Why gaming and storytelling overcome resistance to change
We’ve all been there: resistance to change is universal, not least when it comes to changing procedures or ways of working in a corporate environment.
When I look carefully at the various change programmes I went through, I realise that a lot of time and effort was spent on what was going to change, less on why it was needed and even less on how it was going to be done.
At the receiving end of the change, the topics of interest rank in quite the opposite order. People are primarily interested in how change is going to impact them, followed by why it is needed and then what is going to change.
This antagonism in change management priorities lies at the heart of the challenges faced by change managers.
It should come as no surprise, though. A key enabler and success factor for change lies in the ability of a programme to develop the attitudes, behaviours and mindsets conducive to the adoption of new ways of working and procedures it seeks to establish.
Now attitudes and behaviours are harder to change than rewriting procedures, designing a new management system or an organisation structure.
This is in part due the power of habits and operating in one’s comfort zone, but also to our own experiences and biases.
Identifying change agents and obstacles to change are key steps along the road towards a successful implementation, but that will not be enough.
To bring the bulk of an organisation over the line requires careful engagement strategies. These strategies should be designed in a way, which addresses the behaviours and skills making change adoption easier, some of which are described in the table below for projects, teams and leaders.
One way to do this is through storytelling and the gamification of change.
Storytelling transposes known challenges and issues into another environment, to touch emotions, which are powerful learning enablers, whilst decoupling them from the context, where biases, habits and prejudices make people less open to learning and change.
Gamification, on the other hand, entices us to try new things in a risk-free environment, by playing on people’s childhood remnants, where exploration and discovery were the main driver behind new experiences.
To sum it up, everybody remembers the stories they like and everybody likes to play games, which challenge their curiosity.
Contrary to a common belief, the most efficient games are not necessarily the ones reproducing the business context of the company participants come from.
That is because serious games are not just (business) simulators. Their storytelling dimension is designed to reinforce the learning experience and the behavioural elements of skills development. By taking the participants outside of their comfort zone, biases and hierarchy create less noise, whilst alternative approaches to problem-solving are more likely to surface and be appreciated.
Good facilitation is a key lever to make serious gaming work for a change management programme. Bringing the participants into another world and getting them to play, in order to practice the skills needed to embed the change is one thing. Making the connection between the game and their work environment, to bring the change and its usefulness home, is the other key role of the game master. When both aspects are well managed, the participants will understand how change is impacting their way of working, why it is important and what is changing, as a result.
ALL4ONE consulting uses ocean racing as the backdrop for its serious games. The reason for this choice lies in the many similarities between the world of sailing races and today’s corporate world: a constantly changing environment, disrupting technologies, a strong reliance of performance on decision quality and team collaboration.
These similarities make it possible to transpose business situations and challenges into race scenarios and use the very approaches and techniques that will be needed to overcome them, through their correct application and by developing winning attitudes.
In a recent project, the simulation developed by ALL4ONE consulting was further used to encourage the use of new procedures by identifying corporate teams with boats in the game and by linking their progression in a race to KPI values related to these procedures.
In this way, storytelling and gaming are not only supporting the adoption of change, they extend into its embedment in the company culture.