Through the “Play for Performance” series we will be bringing to you the various experiential based learning tools which are increasingly being used today by corporates and academics alike to bring their training programs alive. Given that 70% of an individual’s learning happens through experience there is little doubt of the relevance of using game-based learning tools in delivering training programs for creating long-term and sustainable impact.

In this article we will explore the concept of board game-based trainings. Board games have been played for thousands of years in all human cultures. They are a source of fun, social interaction, as well as amateur and professional competition. However, the use of board games as a focused and specific tool for developing thinking and other skills is a recent and less known practice.

The skills needed for playing games are not only cognitive. The basic setting of games requires the ability to operate while involved in intense competitive social interaction, with alternating moments of cooperation and confrontation. Obviously, similar skills are needed in the daily functions of people in general and of managers in particular. Improving these skills is a great part of the learning and training managers need to undertake.

Board games are an important tool to provide hands-on and heads-on skill and knowledge development for people of all ages on all subjects. Not only do well-designed games create an engaging atmosphere, they also provide a non-threatening, playful, yet competitive environment in which to focus on content and reinforce and apply learning. Mistakes are useful and point out what we need to learn. The board itself provides a visual metaphor to help connect information. Game elements, discussions, and problem solving with fellow team members about the content are vehicles for learning. Subtle redundancy to reinforce learning and ensure retention should be incorporated into the game design. Good questions, problems to solve, and situations to consider allow players to think through and apply what they learn. Effective games serve to organise information in a conceptual framework and to make it concrete. They provide analogies and metaphors to link new information. When played in teams, members learn together; no one ever feels singled out for not knowing an answer.

Board games are most successful when:

  • They are used to support training content
  • They are played in teams to promote collaboration and diversity.
  • They have an ending or time limit that can be achieved within a short time frame.

In addition to enhancing critical thinking, team-based board games help to build communication and relationship skills as players work face-to-face to answer questions or solve problems and see that together they often figure out something they thought they didn’t know. The power of collaboration becomes apparent to all and, in organizational settings, can transform working relationships.

Board games provide exceptional, cost-effective resources. They:

  • Incorporate heads- and hands-on learning
  • Summarize and reinforce important information in an easy-to-grasp format
  • Reduce the time needed to learn, remember, and apply new information
  • Promote discussion, collaboration, and build communication

When it comes to board games designed for educating, Play for Performance is not an empty slogan – it is a fact.

Other popular game formats used for training include outdoor competitive games, out-bound trainings, simulation games (online and offline), game show based trainings (based on popular game shows such as Master Chef, Kaun Banega Crorepati), using toys to build learning games etc. In our subsequent issues, we will explore these various formats in greater detail to understand which format is most amenable depending on learner type as well as the nature of learning.

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