What L&D can learn from Mario Run

I’m adapting this idea from a talk given at the Luxatia L&D Summit by David Blake of @Degreed. Thank you for your insight David!

I was struck by David’s analogy of video games applied to career motivation and having instant and longer term goals. I’ve recently started to apply the same idea to engagement more broadly.

Say I’m Mario and I’m working for an international plumbing organisation called Pipes and Spanners (P&S). Mario typically works a 9am to 6pm with a commute of around an hour, door to door. He works in a team of 6 and enjoys his role as a technical expert. We can make several assumptions about the type of experience Mario has each day. Which of these applies for you?

  1. A bland, monochrome office.
  2. An imposed office uniform (yes, smart casual counts).
  3. An absent boss or a boss that’s in the miniature of detail.
  4. A laptop that decides, for no reason at all, to breakdown, just when he needs it most.
  5. An email inbox that is overflowing with requests and corporate communications.
  6. Very little say in terms of what happens to the company.
  7. An expenses system that is more or less unusable.
  8. An intranet based on Sharepoint which makes it impossible to find anything useful.

I could go on but you probably get where I’m going with this. Mario has to deal with all this shit on a daily basis, but then somehow, has to stay motivated and engaged for months or years. No matter how much he loves plumbing, eventually these tiny problems are going to wear him down. Just like in Mario Run, eventually, one of the walking mushrooms, plants or flying dinosaur-type things, is going to get in his way, and steal all his gold.

Now imagine if we (L&D) focused on removing all these regular barriers. We could say ‘goodbye’ to the baddies and deliver a care free life for Mario. Sure, there would be the occasional jump, but then all Mario would have to do, is worry about collecting all those great coins and rescuing Princess Peach.

Most organisations only think about engagement from one direction. They only think about the story – the vision – and about paying people to do the work. What is regularly forgotten is all the barriers to people doing their jobs, completing the mission and achieving their individual and organisational goals.

In order for Learning and Development to be an effective function, it needs to broaden its scope so it’s not just thinking about pulling and pushing, but also about sweeping too. We in the Learning and Performance Innovation team at PA call this ‘Organisational Usability’, and it’s the future of learning. Soon, if you’re thinking ahead, you won’t be concerned with training people like Mario to do their jobs. You’ll simply be finding ways to make their lives at work, a better user experience.

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