Tag Archives: #smallsteps

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.

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.

References:

* 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.

Gameful Project Management: A New Blog Series and Why I Want To Write It

Reading time: 5 minutes

I turn all aspects of my life into games for several years now. The resonance and interest in what I do inspire me to create various types of content, which I created to share my experiences. The latest was the book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula: How to Turn Your Life into Fun Games.

I am thrilled about the positive feedback and interest to the book and the Self-Gamification approach.

Many of my readers are project managers

In my interaction with my readers, I realized that many of them are entrepreneurs or persons in management positions. So, their questions were centered often around turning project management into games. Also, besides work, many questions were about how to handle what we want or need to do balancing it with enough time for our loved ones, our friends, and ourselves.

While answering questions, I shared my process of turning various parts of my life and how I finally turned my whole life into games. I also shared my self-motivational game designs. When looking closer at my latest gamified design that I call the Balance Game, it becomes clear that it is the design of a “project management game,” embracing both my work and personal life.

The interest in Self-Gamification Happiness Formula resulted in several requests for me to lead seminars and make presentations on Self-Gamification. Also, these requests seemed to come down to this one question: how to make juggling all the responsibilities that we have, not only functioning well but also enjoyable? This last possibility which I show in my approach to turning our lives into games was one of the main pulling forces to what I had to say.

Searching for resources on the Gameful Project Management

Since I am not the first to talk about making our own lives gameful or playful, I expected to find many resources on this topic. But surprisingly when I searched for the words “gameful project management” on Amazon, I got the following reply: “Use fewer keywords or try these instead -> No results for gameful project management.”

A bit further down below this statement, there were a few suggestions for books on how to manage game or gaming projects. That is an entirely different topic altogether, but I downloaded a sample of some of them anyway. I am sure I will learn something new, exciting, and valuable there.

So I typed “playful project management” and got a few entries with books among many creatively designed monthly or weekly planners. The books are about how playful attitude can enrich the workplace and various activities in embraces, including project management. Thus I downloaded the samples of these books as well, and I will read them as I write this series (more on it further below).

But playful project management is not what I am looking for. Projects resemble more games than play. They are structured very much as games, containing goals, rules, reporting/feedback system. And their documentation, and especially the contracts, often contain signatures of all parties involved sealing their voluntary participation. This voluntary participation confirms their will to be part of this “project game,” as well as their right to step out of the project (leave the game).
When I turned to the internet and started the same search, I found a few articles addressing gamification of business processes and many tools to facilitate project management. But again, I couldn’t find anything explicitly discussing how gameful approach can enrich and facilitate project management.

But I believe it can.

I am aware that many consider project management activities tedious, time-consuming, at times expensive, and annoying, even if necessary. I did that, until — while adjusting my self-gamification game designs for the next round — I realized that these plans were nothing else than my project management plans. Without me intending it, project and time management became effortless and fun.

After the research on Amazon and on the internet, I wanted to be sure that I didn’t miss anything in my research on gameful project management. So I went to Udemy.com, where you can find many great online courses both on project management and gamification. But again, there was nothing explicitly targeted to show how these two can work together and what else is needed to make project management gamification a success.

So all these are the reasons why I am starting a blog series on Gameful Project Management, which I will also release as a book and an online course.

What it is and is not about

Here are the tentative title and subtitle of this multi-dimensional project:

  • Title: Gameful Project Management
  • Sub-title: Low-Budget, Effortless, Enlightening, and Fun Optimization of All Facets of Your Project Management

I can imagine that the words “low-budget,” “effortless,” “enlightening,” and “fun” sound strange together, 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.

This blog series will not suggest that you buy a new software system or hire new personnel. Instead, it will concentrate on how you can improve your project management activities with what you already have at your disposal and with little additional effort. With 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.

I will share with you how you can turn the project management into not only a productive activity but also into a fun one. By applying the ideas shared in this blog series, you will see a considerable improvement in project management efficiency without making significant investments into new technology or more personnel.

If you want to learn more

If you would like to learn more about Gameful Project Management, then I invite you to follow the articles in this series and for that to subscribe to the Optimist Writer’s Blog. You can sign up here.

If you would like to work closely with me and discover how you can optimize your project management practices gamefully (= in a light, creative, and inexpensive way) the check out my coaching and consulting services on Gameful Project Management here.

If you want to learn more about the approach that lies at the base of the gameful project management — self-gamification — then check out my book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula.

For the list of all resources, I offer on self-gamification go to this link.

Support Yourself With Self-Gamification

Sometimes we need help and a pat on the shoulder in the middle of the day, when everyone else is busy with their days. How can we then help ourselves to motivate and uplift our states of mind?

With self-gamification, of course! By consciously turning our lives into games, we become resourceful and brighten our days. Gameful life also reduces the fear of reaching out for help.

Here is a quck reminder what self-gamification (=turning life into games) embraces:

  • non-judgmental, anthropological study of ourselves, the world around us, and our thought processes while we interact with ourselves and the world,
  • breaking everything (challenges, wishes, dreams, moments, tasks, projects, you name it) into small, effortlessly digestible and doable bits,
  • the creativity of game designers eager to create the most fun game for their favorite players (themselves).

 

P.S. If you would like to learn more about self-gamification then click here or on the image below:

P.P.S. If you already acquired this book (or another product on self-gamification: the book 5 Minute Perseverance Game or the online course on Udemy  Motivate Yourself by Turning Your Life into Fun Games), then I invite you to join the Self-Gamification Community. You can find more about it here.