This article is part of a series on building a true training game to increase managers’ understanding of corporate finance. What you are about to read is a fable. The company, AshCom, is fictional, but the learning challenges faced by Kathryn, AshCom’s CLO, and her team are real and commonly shared by learning teams in large organizations. It is our hope that you will be able to connect with the characters, their challenges, and the solutions they discover. We also invite you to read the first eBook in the series.
The Systems Thinker
Adeena had only been on the AshCom learning team for a short time. She had been an instructional designer at a company called Globex until it was acquired by AshCom. She was a systems thinker, and her team lead often asked her to help with project management. Adeena was the kind of person who could keep the trains running on time.
Her new team at AshCom quickly came to appreciate her skills in instructional design. Adeena was reliable in her work with flairs of creativity. Learning about her project management bend took a little longer, but most everyone on the AshCom learning team knew that if a project was falling behind, it was good to bring in Adeena early.
One thing most team members did not know about Adeena was her love of games. Her family played board games every chance they could since she was young. Her father loved chess, although he started her out with checkers. When the mood was more light-hearted and more people were involved, they played games like Scrabble, Settlers of Catan, and Risk.
When she was old enough, her interest shifted to video games. Adeena played a few of the more violent video games when they first came out, but she mostly found them not to her liking. She preferred games like Age of Empires, SimCity, and Empire Earth. Her dad introduced her to one of the first strategy games he played in video called The Settlers. She still played that when she visited her parents. Minecraft and Civilization continued to be two of her favorites.
The games Adeena tended to play most often had something to do with strategy. She loved solving puzzles, achieving next levels, and winning new tools, resources, or knowledge. One of the items on her bucket list was to someday enter a competition.
The Suprise eMail
Of course, no one at work knew about her passion for games. At least she thought so until the Saturday afternoon when she received an email from Kathryn, the Chief Learning Officer at AshCom.
The subject line said, “For Monday.” Adeena had been at AshCom long enough to know that this meant Kathryn thought of something and wanted it on her radar but that it was not necessary to respond over the weekend. Adeena and her colleagues appreciated that Kathryn took weekends seriously.
Adeena, nevertheless, opened Kathryn’s email. All it said was, “Let’s talk on Monday about games.” This short message caught Adeena by surprise. What did that mean? Adeena was more excited than anxious.
On Monday morning, Kathryn stopped at Adeena’s cubicle and asked when she might have 30 minutes to talk. Adeena grabbed her tea, stood, and said, “How about right now?”
Why Me And Why Games?
When they got to Kathryn’s office, Adeena started into the conversation before they had even sat down. She said, “I know you weren’t asking me to read the email before today, but I usually can’t help myself. You want to talk about games? I am excited to have that conversation, but I have a question. Why me and why games?”
Kathryn smiled. “That’s actually two questions. When AshCom acquired Globex,” said Kathryn, “I had to make some decisions about which Globex learning team members would be invited to join the AshCom team. I looked closely into your resume and remembered that as part of your instructional design program, you took some courses in game design.”
“You remember that?” said Adeena, somewhat taken aback. “Actually, I thought for my first year of college that I would major in game design. My mom wasn’t thrilled about the idea. She thought instructional design would be a better career choice. My dad loves games, so he had a different opinion. But in the end, I chose the ID route.”
“I’m glad you did,” said Kathryn, “because you are very good at it. But there might be a good opportunity to get a lot deeper into gamification. I don’t know that I have the right solution in mind just yet. I need to talk to the learning team to get their ideas, but I’m pretty sure games will factor in heavily.”
“I’m excited about that,” said Adeena. “I should tell you that my interest in games is probably deeper than you know. I play a lot of games. More than I would like to admit. I really like strategy games. But what really fascinates me is the brain science behind why people are attracted to games. It is part chemistry and part psychology, and I’ve stayed up with the literature.”
“Of course you have,” said Kathryn smiling.
The Task At Hand
Kathryn spent the next 20 minutes describing the challenge brought to her by Kurtis, the Chief Financial Officer. Kurtis was unhappy with the level of financial literacy among the managers of AshCom. Hundreds of people among AshCom’s 7,000 team members were making thousands of small decisions every day that had a very real impact on their bottom line. Kurtis was concerned about how well they actually understood corporate finance and how their decisions fit into the financial goals of the company.
Kathryn also reviewed some of the efforts to date that attempted to raise financial literacy. Kurtis met with as many managers as he could. He shared financial reports with them and other members of the AshCom team. He occasionally sent around articles of interest to him on corporate finances, but he had no real way of knowing if they were read or comprehended.
Kurtis has given some thought to offering courses in finance, but he was pretty sure that the only people who might find that interesting would be the people who already knew finance.
As Kathryn walked Adeena through her conversation with Kurtis, Adeena took careful notes. Sensing that Kathryn was reaching the end, Adeena interrupted her train of thought and asked, “So where do games fit into all this?”
“That’s a good question,” said Kathryn. “At the end of my meeting with Kurtis, he said something that really got my attention. He said, ‘As I thought about this, I kept thinking maybe some kind of competition. I have no idea what that means of how it would work, but it sure seems like people get engaged when something is competitive.’”
The Thought Process
Kathryn then walked Adeena through her own thought process, which circled in her mind since her daughter’s softball game, on what can be learned from competition. I think rather than competition, what Kurtis means is more about games.”
“You’ve thrown out a number of concepts,” said Adeena. “We’ve talked about games, gamification, and competition. Are you thinking we have some kind of competition over who can save the most money in their division? Maybe some kind of leaderboard with winners getting prizes? Or are you thinking we need to build some learning modules with a heavy emphasis on gamification? Or are you thinking that maybe we should think about building a true game? An actual game?”
“To be perfectly transparent,” said Kathryn, “I don’t know. The reason I wanted to meet was to give you the background and what I’m currently thinking. But I also wanted to give you an assignment.”
“I’m all ears,” said Adeena.
Building Financial Literacy With Engaging eLearning Games
Kathryn said, “I’d like you to spend some time thinking through Kurtis’ needs for building financial literacy and then come to the learning team with an overview of games, gamification, and some thoughts about how we might take on this project and give our team members a great learning experience. I realize that getting people excited about corporate finance is a tall order, and I suspect that games might be part of a great solution.”
Adeena paused for just a moment and said, “First of all, I’m still scratching my head that you remembered I took some game design courses back in college. You clearly care a lot about us and AshCom’s learning needs.”
“Secondly, I’m really honored that you would ask me to do this. You’ve made me feel very comfortable in the transition to AshCom, and I app