Gamification of Procurement learning

Procurement learning is changing. As younger people enter the procurement profession, they expect training methods that will engage them and enhance their business performance, such as social media, online or classroom games. ADR International delivers classroom and digital procurement training courses to corporate customers around the world, and gamification is an important theme.

Learning games are instructional tools that develop capability through “play”. The games could be in any format e.g. board games, card games, console games, simulations. In the article “Moving Learning Games Forward” (Eric Klopfer, Scot Osterweil, and Katie Salen), the authors cite the elements that constitute a game in the context of learning: rules, goals, feedback, fantasy and fun. These concepts are familiar to games learned in childhood and are essentially relevant for the digital gaming industry. Most importantly, they work in the context of games for school and business education.

Games make use of the elements that game-players find so compelling, such as:

  • point-scoring or moving up levels
  • collaborating to solve a problem
  • time pressure
  • public recognition for “winning”

The concept of games to assist learning is not new. “Serious Games” has been a learning concept since the 1970s, developing into Clark Abt’s book of that name. Education games, particularly for school use, have been available since the 1980s. A 2015 market report by Vertical (“The Serious Game Market”) predicts that the market for learning games targeted at both youth and adult learners will be worth over $5billion by 2020, fuelled by growing demand that will exceed 16% each year.

The Serious Games Initiative’s co-founder Ben Sawyer identified a range of “games with a purpose beyond play” including “games as work” and “games for training” for corporate learners. (“The Taxonomy of Serious Games” developed by Ben Sawyer and Peter Smith, 2008).

ADR’s classroom learning games make use of tactile formats like cards, board games and props for simulation. We have found these formats particularly useful for procurement training and development. Our tutors summarize the reasons for their popularity:

Fantasy elements

  • Simulations allow for a variety of different outcomes, so participants can test the variables they have available and learn by experimentation.
  • Role play and simulation enables the use of different identities and / or behaviors. Being able to look at things from another perspective is essential for procurement people, who spend much time trying to get buy-in from stakeholders and suppliers

Childhood elements

  • Game-playing using fun design and props like cards, game pieces and game boards blends media well – focusing onto the participants’ hands and away from screens seems to switch thinking.
  • “Free play” game elements like drawing evokes memories of childhood games and aims to spark creative thinking and an opportunity to look at colleagues’ perspectives in a new light.

The value of not “winning”

  • Ironically, whilst games lend themselves well to competitiveness, they can also be used to take pressure off learners to “perform” against their colleagues. For example, the use of dice introduces an element of chance; and drawing games reward expressiveness, not intellect.
  • Frankly, something fun is more memorable than something serious in the classroom.

Our tutors have put together their top tips for effective procurement learning games:

Top Tip Number 1: Games should be a trigger for the learning.

It is tempting to finish up a fun game on a “high” but training participants need to bring the learning back to their own working environment and discuss how the game experience was relevant, whether or not the relevance was immediately obvious. The tutor facilitates this using their observations of how the participants interpreted and adapted the game rules.

Top Tip Number  2: Many modern educational games are online, but they don’t have to be.

People like traditional game-playing elements (like cards and boards) as well as online and console gaming. For example, Mojang revealed in 2016 that they had sold over 100 million copies of their top game, Minecraft (available on PC, console, and mobile). But another one of its popular games, Scrolls, is based on collection and swapping of cards (albeit digitally, which can then be used for battle enactment). Using the most popular elements of “traditional” games provides options for using them in classroom learning, or built into eLearning and virtual classroom formats.

Top Tip Number  3: Games should reinforce effective procurement behaviours.

What is it about digital games that they so captivate young learners? Perhaps one reason is that the ability to play anywhere and anytime makes you feel good, because you can master the game quickly. Such games help you to get better because you play repeatedly. Procurement games work well when a similar logic is applied: A particular behaviour or practice learnt in the game becomes a habit that will serve the procurement professional well during their continued discussions with stakeholders and suppliers. For example, a game that helps to inspire creative thinking as part of specification development becomes a normal behaviour in daily working.

As the interest in and application of games extends further into business training, the procurement profession can demonstrate its progressive approaches by making use of gaming options to enrich their personal education. Even better, such games are an efficient and compelling way to educate their stakeholders and suppliers.