• Vanya Koonce

THE GAMIFICATION OF COACHING


Use cases and the science behind Gamification in coaching

In 2016 when I was conducting market research to develop my first coaching software application, I discovered ProReal and its co-founder David Tinker. As soon as I met David, I was struck by his technologically oriented approach to coaching, and his forward-thinking precocious understanding of how technology would reshape the field in the years leading up to today. David had developed an immersive platform that allowed users to create a virtual representation of their internal or external world scenarios by using 3D gaming technology.



In 2016 when I was conducting market research to develop my first coaching software application, I discovered ProReal and its co-founder David Tinker. As soon as I met David, I was struck by his technologically oriented approach to coaching, and his forward-thinking precocious understanding of how technology would reshape the field in the years leading up to today. David had developed an immersive platform that allowed users to create a virtual representation of their internal or external world scenarios by using 3D gaming technology.


As a coach practitioner or therapist, you may wonder how such a tool could be useful and applicable to personal development, training, and facilitation. That's why I invited David to be my guest in the Coaching and Technology webinar on February 9th at 11 am PTS. He will take us on an experiential journey and see if ProReal or similar technologies are something you would like to utilize or develop to improve the lasting effect of your practice.


Recent research has found that gamification can enhance the enterprise of personal development. So far, it has been found to boost motivation, engagement and performance in education, therapy, agile development, training. In this article, I would like to explore the potential of using gamification [e.g. video games!] in coaching, by reviewing research results from the fields of clinical, cognitive and positive psychology.


As it turns out, playing video games can teach clients a lot about themselves. The dynamics of play can reveal profound insights around client’s personal strengths and weaknesses, and cast a reflection of how they play in “the game of life.”


There is an abundance of evidence that shows that video games help users improve upon their personal weaknesses. They have been found to help players cultivate healthier mindsets around problem-solving, develop new skills, to set and achieve new goals, and cooperate better with other people.


Many game developers use concepts from positive psychology (more on that later…) to develop games that focus on developing key human strengths (i.e. the innate talents things we already have in abundance) rather than simply overcoming weaknesses or deficits. What’s especially fascinating to me is the fact that video games can reveal to coaches and coachees key insights around where coachee’s have untapped or unexplored potential. There are opportunities for coaches and coachees to learn very quickly about the personal characteristics they have. Video games can provide invaluable sources of assessment data, which generate insights to questions like…

What kind of team player is my client? What emotions do they experience if they lose or win “the game,” and how they cope with these outcomes?


Video games can be used as a playground to explore what is possible in your client’s life. How you play in the game is a simulation of how you play in life.

Let’s return to this thing called “positive psychology” and what it means. In general, human beings have a strong negativity bias; we tend to be deficit focused and have the natural tendency to look for problems or finding ways of solving them. For strong evolutionary reasons, negative information carries more weight than positive information, because it helps us avoid danger so we can continue to survive. Unfortunately, this means that although most of us are not in life-threatening danger when we go to work when we reflect on specific instances of performance, we still look for what we did wrong rather than what we did right. We simply don't have the natural tendency to look for what we did well, what we are proud of, and what we can sustain the next time we are in a similar situation.


The field of psychology has mirrored this natural human tendency, having mostly focused on improving human deficits for most of its history. However, more recent years have placed a refreshing new emphasis on how we can maximize human potential. Starting in the early 1960s, researchers got excited about looking into what people do well naturally and how they could improve the quality of their lives using psychological insights. This new movement is what I refer to when I say “positive psychology”: it is the practice of maximizing human potential and well-being.


One of the leading authorities of positive psychology is Martin Seligman, who proposed a comprehensive model for explaining well-being. The PERMA model as it has come to be known is wildly recognized and influential. It represents five facets of supporting our life satisfaction and happiness.




Below, I will describe what these facets are, and how they relevant in the context of using video games as a means of obtaining coaching feedback.


Positive Emotions

Positive emotions or even the act of seeking them increases our sense of happiness. People who play video games from 6-10 hours a week have more positive emotions (+dopamine!) than people who don't play, and this dopamine surge may have benefits if applied in a coaching context. The activities we engage in when experiencing a surplus of dopamine become more intrinsically rewarding. Video games therefore have the potential to make the coaching process more engaging and motivating for coachees.

Engagement

Engagement is an emotional involvement or commitment to an interest. Games help us tap into a state of flow very quickly, and have the effect of reducing activity in the amygdala (the brain’s fear center). When we are controlled by the amygdala (fight or flight) we lose connection with our higher executive functions, which are essential to bring to coaching engagements. Using games in a coaching context can therefore help coachees be better prepared and more engaged in the planning of their development.

Relationships

Relationships are changing in the 21st century, as they are increasingly mediated by computers and digital devices. Video games offer a powerful medium for creating instant online connections, as users become immersed in a virtual world together based on shared meaning and goals. This brings me to the fifth and final fact of the PERMA model….

Sense of meaning

Sense of meaning refers to a purposeful existence. Using video games in the context of personal development empowers individuals with an extrinsic and intrinsic sense of purpose, as they strive to level up in the virtual game world and in the game of life.

In summary, research answers the question: do video games help develop the building blocks for well-being and personal/professional development? So far, there is research that suggests they may have that potential. Video games can provide coaches a window of where their clients need to develop in order to build more fulfilling lives and careers. Whether you are coaching in the context of leadership development, life coaching, performance coaching, career development or team coaching, answering the following questions can provide a powerful springboard for coaching conversations…for example:

  • How would you describe your game persona and how does it compare to your work persona?

  • What does your character say about how you work?

  • What do you do well in your game?

  • What makes you a good team player?

  • What did you accomplish in the recent games you played?

  • What are your long-term goals for the game, and how do they manifest in the short-term?

  • Who would you like to be in the game?

  • Is there are any difference between who you are in the game and who you are in real life?

Gamification is used in fintech, matchmaking, R&D, T&D, art, to name a few. Today in my webinar, David and I will explore further on this topic of how gaming can be applied to enhance the field of coaching. If you can’t attend the webinar, I highly recommend you check out ProReal, which is a tool that can give you a visual sense of whom you believe you are, who would you like to be, how do you play your "Game of Life." Hope to learn more about this with you today, click here to access the link ……

Author: Vanya Koonce Coaching & Mentoring Consultant @CoEvents