Game-dragogy - Kolb vs. Bartle
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By Andrew Butow – Presence of IT, Sydney Australia
Corporate Learning & Development has been not only a professional, but also a passionate pursuit for me. Saying this, I am a firm disciple of the theoretical school of Kolb and religious about his principles of Andragogy that unpack the way in which we engage the adult mind in the office (or in any context for that matter).
Key for me is the Adult Learning Cycle that paints the path of learning from reflecting and concluding to planning and doing (or, for pragmatic activists such as myself, vica versa). Kolb also helped us understand that one-size does not fit all, and explored how we each have a preference/style within this cycle of learning and can be profiled according to this as:
A Reflector – I prefer to take a time out and think about stuff.
A Theorist – I prefer to read & brainstorm about stuff and make conclusions
A Pragmatist – I want to know what the point of all this stuff is and plan practicalities for success.
An Activist – I just want to get in and do stuff.
In my recent research around the emerging trend of gamification of HR, I came across another preacher from a very different world. For my HR audience, let me introduce Dr Richard Bartle, a pioneer of the massively multiplayer online gaming world and a doctor of Artificial Intelligence. Why would his gospel interest an HR professional like myself (or any of us for that matter)? Well for 2 reasons:
1. Gamification of HR is forcing us to revisit our processes in context of “game mechanics/psychology” in order to attract, engage, motivate and develop our workforce in these modern times.
2. The Bartle “Gamer Type” Profiling gives us further insight into adult learning and expands on the solid foundation that Kolb has provided us.
Bartle’s research into online behaviour of players in a virtual world identifies and 4 types of “game” personality types:
Explorers (sounds like reflectors?) are driven to find out as much as they can about the virtual construct - including mapping its geography and understanding the game mechanics.
Socializers (could be theorists) use the virtual construct to converse and role-play with their fellow gamers.
Achievers (Pragmatists somewhat?) are driven by in-game goals, usually some form of points gathering - whether experience points, levels, or money.
Killers (total activists!) use the virtual construct to cause immediate impact on other players, and gain satisfaction from instantly gratifying player-to-player fights/kills.
This clear link warrants a mention in HR forums, particularly for L&D where we have seen the most natural and innovative uptake of “game mechanics” in the HR space. As we apply more game mechanics in our simulations (be it real life or virtual), it is essential to now expand on Kolb and consider Bartle when designing an intervention.
On a much more global HR perspective, gamification is also being applied to other areas such as Recruitment, Induction, Performance Management & Talent, Time & Attendance etc. What this means for all HR professionals is that as we embrace gamification in our business processes, be cognizant of Bartle’s research in the design; acknowledging just as Kolb did, that one-size certainly does not fit all.