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What Makes Story So Powerful? (Part 2)

By Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

When we hear someone else telling a story or sharing a metaphor, our brain quickly searches for similar experiences we’ve already had.

You probably haven’t been to Kakadu National Park. You probably haven’t even been to Australia. And if you have been, you probably haven’t ever been in Northern Territories, Australia. And if you have, did you leave Darwin? Or were you way down south at Uluru Rock? So you literally can’t relate to my story.

But when you read that story, your brain scrambled around looking for similar experiences you’ve had. Have you been to a national park? Have you seen petroglyphs? If you’re in the US, that “40c” reference threw you, but you understand hot and humid. 

When our brains search for similar experiences, we activate a region called the insula, which is an emotion part of the brain. This allows us to associate the proper...

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What Makes Story So Powerful? (Part 1)

By Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

A few years ago, I was exploring petroglyphs and ancient dwelling sites in Kakadu National Park in Northern Territories, Australia. In my usual fashion, I didn’t follow a prescribed path, and I didn’t take the time to read any interpretive signs. I had a lot to see, and not much time. 

As I jogged around one interesting rock formation, I was confronted by a huge painting on the cliff face. Panting and sweating (it was 40c and humid), I glanced over the drawing and instantly understood the story, or at least the broad strokes of it: The big creature with the claws and teeth (and huge vagina) gave birth to a more comforting creature, who was the mother of all humans, or at least the tribe who owned this origins story.  

In other words, people from more than 20,000 years ago, who spoke a language I don’t speak (and probably no longer exists), told I story that I could understand. 


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A Long View of Gamification and Learning

Uncategorized Aug 27, 2018

When you mention your intention to gamify of learning program, have you ever run into resistance? Have you ever had a higher-up say, “We’re serious people doing serious work,” or “We don’t pay them to have fun”? (Have you asked to go to a gamification conference, say, GamiCon, and struggled to get it paid for?)

Their resistance is probably to the term “game.” It feels like play and frivolity. In fact, learning through play appears to core to human experience.

The route most people L&D professionals took to gamification went something like this: Over here, I have these disengaged learners in a boring training program; over there, people play video games for hours. What if I took some of the fun and engaging (if not addicting) elements of games and applied them to learning? 

Makes sense, right? 

Then, as we begin studying why games are so engaging, if not addicting, we understood that certain things are happening...

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Awards and Motivation

Uncategorized Aug 24, 2018

A lot has been written about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in popular books and articles, but scientists are not so sure such a differentiation exists. There is no part of the brain dedicated to extrinsic awards and another part that comes from within. Dopamine, for instance, is released, regardless of whether someone gives you a reward or if you are the only one aware of your accomplishment. 

Or to put it another way, the carrot and stick only work if you like carrots and fear sticks. 

If a company owner wants to “bribe” employees by incentivizing them with bonuses for performance, those bonuses are only motivating if the employee desires more money. And why would an employee want more money? Maybe to better care for their family—an intrinsic motivator; to be able to buy a nicer car—the desire for status, an intrinsic motivator; to save for retirement—the intrinsic motivation for feeling safe and secure. The extra money itself is not...

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The Reiss Motivation Profile and Gamification

Uncategorized Jun 13, 2018

Think of how much you played as a child. You exerted a tremendous amount of energy, and spent as much time as possible, playing games. Why such a commitment? Because it was fun!

Ultimately, we were motivated by "fun," though we differ in our definitions of fun. Our brains have receptors for different "pleasure" chemicals and hormones. When certain desires are satiated, we are rewarded with associated brain chemistry that signal that what we just did was enjoyable or fun. However, we each have different numbers of these receptors. For instance, a sociopath lacks receptors for oxytocin, and extreme sports are only attractive to those with ample adrenalin receptors.   

When it comes to gamification, and Learning and Development in general, we need to realize that what is fun for one person will not be fun for another person. This type of person might find this game mechanic, but that person over there will be repulsed by the same mechanic. Think of the variety of...

