Tag Archives: #selfgamification

Designers and Players: The Main Feature of the Gameful Project Management

Reading time: 4 minutes

Acronyms: GPM = Gameful Project Management; SMG = Self-Motivational Game.

Of all four main components of games*, Self-Gamification emphasizes voluntary participation, which seems to me to be sometimes forgotten in gamified solutions and when serious games are developed. (We will consider the game components and their counterparts in real-life projects in a later post.)

When I was exploring and formulating the Self-Gamification approach in the book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula: How to Turn Your Life into Fun Games, I discovered that the main feature of turning anything in our lives into fun games is the following:

We are both the designers AND the players of our Self-Motivational Games (SMG).

Before reading this blog series or the book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula, you might have heard this statement as two separate ones:

  • “Be the designer of your life,” and
  • “Here is how you play the game called life.”

But I discovered that you couldn’t separate the two. We are both the designers AND the players of our daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and so on games, be it at work, at home, or anywhere else.

That is especially true for project management.

Many brilliant resources on project management emphasize that successful project managers start with managing themselves**.
But how can we do it, I mean turn project management into games?
We can, for example, learn from other players and designers of self-motivational project management games.

Many gamers and skill learners nowadays learn from videos on YouTube and other media, watching how their fellow players play the games (or instruments) they love and succeed playing.

But designers learn that way too. They play other people’s games in the genre they are interested in and eagerly study and absorb each detail for inspiration.

Writers do that too. They learn from their peers and idols by reading books in the genres they write.

The project management game designers have even a better situation. They can learn not only from other project managers in their or different niches, but they can also learn from the game and play (toy) designers. They can absorb almost everything around them like a sponge, wringing out what doesn’t apply and keeping the fun for them bits to implement in their projects and work.

Above learning from others, the following question to yourself and your team (since project management includes team management***) can help to jump-start undoing even the tightest knots in your projects:

  • For yourself: “If my project was a game, and I was its designer (which I am!), how would I approach it so that I, as its player, can’t wait to start playing (engaging in it) and enjoy doing so when I do?”
  • For you and your team members: “If our project was a game, and we were its designers (which we are!), how would we approach it, so that we as its players can’t wait to start playing (engaging in it) and enjoy doing so when we do?”

When you ask yourself and your team this question, remember that no idea that appears is wrong. The main criterium to find out it is appropriate for you and your team is how fun it is.

In the next blog post, I will address the significance of fun for project management.

References:

* “What defines a game are the goal, the rules, the feedback system, and voluntary participation. Everything else is an effort to reinforce and enhance these four core components.” — Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

** “It is a project manager’s job to organise everyone else, and you will be much more efficient at doing that if you can keep on top of your own activities. If you are clear about what you have to do next it will make it easier for you to organise other people and the work of your team.” — Elizabeth Harrin, Managing Yourself: Shortcuts to success

*** “Project management is no longer just about managing a process. It’s also about leading people—twenty-first-century people. This is a significant paradigm shift.” — Kory Kogon, Suzette Blakemore, James Wood, Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager

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 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.

References:

* 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.

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.

Gameful Project Management and Its Focus on Success instead of Failures

Reading time: 6 minutes

As I learn more and more about project management, I am struck how seriously most of the sources sound, especially in their introductions. Most of them display statistics of failures and analyze why projects fail.
After turning many projects and activities — including the project management — into games for several years now, I’ve come to adopt gameful thinking more and more.

This kind of thinking lets you put the drama, the seriousness about what you have to do aside, and instead concentrate on excellence and success.

For example, if in a video game, you have a “hard” time managing a level, you do one of the following. You ask a fellow gamer to show you how she or he managed that level. Or you look up a video of that game and level online and watch what others do to finish it.

Then you have an epiphany, “Ah, you (he/she) went to the right side of that pit, and I was going all the time to the left! That is why that monster ate me, and you (he/she) finished this level!”

In real-life projects, when something doesn’t work, we search for the reasons (persons or circumstances) we think are guilty of what we believe happened. And we contemplate all that before we even think of asking others who succeed in similar situations.

In games (including sports) learning through techniques is very similar to cultural relativism practiced in modern anthropology, which I addressed in the post “GPM: Achieving Improvement Without Forcing It.”

