Welcome to our third Gamification Expert Series!
In this series, we feature industry experts as they share their knowledge, tips and tricks, and advice on how to gamify programs in their organizations. In our third Gamification Expert Series, we catch up with Julian Jordan, one of Gametize’s global champions as he shares with us his approach of applying gamification in his training workshops across Latin America and Spain.
Julian Jordan is the founder and corporate director of DO IT Internacional and Star Service. While Julian started his career in industrial engineering, he developed a keen interest in corporate training after attending a workshop on time management. Combined with his knack for innovation and inquisitiveness, Julian eventually established his own consultancy firm focusing on L&D.
With a realization that the training and development landscape was rapidly changing, Julian was on the lookout for tech solutions that could add value to his training programs, which led to the discovery of Gametize.
Over time, Julian became one of Gametize's top power users, and he consistently leverages gamification in his training for clients across various national, multinational and government companies in Latin America and Spain.
In his personal life, Julian is happily married for 20 years and has two children. He currently lives in Madrid, Spain.
How Julian got started: Julian's background as an industrial engineer
G: Hey Julian! Thank you for taking time off your busy schedule to have this interview with us. We’re honored to be talking to a gamification expert like yourself especially since you’re our first expert from outside of Asia! Can you briefly tell us about your background?
J: Sure! I started out as an industrial engineer, but started a workshop business 25 years ago (editor’s note: that’s 1995) that specializes in training corporations on a variety of soft skills, such as leadership, time management, and so on. We began in Colombia before expanding to Mexico, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Peru, and our latest venture is in Spain.
I run two different companies, DO IT Internacional and Star Service; DO IT Internacional focuses on developing soft skills for executives in areas like time management, communication and teamwork, while Star Service focuses on customer service training.
G: That’s interesting that you started as an industrial engineer. How did you end up in the training space?
J: It’s a bit of a story – I was working at Dow Chemical early in my career, where they sent me for a workshop on time management.
One of the workshop resources was an agenda that I found very useful to plan and manage my time. However, when I moved to other companies, it became apparent that no one else was doing the same thing because they didn’t know how to do it!
So I taught them what I learnt, but with some minor tweaks of course. And guess what? My colleagues absolutely loved it. That’s when I realized that behavioural change is certainly possible, and I decided to start DO IT to expand on those ideas.
G: I’m sure many of your old colleagues would have been thankful for the complimentary training and it’s nice to see that you found your passion. So what keeps you motivated?
J: Good question, I find myself asking the same question, because I’m perpetually engaged all the time! My wife knows me best, so she helped me with answering this [laughs]. I guess my passion can be attributed to two things:
One, is my love for innovation and creativity. I feel most alive when I’m creating or implementing new things, and my role as the founder of a company allows me the freedom to accomplish this. When you’re working for big corporations, the resistance to experiment with new initiatives can be strong, but that’s not the case in my situation. This gets me wanting to learn continuously.
Which brings me to the second point – through the process of experimentation, failure is definitely inevitable. These setbacks help me identify a more effective way of doing things, and that’s how you eventually succeed. So to that I say, go for failure. The best way to succeed is to fail many times. One just has to dare to do it.
“Failure is definitely inevitable. These setbacks help me identify a more effective way of doing things – so to that I say: go for failure”
Julian's journey into gamification was born from experimentation and a need to stay ahead of the curve
G: Great advice there. So it sounds like your journey into gamification came from experimentation as well?
J: Indeed, it was a long journey actually. Prior to adopting gamification, the structure of our workshops followed a much more traditional approach. Think along the lines of one instructor attending to 20 students in a classroom setting.
However, some eight to ten years ago, it dawned upon me that the training and development landscape was rapidly changing. Our clients wanted something different, because they weren’t satisfied with the current offerings. Similarly, our participants became more overwhelmed with their day-to-day activities, so encouraging them to change their behaviors over the course of just one workshop alone wasn’t enough.
With these two considerations in mind, we had to experiment with different technological solutions to stay competitive.
G: What were some of the other things that you looked into?
J: Initially, we looked into using email reminders and also explored learning management systems (LMS). While LMSes proved to be great for e-learning, it still wasn’t what we were looking for. Rather, we wanted a solution that participants could use in between workshops, or even during the pre- and post-sessions to put their learnings into practice outside of the workshop.
