and your life) will feel like the best you had so far. And then, the next will be even better. Improvement will become an effortlessly reachable by-product; not a forced and hardly reachable goal.

The anthropological foundation of the Gameful Project Management

As we discussed in the previous blog post, Gameful Project Management is based on Self-Gamification approach, which relies on the synergy of anthropology (= awareness and non-judgmental seeing), kaizen (= breaking everything into small, digestible, and doable bits), and gamification (= bringing fun game elements into what we do).
And the foundation of it all is anthropological, that is non-judgmental seeing of any of your projects and the status in them.

Today, anthropologists apply an approach they call “cultural relativism, an approach that rejects making moral judgments about different kinds of humanity and simply examines each relative to its own unique origins and history.”*

This approach is one of the foundations of anthropology, and it “is the comparative approach, in which cultures aren’t compared to one another in terms of which is better than the other but rather in an attempt to understand how and why they differ as well as share commonalities.”*

What to look at while applying anthropology

So, next time you think of improving something, or even improving yourself, stop, and look at everything in front of you non-judgmentally. Look at and become aware of:

  • Where you are in the project and in general.
  • What your circumstances and those in the project(s) are.
  • What you have at your disposal right now at this moment.
  • Where you want to go with your project(s) — that is what are your goals in the project.
  • Where the customers of your project want you to head with it.
  • Where the step you just took directs you — it might be away from the set goals, but don’t judge what you see.
  • What the various ways are, with which your brain judges the situation you and your projects are in, and also how you judge judgment and complaint, both yours and that from others.
  • What is the best next step to take toward your goal — criteria for such a step are: it should be small and effortless to take, and it should be fun.
  • How you can appreciate each small step you take. Remember, it is not about keeping a strict account (Note: a topic for another post). It is about appreciation, awareness, and having fun.
  • Other that might have come to your mind as you read this list.

Do all that non-judgmentally, in other words, without labeling something as good or bad and without dramatizing it, but simply iterating from one step to another, discovering the fun in every step of the way, as you usually do in games.

Yes, this is also possible in project management.


* Cameron M. Smith, Anthropology For Dummies

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 resources I offer on Self-Gamification.