Serious Games + Smart Implementation = Win! (Free Webinar)


We love creating games at BLP and try to share that enthusiasm as much as we can. But we’ll also be the first to admit that designing a learning game is only the beginning. What if you design the best learning game ever, or work with a vendor who creates a great one for you, and no one plays it? Or what if the roll-out gets botched because no one can figure out how to log in? They say the devil’s in the details, and in the training world “details” often means “implementation.”

What organizations really need is guidance on how to best position and implement new learning technologies, which might be a game or some other type of new learning experience.

Learn from the Success of Others

According to Karl Kapp, games work best when embedded into a larger blended learning curriculum. This sounds logical enough, but it is much harder to decide exactly what that curriculum should look like. Fortunately, many organizations have already successfully implemented games into their training. One of the best ways to prepare for a game-based learning implementation is to learn from the success of others.

I had the chance to work with four organizations who have been using Knowledge Guru as part of their training programs. These organizations come from a variety of industries (technology, financial services, healthcare) and used the games within diverse functional areas (new hire training for sales reps, product knowledge for sales and support reps and process training for HR associates).

What’s interesting about all four implementations is just how similar they are. These organizations independently made many similar choices when implementing game-based learning. The results they achieved speak for themselves.

Read the Case Studies…

If you saw me present at DevLearn 2015 or ATD International 2015, you have already heard these case studies. Congratulations! You’re ahead of the game.

For everyone else, you’ll have another opportunity to learn about how Cisco, Johnson & Johnson, Salesforce Marketing Cloud and a Fortune 500 Financial Services company approach game based-learning in my upcoming webinar with Training Magazine. I’ll explain all four case studies in depth, then share seven implementation tips based on what these organizations’ implementations have in common.

…Or Skip to the Tips

If you’d rather skip the case studies and get to the point, you need not wait till November 17th. I share my seven implementation tips in a new white paper, 7 Steps to an Effective Game-Based Learning or Gamification Implementation.

I hope you’ll join me for the webinar, have a look at the white paper, or perhaps do both.

7 Steps to an Effective Serious Game or Gamification Implementation


Are you a do-it-yourselfer? When it comes to serious games, ATD says you probably are.

In an ATD survey conducted for its 2014 research report, Playing to Win: Gamification and Serious Games in Organizational Learning (link), 71% of organizations reported that they prefer to develop serious games in-house. 83% said they planned to develop gamification in-house.  I’d say that’s a confident group! In the same survey, only 20% of organizations were already using serious games for learning, while 25% were using gamification. That means most organizations have never used games for learning before and plan to do it without help from a vendor.

The challenge of in-house game design

One of the reasons serious games are hard to create successfully in-house is the lack of game design skill most organizations have on their teams. Your instructional designers may be good, but have they played lots of games? Have they designed games before? Many instructional designers continue their education and earn masters degrees in instructional design. Can you master game design by taking a one-day workshop?

Getting Around Game Design

Organizations often get around the lack of in-house game design expertise by using game templates or a full fledged gaming platform. When the platform you use already has gaming built in, all you have to do is think about your content. A platform can make life much easier for your team… but creating the game itself is less than half the battle.

You still have to implement your game. And that’s where things really get interesting.

If You Build It, They Won’t Come… Unless You Have a Plan

No matter how fun your game-based solution is supposed to be, you will still need a plan for launching it, promoting it, and measuring it. How will you communicate about the game? Will you require players to play? How will you incentivize play… or do you need to incentivize? These are all questions you must answer as you implement a serious game or gamification initiative.

In my role, I get to collect stories from organizations who wish to submit for industry awards. These are typically the “best of the best.” They planned for success, either partnered with us to build a solution or created their own game with Knowledge Guru, and drove meaningful business results from their efforts.

What’s interesting about these award-winning implementations is just how similar they are. I find that the companies that are most successful with games and gamification in their organizations take many similar approaches when it comes to implementation.

So whether you are preparing to launch your first-ever serious game, or are looking to make your next initiative more successful than your last one, consider these tips for a successful implementation:

1. “Required” works best.

Let’s face it: employee time is limited, and most of us only have the energy to focus on the activities that are truly essential to our jobs. Even if your serious game is fun, is it equal or greater than the myriad of entertainment options available to us around the clock? Our experience shows us that the organizations that are most successful with serious games require play. For example, Johnson & Johnson has integrated Knowledge Guru into employee goals & objectives for the year.

2. Blend into a curriculum: use as part of a learning solution.

You probably have lots of training initiatives happening in a calendar year. Games might be a great addition to the mix, but you should not plan to replace all of these existing training events with games. The case studies I have gathered all show organizations having the most success when games are part of a larger blended curriculum or strategy. This allows you to narrow the focus of your game to cover a specific skill or set of knowledge.

3. Use the game as a reinforcement (most of the time).

Games and gamification make great reinforcement tools. In fact, most organizations we have worked with position games as either a reinforcement, or a motivating first exposure to content that will be covered in greater detail later. It is also easier to launch a game as a reinforcement when you are attempting your first go-around with serious games.