In sports where you (or your team) perform at the same time as your competitors, such as football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, tennis, badminton, and other such a technique is simply achieved, especially if you record the game. That is because you can watch the recording and observe what the other team did to win the ball from you at any particular moment and how it differs from what you did

To achieve this in real-life projects might seem more challenging because you might perceive yourself (or your team) being alone with your task. That is because what others do in a similar situation might not be immediately visible or “recordable.”

Here is why a gameful approach to what you do is so helpful.
If you come to a habit of considering it as if it was a game, for example, a video game, of which you are both the designer and player, then you won’t be stuck in the complaint and despair for long.

Instead, you will think something similar to this, “I wonder what others do in such a situation (level) of my project (game)?”
Game designers often tap into anthropological (= non-judgmentally comparative) techniques, as well as positive psychology, which concentrates on studying success.

Many of the books on game design study success stories. They rarely start with failures. I think that is because they didn’t consider the discarded game designs as failures but simply as steps on the path to the successful ones.

However, many of the project management and business resources and even popular social events, such as “F*ck-Up Nights”* start or focus on illustrating failures and their analysis.

The idea behind these is surely very well-meant. The authors and organizers of these try to help those having hard times to see that they are not alone and also to try to show the possibility of how to get out of a problematic “failed” situation.

However, I can’t escape the feeling that the illustration of and emphasis on failures or what we perceive as failure is as effective or as meaningful as to analyze in the previous video game scenario the reasons why you kept going to the left side of that pit until now instead of choosing to go to the right.

Making a choice is as mysterious a process as that of inspiration**. Every one of our choices can be supported by countless reasons, and it can also be supported by countless reasons why we shouldn’t have made it, even if we might not see many or any of these pro- and contra- reasons from the first sight.

Trying to hunt these down and prove them being right or wrong is not helpful in any way. You wouldn’t try that in a game, or at least not for long. So why do we keep doing it in real life?

Do we do it because proving our point of view to be right is a fun and rewarding process? I’m not so sure. Is it because we fear to be either criticized or supported and then discredited afterward for what we do? That is more like it.

But there are also real-life examples showing that studying success instead of failures can not only be empowering but life-saving too.
One of the self-gamification components is kaizen, the philosophy and technique of breaking any challenge, any path to goals into tiny, easily doable and digestible bits.

My favorite writer on the topic of kaizen is Dr. Robert Maurer, Director of Behavioral Sciences for the Family Practice Residency Program at Santa Monica, UCLA Medical Center and a faculty member at the UCLA School of Medicine***. One of the reasons why I enjoy reading his books is his interest in studying success. The title of his website says it all. He called it the “Science of Excellence.”***

In his acclaimed book Mastering Fear: Harnessing Emotion to Achieve Excellence in Work, Health and Relationships, Robert Maurer shared a story a book that inspired him to devote his career to the psychology of success. In that, he learned about how such deadly diseases such as smallpox, malaria, and yellow fever were cured.

He wrote, “Prior to my visit to the library that day, I had assumed, as perhaps you do, that the way we remedy disease is by studying people who are ill and, from there, brilliant researchers in top-notch laboratories develop the miracle drugs needed for a cure. This is not, however, how the majority of these horrible maladies were tamed.”
He further reveals that the clue that helped save many lives was not in studying those who were ill, but in “studying those who have stayed healthy in the presence of grave illness and discovering what was different about them.”

This discovery inspired Robert Maurer “to believe that more significant breakthroughs could be made not by observing those courageously struggling, but by looking at those who were succeeding and discovering what they were doing differently.” — Robert Maurer, Mastering Fear: Harnessing Emotion to Achieve Excellence in Work, Health and Relationships

And since then he could find many confirmations on that.

Gameful Project Management embracing anthropology, kaizen and gamification (see post 2) will help you stop struggling, and instead cultivate gameful thinking and anthropological studying as well as applying of success for yourself, those around you, be it at work or at home, and regardless the project you take on.

References:

* https://fuckupnights.com/

** “Inspiration is a feeling of enthusiasm you get from someone or something, which gives you new and creative ideas.” — https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/inspiration

*** http://www.scienceofexcellence.com/

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: Qualifications

Reading time: 5 minutes

When we teach something, we often contemplate and report about our experience with the subject at hand.

