From Keyboard to Keypad: Teaching Leadership through Gamification

Since I was a child, gaming has always played a big role in my life. I associate gaming with happy memories of my youth and, of course, a great source of entertainment. And now, as a learning professional, I continue to think about gaming – but in a much different context. My focus now is on how gaming can be used to help learning.

“As a human race we were spending about 3 billion hours per week gaming.” Jane McGonigal, renowned game designer and author

At TELUS, we believe that learning is a collaborative, continuous and connected process.  That’s why we’re always on the prowl for new ways to engage employees on their learning and career journey. We think gamification is one of those ways.

TELUS recently introduced three applications that feature interactive online games as learning tools. One of our most prominent gamification applications was designed to help educate employees on the TELUS leadership competencies. While competency-based approaches to leadership development are quite common, using games to teach leadership competencies is not.

Gamification is defined as applying game-design thinking in non-entertainment environments to motivate change in participant behavior.

Working with Ncite Factory, a transformational gaming company, we designed a game where employees could practice their leadership and coaching skills and behaviors in a simulated and safe role-play environment. The result is TELUS Ignite Speed Skating (“Ignite”), a game-based learning module that uses TELUS’ culture, values and behaviors as base content to help employees improve their leadership skills, teamwork, creativity, problem solving and other important aspects of personal and interpersonal development.

Ignite is designed to develop the player’s ability to lead using the leadership competencies, both in-game and in the real world. The goal is for the player to develop their leadership skills to eventually become a high-performing TELUS leader and coach. Ultimately, we want our future leaders to take the lessons that made them successful in the game and apply them in real-life situations.

Since Ignite went live in June 2013, over 200 team members from different business units, roles and levels have participated in the simulation. Player feedback and results to date have been very positive and there is strong interest from the business to leverage this innovative learning application for other talent development activities.

Gamifying Leadership Development Infographic


So what have we learned about gamification at TELUS? Based on market research data and our own experiences, we see a bright future for game-based learning in organizations. But what do you think? Is your organization ready to “level up”?

Paul Bleier is the Culture Change Ambassador for the TELUS Transformation Office (TTO). You can read his tweets at @paulbleier.