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The Pitfalls of Motivational Interviews

Uncategorized Feb 08, 2018

Beginning Warning

What motivates your learner? The answer is more complex and complicated than you may think, certainly more complex and more complicated than popular business books would lead you to believe. 

When it comes to assessing the motivational profile of learners, the first and biggest hurdle is Self-Hugging—yours and theirs. Remember, you assume everyone is like you, and they assume everyone is like them. Therefore, when you interview a learner, you will assume they have similar motivations as you, and you will tend to ask questions from your frame of reference. 

For them, they won’t perceive that their motivations are different from other people. If they are very different from you, they may not hear the question the way you meant it, and they will respond according to what they heard and what they assume about you. 

The cycle will continue because you will hear their response from your frame. You may assume they are saying one thing, when...

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Four Types of Gamification for Learning

With a nod to Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, it’s important to know WHY we are gamifying a program or process before we begin to actually gamify it. If I could anticipate what he would say (at least a few years ago) about the WHY of gamification, I believe Sinek would say our WHY will determine HOW we will gamify the learning program which will determine WHAT game elements and mechanics we will apply to our program. 

I’m sure the idea that there are four types of gamification didn’t originate in my brain, but I’ve given some thought to the below categories recently, and I’d like to begin a discussion and an awareness when we engage in the gamification of learning. Also, these types are not separate and distinctive; there are grey areas in between. So be kind and generous in your replies (and let me know whom I should be attributing to below categories to). 

  1. As a Cosmetic: Here you simply add game elements, visuals, and other design...
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A Quick Look and the Long History of Learning

Uncategorized Dec 29, 2017

Roughly 10,000 years ago, humans created formalized language. Before then, they certainly communicated, but with grunts and gestures. With language, people could share important concepts with each other, warn about dangers, entertain, and preserve the tribe’s history by telling stories to the youngest generation.

Then, during the Bronze Era (roughly 3600 BC), the Sumerians and Egyptians invented written language. But it wasn’t until the invention of the printing press some 5,000 years later that writing was a practical method for distributing information; instead, writing was used as a method of recording and storing information. 

The reasons the Gutenberg Press was such a big deal is because it allowed information and knowledge to be democratized. Documents that were once protected and preserved could now be replicated and distributed relatively inexpensively. 

Before then, we relied on a few scholars and priests to tell us what had been written. This meant...

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Gamification Simplified

Uncategorized Jun 20, 2017

Gamification is the use of game elements and game-design techniques in non-game contexts. Let me break that down.

Game Elements:  Think of game elements as a toolkit for building a game. Game elements include game pieces, avatars, rules, scoring points, proceeding to the next level, receiving badges, or unlocking a reward. As you begin to gamify a system, you can and should modify the elements to target certain business objectives and to make the experience more engaging.

Game Techniques:  The aspects of games that make them fun, addicting, and challenging can’t be reduced to a list of components or step-by-step instructions. This is where game-design techniques come in. How do you decide which game elements to put where to create an overall productive gamified experience? Just like strategic leadership, managing a team, or creating a killer marketing campaign, game design is a strong mix of knowledge, skill, and luck.

Non-game Context:  The final aspect of our...

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Onboarding: A Reflection

Uncategorized Apr 24, 2017

In his seminal work describing flow, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi discusses the frustration we feel when a challenge is more difficult than our abilities, or how boring a task will be if our skills surpass the challenge. Flow, he says, comes at the balance between challenge and ability. The more skilled we are, the more we enjoy challenges.

At the beginning of a training program, skills are low. Even if we are accustomed to other learning programs, and even if this program should be beneath our skill level, the fact that it is unfamiliar territory means we will revert to the level of novice.

For instance, you probably had a similar amount of fear and tension your first day of school for grade three as you did for grade seven. By grade seven, you should have been used to going to school, but you were facing a new classroom, new teachers, new peers, and new subjects. So once again, you were a novice at school, essentially starting from the beginning.

Recently while...

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