The delivery of content had to be seamless and easy to digest, similar to an LMS but also be fun and engaging. The biggest issue we were facing was that it wasn’t easy to help our learners apply what they learnt.
This weighed heavily on my mind, so I decided to attend the ATD (Association for Talent Development) event in the US to understand the trend and learn what’s out there. After all, that was the biggest training and development association in the world. Gamification and game-based learning were some of the big words that were discussed there.
While I’ve never played video games in my life, I came to learn what gamification had to offer and quickly realized why it’s so effective. Since people love to play, it’s only natural that they would be encouraged to learn or even stay in touch with what they’ve learnt through the element of play. That was the eureka moment that made me say: “We’ve got to try this!”
G: So that was the start of your journey into gamification. We’re curious – how’s the gamification scene like in Latin America?
J: It’s still a relatively novel idea that involves a lot of trial and error, but it’s getting increasingly popular. With big companies, most have well-established platforms and good e-learning portfolios. But with gamification, not everyone knows how to do it, even though they love the idea. The biggest mistake one can make is trying to implement gamification without a purpose, because it should be used as a means and never as an end.
G: Did you feel any resistance when you tried adopting gamification in your training?
“The biggest mistake is trying to implement gamification without a purpose. It should be used as a means and never as an end”
J: Thankfully not! I think I’ve proven myself to be a credible and inspirational leader so my team believes in me, which isn’t always good because they don’t challenge me enough. [Laughs] Jokes aside, we did face resistance from the managers after implementing gamification, because we had to raise our workshop prices to support the running costs of the tech aspect of our solution.
J: Getting some of our instructors to change their mindset and properly integrate Gametize into the training curriculum also posed a challenge, as some felt it a hassle. Fortunately, now that we’ve been working with you guys for close to a year, it’s getting much easier to implement projects.
G: That’s good to hear. What were some other challenges that your company faced?
J: One of the prevailing challenges we have is trying to reduce the reliance on instructors to facilitate learning. We’re keen to foster an environment where our participants are motivated to learn through self-directed learning. This is especially relevant for my second business, Star Service, as it would allow us to scale to engage a larger target audience.
Presently, bigger companies are reluctant to engage us because we’re unable to train a big group of participants simultaneously. Assuming they have 5,000 employees and we’re only able to cater training sessions for 20 at a time, can you imagine how expensive and resource intensive that would be?
That’s why I’m keen to explore the capabilities of micro-learning and develop new ways to make learning fun and interesting even without a physical instructor. While I haven’t found the answer to this yet, things are progressing better ever since we started using Gametize.
Participants are undertaking things they’ve never done before, and putting into practice what they’ve just learnt almost immediately after learning the new skill. Nonetheless, there’s a small subset that remains disengaged, and we haven’t quite hit the numbers we would like to yet.
How Julian works with clients to create a tailored training program, with long-term engagement and motivation
G: With your clients coming from such diverse sectors, we can imagine that their needs are all very different. How do you go about tailoring a training program for them?
J: While we have a set pre-designed modules, we always tailor it according to the client’s problem statement. Take the other day for instance, we had a company tell us they wanted a workshop on mind-mapping. So we sat down and asked: “Why mind-mapping?”
We later discovered that the General Manager loves mind-mapping so he wanted their meetings to adopt it for better communication. So you see, the underlying issue was about having more efficient meetings – with mind mapping merely as a supporting tool. We then recommended a training session for smart meetings. Hence the key always lies in listening for and addressing the root of the issue.
G: Could you share with us the methodology behind the learning content for DO IT Internacional and Star Service?
J: Certainly! We typically adhere to a three-stage process. The first step is always to help our participants recognize the problem. Because they won’t be willing to learn if they do not mentally register that a problem exists! For example, if we’re running a workshop on presentation skills, we’ll give participants a subject and ask them to work on the slides. After seeing that the slides they created are less than desirable, they’ll recognize that change is needed.
Next, we proceed to the learning stage. This is where we teach them how to structure their presentation content and share tips on how to make their slide deck more professional. Performance is not measured solely by their knowledge of the newly acquired skill, but also from how well they put it into practice.