4. Offer incentives and/or provide sufficient motivation.

No matter how you dress it up, completing a serious game is still training that is part of a job. Unless your learners are highly intrinsically motivated, we recommend providing prizes and rewards. Encouragement from senior leadership can be even more effective. The grand prize winner of a Knowledge Guru game hosted by one of our Financial Services clients specifically cited how meaningful it was to be recognized by company leaders as part of winning the game.

5. Create a communications strategy around the game.

Learning and Development leaders need to think more like marketers when implementing all types of training. Every single case study I have seen of a successful Knowledge Guru implementation incorporates some sort of multi-part communications strategy to get the word out about the game. This could include many things, from advertisements in a call center to a series of emails or even a collection of advertisements placed throughout a company intranet site.

6. Use reporting and adapt the training.

Most organizations first get interested in games because they want to motivate or engage their employees. This is only part of why games are powerful organizational learning tools, though. For example, Johnson & Johnson was able to identify a specific learning objective that learners were missing as a group, then adjust their overall training to better focus on the weak process step. The organizations that are successful with serious games and gamification take advantage of the data they gather on learners and act quickly to adapt their training and processes.

7. Gather insights via surveys.

It is not uncommon to survey learners after a training initiative is completed… especially after a pilot. Games are no different. The surveys conducted by Knowledge Guru customers have revealed many valuable insights that impact future games. In one survey, a player commented that they learned a more effective way to do their job through the game that had not been covered in company-wide training. Our client was able to take this information and launch new training to teach the effective process to the rest of the department.

See Four Case Studies In Our Recorded Webinar

Want to learn more about how to implement effective serious games? I cover these implementation tips in the recorded webinar below, adapted from my ATD International 2015 presentation. You’ll also see four case studies from organizations that have implemented a serious game that drove real results.

How Protect-A-Bed Uses Knowledge Guru for Better Product Training

Our customers frequently use Knowledge Guru to train sales reps and other employees on product knowledge. The spaced repetition, feedback loops, and detailed reporting all contribute to a more effective solution when it comes to getting your employees to learn and remember facts about your product.


I recently interviewed Miguel Marrero, the National Training Manager for Protect-A-Bed, about his product training and how he used Knowledge Guru to help “train and motivate” salespeople. Read on to see his comments and insights.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and the work you do at Protect-A-Bed?

My name is Miguel Marrero, and I am the National Training Manager for Protect-A-Bed. Protect-A-Bed is the worldwide leader in mattress protection and innovation. I work with members of our Training & Development Team to develop and distribute our training materials as well as performing presentations and training sessions.

Who are your Knowledge Guru games for?

We have used Knowledge Guru to help our accounts learn the differences in our products and to help train and motivate salespeople to learn more about our products. We have also used it internally to help our Training Team learn about new training techniques and procedures.

How does Knowledge Guru fit into the overall training? What are you using Knowledge Guru to teach?

The Guru is great because it can compliment our existing training. In one case, we expanded our product line for an account and wanted to make sure each salesperson knew the differences in the product range. We designed a Guru game that highlighted the differences and used it as a ‘recap’ to our training sessions.

What results are you seeing from use of Knowledge Guru? Any specific stories to share?

One thing that we really like are the reports. There was a specific question that was getting answered incorrectly more than others. Using that information we were able to tweak our presentations to make sure we highlighted the information that was getting missed. Future results showed that people were more likely to get the question right, so by changing our presentations based on the feedback from the the reports made our presentations more effective.

What have been the keys to successful implementation for you?

The two things that we have discovered will make people want to play a game are the relevance to what they are learning and the ease of use. If the information is of value, we get more people participating – whereas if the ‘players’ feel like it is too simple or too much of a review, we get less ‘buy in’. Additionally, making it easy to sign up (which the Guru does) makes participation much more likely. The fact that people can play from an iPad or Mac or PC or whatever makes it very easy for anyone to participate.

What advice would you give to others on creating their first Guru game?

Use a spreadsheet! When we design games, we put all of the questions together up front (along with all of the answers and images) so we know that we have all the questions we need and that we have asked them the right way. It also makes it fast to cut and paste the info and quickly post the quiz. Also, make use of the feature that lets you add feedback to an incorrect answer. This can be a great opportunity to reinforce the information you want the learners to grasp.

Anything else you’d like to say about Knowledge Guru and your experience using it?

Knowledge Guru is super easy to use and has been a great tool for both internal and external training. We are happy to partner with them to supplement our training methods and tools.

How to Make Employee On-boarding Memorable… In a Good Way


New employee on-boarding is hard on both the new hire and the manager. Most companies have a metaphorical onion of jargon, policies, procedures, and culture mores, and it can take weeks or even months for new employees to feel comfortable and be productive.

Large organizations have a dedicated HR department that updates the policies and procedures these employees need to know… and there are probably quite a few of them. Small organizations may not even have an HR department, leaving it to the new employee’s manager to get them everything they need quickly.

Either way, starting a new job often means rapidly acquiring huge amounts of new knowledge and skills. Some of this learning is directly related to job performance, while the rest is based on finding the right information, following the right processes and understanding the “company vernacular.”

