It's difficult to measure employee engagement. Watching a group of employees coming up with exciting ideas after work is definitely fun. And it is a sign of high engagement!
The key word? Engagement. Engagement as in employee engagement, customer engagement, learner engagement. In education and training, we talk about learner engagement when we refer to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, and passion of learners. Ultimately, the expected results of engagement are increased motivation, better performance, higher productivity, better retention rates, more emotional well-being, and last but not least, an inspiring learning culture. But how to get there? By empowering learners!
No risk, no fun! We tried out a prototype innovation board game (as developed by Erich Scheffl and his colleagues) with a group of highly motivated learners in a public sector organisation. Three teams competed against each other. They had to come up with ideas and solutions to a number of pre-defined workplace-related questions, using a variety of creativity techniques. (The questions had been developed by another group of learners of the same organisation a week before.) After some initial scepticism, participants really got into the game and it was fascinating to listen to their train of thoughts – from “mop” to “fluffy sofas” to “innovation teams”.
Space for creativity
Such creativity games can only take place outside the hierarchy, in the open space where employees may ignore business-as-usual rules and are empowered to come up with progressive ideas. It’s not new that organisations initiate experiential labs for their employees - think of Microsoft's garage -, trying to incubate grassroots innovation and hoping for improved product lines and services. What was new in our context though, was combining parts of an innovation process with English training, thus creating a double benefit. “Gamers” managed to be fully empowered and engaged in the creative process within a short time and they came up with really good ideas - after work.
Here are some ideas participants liked best:
1) How can an organisation reflect its success patterns to increase its power of innovation and its ability to react appropriately to unexpected developments?
by introducing interdisciplinary innovation teams
by creating trial and error labs
by investing into new technologies to accelerate processes
by enjoying transition phases rather than putting pressure
by inviting children and learning from them
2) How can employees bring their creativity to work?
by reusing and redesigning old ideas that had been successful in a different context
by creating effective communication channels, such as installing an idea proposal box for management
2) How can a workplace become a “playground”?