Every Profession that Designs Experiences For Others Uses Personas... Except Learning and Development

Pretty much every profession that designs experiences for other people uses personas… except the learning and development community. Game designers, app designers, web page designers all rely on personas to determine what will appeal to their target audiences and what things they should avoid. But for some reason, instructional designers skip this stage. They simply build a program around the course material without consideration of their “customers.”

Personas came from the marketing world a few decades ago. Marketers realized that focusing on whole populations wasn’t effective. They needed actual personas who are so complete you feel like they are your friend. Once you have their picture in front of you, you can create marketing copy that feels like you are talking directly to a single person instead of broadcasting to an entire population.

Whenever we speak about learner personas at conferences, we get push back. People say things like, “You...

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What Can We Learn from the Marshmallow Tests for the Gamification of Learning?

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

In our efforts to make learning engaging through gamification, we may trip over some unintended consequences. It turns out that there are some advantages to dry, boring lectures. 

It goes back to the famous “Marshmallow Tests” that began in the 1960s. As an aside, the Marshmallow tests didn’t just involve marshmallows. Researchers showed young children a small treat, whatever the child liked. If they liked marshmallows, it was a marshmallow; if they liked something better than marshmallows, then that’s what they were offered. 

The researchers told the children that if they waited and didn’t eat the treat until the researcher returned that the child would get two of the treats. However, at any time, the child could ring a bell and eat the treat, but they wouldn’t get the second treat.  

Some children rang the bell almost immediately; others were able to hold...

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The Dark Side of Oxytocin

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

In several of my articles and webinars, I’ve noted the importance of story in learning programs. Specifically, I mentioned the work of Paul Zak who, with the help of the Department of Defense, has shown that when we hear a character-driven story, even if it is as emotionless as the founding story of your company, we get a nice spike of oxytocin.               

Zak has made a name for himself in the study of oxytocin, being called the “Love Doctor” for his prescription of eight hugs a day. And while love can make the world go ‘round, it turns out it really isn’t as simple as eight hugs, especially during the #metoo era.               

Mammals produce oxytocin in their nervous system and bloodstream. It’s most obvious use is to...

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Raspberries, Learning, and a Dose of Dopamine

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

We LOVE dopamine. The release of this neurochemical in our brains rewards us when we do things that are/should be good for us and/or the passage of our DNA to the next generation. We feel pleasure, for instance, when we see a raspberry because our brain knows that when we eat it, the glucose will give us energy (and it will taste good). Soon afterwards, though, the dopamine drops off, and we desire another berry to get that dopamine dose again. We will even walk back to the berry patch and fight with the stickers to get the next raspberry.

But what is even more interesting is that dopamine appears to be involved in learning and memory.

To exert some control over an uncertain life, dopamine rewards us when we discover information about our environment. After all, when we return to the berry patch next month, we’ll only see a tangle of stickers. Our ancestors needed to learn about seasons so that they would...

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Espionage, Subterfuge, and Double Agents

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

The Navy SEALS have a saying, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying. (And if you get caught, shame on you.)” 

This week, we added ten new game mechanics to Sententia’s Game Mechanics document. It turns out, we missed a whole category of mechanics, even though my motivation profile finds these mechanics enjoyable. And if we overlooked them, chances are you have as well.

Why? Well, when we look at the Motivation Profiles of the professionals going through our Level 2 Gamification Certification, we find that most of them are nice and honorable. By extension or extrapolation, we can assume that most people in the Learning and Development field are also nice and honorable. If we can’t make this leap, then it says something about the people who have not gone through our programs, which would create an interesting marketing proposition (“Are you mean and dishonest?...

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Play Makes You Smarter—Seriously

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

Science shows that the bigger your brain, the more you play and the more complex your play is—at least compared with other animals. From dogs to dolphins, the bigger the brain, the more likely you are to play.

Neuroscientists have hypothesized that the evolutionary roots of play lie in our need to deal with the social dynamics that come from a complex world with expanding social groups. As our brains grow, so do our interactions with our environment and culture.            

Scientists assume that play programs the higher brain regions such as the neocortex. If this were true, then the desire for play must lie in more ancient regions of our brains. In fact, when the neocortex is removed from rats early in their lives, they play as much as any rat. But when lesions are cut in the thalamic somatosensory project areas of the brain (ancient parts of...

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In Search of Fun

by Monica Cornetti
CEO, Sententia Gamification

Is it possible to make dull, difficult, tedious, or challenging tasks just a little more fun? 

What if you could make your employee learning experiences interesting, challenging, and FUN -- perhaps more game-like?

The reality is… you enjoy playing games. You’ve been playing games since the days of cavemen, and it is your nature to compare yourself to see how you measure up to others. Games drive emotions, build loyalty, and create character. 

Watch people immersed in gameplay and you’ll see their whole being is involved. They’re using their skills to the utmost. Time becomes meaningless and minutes, even hours, fly by. What if you could deconstruct games to understand what causes people to play games for hours, being completely involved in an activity for its own sake?

Because FUN is a completely subjective concept, to create courses that learners find relevant and fun is the pursuit of every...

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Seven Ways to Add Stories to Your eLearning Courses

by Monica Cornetti
CEO, Sententia Gamification

We all know that stories are a great way to engage an audience, yet it seems so few people actually study and use the tool in a manner that truly impacts their audience. 

So, what does it actually take to create a story that is not only engaging but also a highly effective training tool?

Storytellers often use one of seven basic plots identified by Christopher Booker, in his Jungian-influenced analysis of stories and their psychological meaning:

  1. Overcoming a Monster – the hero(es) must overcome a dark evil creature, person, or entity that has exerted an evil destructive force over a person, a group of people or a place. Examples:  The Silence of the Lambs, Dracula, Jaws, Hansel and Gretel
  2. Rags to Riches – the central character is seemingly plucked from nothing to greatness where they are very often rich with immense status. The hero very often gets quick success which is swiftly taken away from them. In order to...
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What Makes Your Learners Tick? (The Secret to Gamification Design)

by Monica Cornetti
CEO, Sententia Gamification

Gamification is an effective tool to make training engaging and fun, because it uses the dynamics of games, such as collaboration, chance, and progress, to tap into learners’ intrinsic desires to master and complete tasks.

When done well, gamification makes training more engaging because it requires participants to complete a challenge, helps them see their progression, and gives them instant feedback and reinforcement.

However, it is important to recognize and address common obstacles that can crop up when using gamification in training. The obstacles include failing to identify why gamification is being used and not knowing whom you are designing for.

Because gamification relies on triggering an action in learners, the key to success is developing solid learner personas. We’ve found that most organizations don’t do assessments of who the players are and what motivates them. What makes your people tick?

Many...

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Lotteries as a Game Mechanic… Fun or Manipulation? (Part 2)

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

In a previous article, I wrote about the evolutionary psychological aspects of the game mechanic of lotteries. In this article, I want to share some of the cool uses of lotteries to change behaviors. While these examples are not about employee engagement and learning, I think you’ll find them interesting, and hopefully they’ll generate some creativity on how you can use lotteries as a game mechanic in your programs.

In my previous article, I noted that lotteries are enjoyed by most people except for those who place a high emphasis on Savings and Tranquility (the need to be safe). For them, the risk outweighs any pleasure gained from anticipating a large windfall. 

Lotteries are certainly popular, especially when the pots reach tens of millions of dollars, but when we discuss lotteries as a game mechanic, we find that lotteries are about more than simply rewarding with cash. The fun comes from...

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