Are you constantly looking for innovative methods and techniques to encourage audience
participation? Are you worried your training may not impact participants to change
behaviors? Do you feel constrained by traditional pedagogical training methods? If you
answered yes to any of these questions, using board games in your training is for you.
Using board games helps to:
- engage all participants in the topic
- create a relaxed environment
- illustrate content
- apply adult education and instructional design principles
- make complex information understandable and interesting
How do you do this? Make it interactive! This is key advice for trainers, but what does it
really mean? For many it means using group discussions or case studies. For others, it
means using low-ropes course initiatives to promote diversity and teamwork. Either way
the goal is clear - to engage participants.
An often underused engagement strategy is board games. I'm talking about using
business-based board games that teach a specific topic, such as pharmaceutical drug
development, effective outsourcing, good manufacturing practices, banking industry, or
effective sales techniques.
Using Business-based Board Games
Board games that teach complex industry processes and procedures allow trainers the
opportunity to facilitate the learning rather than be the expert. Trainers draw content from
the board game and players, thus becoming guides for learning. This change in focus can
be difficult for many trainers used to being the expert. The board game provides the
structure, content, and expertise for learning to happen, and frees the trainer to observe
participants' reactions for the ending discussion.
Business-based board games are successful when:
They are used to support training content.
Even the most fun and interactive board game will fail if it is played outside the boundaries
of a training seminar with clear objectives. The advantage of using the board game is to
reinforce and teach new training content. The game provides a non-traditional method to
present the information and reduces the trainer's design time. Trainers can then
concentrate on the transfer of knowledge during the game and hold discussions to verify
retention at the end of the game.
They are played in teams to promote collaboration and diversity.
Board games, in general, tend to have participants play individually and to be engaged
primarily during their turn. Business-based board games with teams can engage
participants at all times by providing opportunities for missed questions to be answered by
other teams. In addition, team members consult with each other before providing
answers. Well-done business-based board games mimic the real world where many
decisions and projects are completed in collaborative environments. Trainers can have
the greatest impact on a group by observing how participants deal with communication,
collaboration, and competition. End-of-game discussions are excellent places to explore
the dynamics of teamwork and communication.
They have an ending or time limit that can be achieved within a short time frame.
Business-based board games have a purpose beyond being fun and interactive. They are
meant to teach concepts in a relatively short time just like a traditional seminar. However
they must be flexible enough to allow for new concepts to be examined multiple times and
designed so that when content changes the game can also change. This allows trainers to
always have an accurate and up-to-date tool. The time frames also provide the end-ofgame
discussion with opportunities for participants to relate to ways time frames impact
Creating Business-Based Board Games
To be effective in creating business-based board games, allocate enough time and
resources for development. Following these easy steps will help you create a board game
that works for you.
Find a company who has experience in creating business-based board games.
All though it may be exciting to create the board game on your own, nothing is more
important then experience. Finding a company who already has documented processes
and procedures will accelerate the development. In addition, finding test groups and
obtaining the pilot testing data can be overwhelming. Companies with experience can
help you structure this part of the process with little hassle.
Ensure your game is playable, flexible, and usable.
Business-based board games do not have to be dull as they teach regulations or an
industry concept. They do need to be playable, meaning that anyone from the company
can learn how to play within minutes. They do need to be flexible so that they can be
used in a variety of ways. And they do need to be usable, meaning they convey the
information intended to be conveyed.
Ensure your audience and top management support learning by doing.
Success in learning isn't always about the method. It's also about the culture of an
organization. Before venturing into creating a game, test the idea with current participants
and upper management. The more support and energy you have around using businessbased
games before creating them, the more successful you will be.
So make it interactive!
The Learning Key, Inc.
Dave works for the Learning Key® as the Director of Training Services and StrataKey®
Division. The Learning Key® has been creating business-based board games for over a