I might be the first person to use and define the terms “Gameful Project Management,” “Self-Gamification,” and “Self-Motivational Games.” But this is not the sole reason why I think I am qualified to talk about turning project management (or anything else) into fun games.
Let’s consider my experience with game-related topics and project management, one after another.

Why am I qualified to teach turning anything into games?

My “serious” interest to games, game design, and gamification started only a couple of years ago.

The first time I turned anything consciously into a game was only five years ago. It was before I heard the word gamification, and before I started reading books on game design and game thinking.

I am a non-gamer without any qualifications in software, game, or gamification design, nor in psychology. I may well be the first person of this kind to explore gamification and apply it to herself. And to teach it.
My lack of a game-design background is, in fact, an advantage. Because if I can turn my life into fun games without having studied gamification or psychology in detail, then so can you.

I believe my primary qualification for explaining and teaching Gameful Project Management and Self-Gamification is the enormous fun I have had turning my life into games; experiencing happiness multiple times every day while doing so; and never wishing to stop designing and playing my self-motivational and uplifting games.

My experience with project and team management

My first experience with project and team management goes much further back to my school years in the former Moldovan Soviet Socialistic Republic. It started with managing sewing projects for girls younger than me and help them sew various things for their dolls. I organized our meetings, made sure I had some extra material and tools with me. And I taught them how to do it. My skills were quite elementary, so I often needed a “consultant.” And my mom took this role happily on.

I was also the head of Oktiabrionok, Young Pioneer, and Komsomol* groups first in my class, and later in the whole school, I was attending.
I don’t remember leading any teams during my university years, but there were many projects to take care of both at home (helping my mom and my sister, after my father’s death) and for my studies.
After several years of work as a researcher at the Institute of High-Frequency Electronics of the Technical University Darmstadt, I was appointed as the coordinator of our laboratory and its clean-room. Since then I lead small and large teams, both within a single organization and a global working group of an international community (the latter for almost twelve years).

The projects I managed or helped managing varied from small, through medium, to large, both for the private sector, but also for such organizations as ESA, NATO, and German and other Defence organizations.

Today I manage various projects at home and for my business. The teams for these projects involve my family and entrepreneurs who help me with my book and online course projects and also help me with navigating marketing and publicity world.

Even if I had such a colorful and long-range of experience with project and team management, I am still an unofficial project manager**, meaning that I never had formal training in project management.
The closest (but still quite remote) that came to such a formal training was summer came with training courses for schoolchildren who volunteered as heads of their Komsomol* school committees in Moldova during Soviet times. It was fun to recall those times. I must say that among others, I learned many soft-skills there that still make sense and are also taught today all over the world.

Apart from that, I participated in training courses on disciplines and tools that had to do with the project and organizational management. Examples are SAP*** and S1000D****.

I also taught numerous S1000D training courses, including the topic of Business Rules, which are the knowledge base of all decisions (many hundreds of them) on how to implement this international specification for technical publications.

I also lead various teams as well as the Business Rules Working Group (BRWG) of the S1000D community (the latter, as mentioned for almost twelve years). I am still a member of this group. BRWG is responsible for developing concepts for S1000D implementation and S1000D project management.

Required by the art of my work, I also studied various technical standards, such as ISO***** necessary for establishing quality assurance processes in a semiconductor device production environment, as well as the development of software documentation.
Now, as I write a book that deals with project management, I reach out to my currently favorite teachers — books (and sometimes articles) — to learn more about this multi-dimensional discipline.

I did read books on project and time management in the past. But now, after having been turning my life into fun games for several years, I have become aware of something in the most of the resources on project management, of which I haven’t been aware before.

I will share with you what that is in the following blog post (“Gameful Project Management and Its Focus on Success instead of Failures”).

References:

*

** “If most of your work time is spent on projects and you’ve never been exposed to formal project management training, you are an unofficial project manager.” — Kory Kogon, Suzette Blakemore, James Wood, Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager

*** SAP: www.sap.com

**** S1000D: www.s1000d.org

***** ISO: www.iso.org

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.