This brings us to the last stage – practice. That’s where Gametize’s Challenges and Teams function come in (Editor’s note: You can learn more about the Teams function here). For example, participants are encouraged to upload their redesigned slides to the Gametize app, so other co-workers can view it, give feedback and cast votes. Points would be awarded for those who participate, which can be used to redeem rewards. We deliberately design the whole experience to be light-hearted and engaging to encourage as many people to complete the exercises.
G: We’re intrigued as to how you designed the challenges – what’s the thought process behind that?
J: That depends, really. Like most workshops, we award certifications. But the fun part here is the type of certification that you receive is based on the tiered system. So if you score below 400 points, you’d only get a certificate of attendance. Between 400 to 600 points, you’ll be awarded the junior presenter certificate and so on and forth. Players earn more points when they complete all four steps: remember, observing, application and teaching.
G: Do you usually propose the rewards yourself or do you sit down with a test group to find out what your participants like?
J: It’s a combination of both. Sometimes we propose the prizes and sometimes the clients share new ideas with us. Interestingly, some rewards cost nothing for the company, but still offer great value.
I recall one client which gave an entire day off work for players who attained 1,000 points, and half a day off if they scored 800 points. It wasn’t anything monetary in nature, but it was enough to incentivize players to give their best for the challenges.
An outward look towards the future of gamification
G: I’m sure your participants had a lot of fun. Seeing as how you’re familiar with gamifying your training content for a while now, where do you see gamification heading to in the future?
J: I can certainly envision an upward trend and adoption rate for gamification moving forward, even more so during this pandemic period. In the future, what I would like to see would be more game-like elements. Possibly having a video-game interface to complement the challenges, and have your own customizable avatar that goes beyond just a profile picture and username.
VR-type challenges, in addition to photo and video challenges would also be a wonderful addition. In terms of the technical aspects, I think this is currently achievable, but to apply it to the field of learning is just too expensive and not as seamless as I would like it to be yet.
G: Those are some pretty neat features that you’ve brought up, we hope to see them introduced too. Speaking of the future, what about Gametize – what would you love to see from us to make your game creation experience even better?
J: I have so many! [laughs] For starters, I hope to put up six-month worth of training content on Gametize in the future, more along the lines of an entire school curriculum rather than just a value-added feature for our workshops. In terms of a wishlist of things that I want to see, please introduce audio challenges and redesign your quiz challenges.
Seeing that Gametize already has photo and video challenges, you’ve got to do audio challenges next – so participants can easily articulate what they’ve learnt without having to type them down. Allow us the option to create multiple quizzes within one challenge too. This will certainly improve the user experience for players!
G: Appreciate the feedback, I’m sure those features would definitely help to make our platform even more powerful and sustainable for long-term projects.
J: That said, we’ve been teaming up great so far. I feel that you support us well and I’ve seen some improvements since I started using Gametize. Many of my clients have given positive feedback too, and expressed that we’re offering a differentiated experience. I believe it’s because other training companies have yet to offer gamified training.
“Gamification is a science. If you’re just starting in the gamification space, devote some time to understand what goes on behind it “
G: That’s very kind of you, Julian. Lastly, do you have any words of wisdom for those looking to step into the world of gamification?
J: I want people to learn that gamification is a science. It has to do with how the brain works and how the psychology of humans works. There are so many motivators and ways to engage people, the possibilities are limitless. So my advice if you’re just starting in the gamification space, is to devote some time in the initial stages to understand what goes on behind it, and be prepared for lots of trial-and-error.
G: Thank you Julian! The insights you’ve shared today should inspire us to think out of the box when it comes to building gamification experiences.
About DO IT Internacional and Star Service
DO IT Internacional is a Latin American training company specializing in developing meta- competencies for organizational effectiveness. The company has operations in Mexico, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Peru, and Spain, with a key focus on developing soft skills for executives in 5 areas: Time Management, Presentation Skills, Communication Skills, Effective Meetings and Team Work.
Star Service is a management consultancy firm that specializes in enhancing the customer service experience. This includes developing and implementing a service strategy, while working alongside clients to upskill and mentor service personnel.