How to Use Games to Create Microlearning Moments with Lasting Impact

I grew up playing lots of games. My siblings and I played (and fought over) Aggravation, Clue, Monopoly, Canasta, Tripoli, Old Maid, Spoons, and Euchre. Outdoors we played hide-and-seek, croquet, sardines, and Marco Polo. My passion for games stems from great memories of how much fun I had playing them as a kid.

But not everyone loves playing games. When I ask non-gamers what they don’t like games, the response I get most often is, “I just don’t see the point. Games are a waste of time.” This is unfortunate because games have the power to create a shared “ah-ha” for learners in a way that other tactics cannot. They teach without the preach.

Introducing a New Game

Last week I asked a group of teammates in the office to play a game I recently learned called “Kunja.” Kunja is an energizer game played by Boys and Girls Clubs by older kids and teens. You can see from the video that I enjoyed this game way more than my teammates. (I’m the one in red.) It involves chanting different phrases (Kun-ja, Bunny-Bunny, and Tokey-Tokey) in a specified order, depending on who is doing what. It gets silly fast.

My teammates humored me, but they were definitely not fans. They – without saying it in so many words – were in the “this is a waste of time” camp or the “this game is silly” camp.

Teachable Microlearning Moments

With a small amount of advanced thinking, I could have flipped this game into an ah-ha experience. I could have used those very attitudes (this is silly; this is a waste of time) to my advantage from a learning standpoint. Here’s the reflection I could have done to convert this from a simple distraction into a powerful ah-ha and microlearning moment:

  • “How many of you secretly worried about looking silly in front of your teammates?” Wait for responses and then point out, “Fear holds us back from lots of things. It might have held you back from simply letting go and having fun with others here. Other times it might hold you back from speaking up, sharing an idea, or doing something new that scares you.”
  • “How many of you felt silly – or thought this was a time waster that kept you from work?” Wait for responses and point out, “Laughter and shared silliness can build relationships. Strong relationships make for better teamwork. Better teamwork means better work product. Taking a break and cultivating laughter is often one of the most productive things you can do.”
  • “How many of you felt downright uncomfortable?” Wait for responses and make the point, “The more we put ourselves in uncomfortable situations the more confidence we gain that we can survive and thrive while being uncomfortable. You don’t grow when you are comfortable; you grow by deliberately making yourself UNcomfortable.”

Set up correctly, a game like this flips from “time waster” to powerful microlearning experience (for those who love the phrase). It takes five minutes to play. A good post-game reflection takes another 2-3 minutes, and the overall impact and retention of the learning points can be long-lasting.

Create Your Own Game

Don’t need a game of risk-taking? Then take the concepts from this game and alter the content to turn it into a learning game about something else. By swapping the chants in this game with ones such as “deadlines, emails, IMs” and shifting the game element from one of competition to cooperation, I could turn this into a great microlearning lesson on multi-tasking and its negative impact on productivity.

You get my point, here. Games can function as frames with you inputting content to reflect the learning need you have. Simple games. Powerful results. Minimal time required.

More on Kunja

Send me an email at sharon@bottomlineperformance if you want detailed directions on how to play Kunja. Try playing it with some co-workers and talk about the hidden lessons within it. Then expand your horizons and swap the game content to achieve a different learning goal. Or – challenge employees to do the same for a different kind of learning experience with a game.