Even companies with a well-developed “Corporate University” or fleshed out on-boarding program run into problems when new hires fail to remember what they learned in those introductory courses and sessions. Without proper reinforcement and spacing of key concepts, new employees will quickly forget the flood of new information. Instructor-led sessions and eLearning courses, even when well designed, fall short in driving true retention.

New research has shown that Ebbinghaus’ famous Forgetting Curve, which can approach 90% in lost information, is dependent on prior skills and experience. Learners with a prior framework for the new knowledge may only forget 30% without reinforcement, for example. Since new employees are usually new to the company, they are likely to fall closer to that 90% level of forgetting. When the policies and procedures actually matter, this becomes a huge problem for organizations to solve.

How We Fixed Our On-boarding Program

Our company, Bottom-Line Performance, has experienced nearly 100% growth in the last 2.5 years. We are still a small operation (just under 30 employees), but the growth has been rapid. While managers have traditionally handled the on-boarding and created 30 and 90-day programs for their new employees, our company has struggled to help new employees “learn the lingo” and understand basic processes and procedures. In the past, most folks have learned by piecing information together from various co-workers. They learn the ropes eventually, but the feedback is often “I wish I would have felt more comfortable learning and following the processes and terminology in the first three months.”

Our solution? Use our Knowledge Guru game engine to create a “BLP Guru” game to teach process, procedures and jargon! Employee on-boarding information is well-suited for the spaced repetition-based game engine.

Basics of using Knowledge Guru for on-boarding:

  • Our game covered policies and procedures, jargon and the “BLP Toolbox.” We wove workplace scenarios into all the topics.
  • New hires review the handbook, then play the game with handbook close by. The game reinforces concepts that may have been explained by a manager and also teaches new concepts.
  • The feedback provided for incorrect responses helps employees avoid embedding incorrect information.
  • Achievements, leaderboards and the “See the Standings” page give new hires a sense of connection and camaraderie (plus some needed motivation!)
  • The iterative questions and spaced repetition reinforce key learning objectives we identified as essential for all new hires to know or do.
  • When job titles, tools and policies change, we are easily able to update the game content (or change to a new game entirely) in the admin dashboard.

Scroll through the screenshots below to see some highlights of the BLP Guru Game. You can also request a demo for a complete walkthrough of how to use Knowledge Guru in an employee on-boarding program.


Basic policies and procedures work well within Knowledge Guru games.

Basic policies and procedures work well within Knowledge Guru games.

Images can be combined with relevant questions, such as this "find and locate" question.

Images can be combined with relevant questions, such as this “find and locate” question.

Players learn from their mistakes and receive feedback when they answer questions incorrectly.

Players learn from their mistakes and receive feedback when they answer questions incorrectly.

Rewards and achievements make otherwise dry content motivating.

Rewards and achievements make otherwise dry content motivating.

Players receive badges and topic mastery achievements when they complete on-boarding topics.

Players receive badges and topic mastery achievements when they complete on-boarding topics.

The "See the Standings" page shows where all new hires have progressed in the game. The leaderboards build camaraderie, too.

The “See the Standings” page shows where all new hires have progressed in the game. The leaderboards build camaraderie, too.

When the policies and procedures inevitably change, the game content is easy to update.

When the policies and procedures inevitably change, the game content is easy to update.

How Johnson & Johnson Uses Knowledge Guru to Drive Efficiency

“Should I use games for learning?”

 “If the answer is yes, how do I integrate them into my training program?”

 “Oh, and what about buy-in from leadership?”

While research and case studies both demonstrate how effective serious games are when integrated into a blended curriculum, organizations need concrete examples that show what “success” looks like when using serious games.

One such example comes from the Talent Acquisition Organization at Johnson & Johnson. I interviewed Kristen Pela, Manager, Training & Communications, Talent Acquisition to learn more about their use of Knowledge Guru.


Who is the Talent Guru game for?

All Johnson & Johnson US associates within the Talent Acquisition organization.

How it is part of a learning solution? What other pieces are involved in the training?

The talent GURU game was one piece of a larger training program. The training program is a 5-week series of formal and informal training that includes:

  • Outcomes of Project Camelot
  • Outcomes of Project Prism
  • TA Fundamentals Refresher
  • Technology Refresher

Each week consisted of a 20 minute online module, Talent Guru competition, and a Topic Forum.

What results do you hope to produce from Knowledge Guru? What do you want the learners to know or do after playing? 

The goal of our training program is to drive consistency and efficiencies across Talent Acquisition not only with our processes but also in our recruiter and sourcer partnerships.

What initial feedback and results have you received so far?

The feedback for Knowledge Guru has been amazing and folks have really enjoyed the fun and interactive training.

What have been the keys to successful implementation for you? (I’m guessing the weekly emails are part of it)

We’ve driven success with:

  • Clear goals & objectives
  • Leadership involvement
  • Game play tied to each person’s G&Os (Goals and Objectives)
  • Daily & weekly winners, which creates a competitive framework
  • Use of Twitter to talk about the training and create some fun banter


What advice would you give to others on creating their first Knowledge Guru game?

Don’t rush game play or development. Getting folks engaged has been the key to our success.