CultureLife at DaxkoTechnologyWorkplace

Let the Games Begin

By November 13, 2014 One Comment

Here at Daxko, we eat, sleep, and breathe member engagement. I mean, we literally wrote the book on it. So it’s no surprise that team member engagement is important to us as well. Studies show that employees who are highly engaged at work are much more productive.  In a meta-analysis of 263 research studies across 192 companies, employers with the most engaged employees were 22% more profitable than those with the least engaged employees.

One of my favorite ways that we promote team member engagement is through something called gamification. Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems. Studies have shown that it stimulates creativity and directly improves engagement and learning. Here are three examples of how we use Gamification at Daxko to improve engagement, focus, and learning.

1. Teaching agile concepts and principles

As an Agile Coach for Daxko, I’m responsible for teaching new team members about our agile principles and philosophy. This is the core foundation of our engineering culture and fundamentally drives how we build and deliver software.

Some of the agile principles we teach team members include: breaking larger tasks down into smaller, more manageable ones, getting feedback early and often, and working in short iterations. I recently developed a game to help reinforce those ideas and principles using Lego bricks.

The game has two parts – the first requires participants to build a small house based on a list of requirements. Once the house is complete, they use test cards and roll a die to test different parts of the home and make changes based on the results. The second phase breaks the construction and testing down into smaller parts so that they test each section of the house as it is completed. The resulting improvements in efficiency and reduction of waste is obvious and the concepts we talked about earlier become much more tangible and concrete. Plus team members get to have a little fun using their imagination and playing with Lego!

Let the games begin1

2. Reflecting on how we are working

All of our software teams practice sprint retrospectives after each iteration. Retrospectives are a tool for us to look back at the last couple of weeks of working and review how things went. We talk about things that are working, things that could be better, and ideas that we have to make us work better as a team. Since we do this every two weeks, it can sometimes feel stale and boring. One of the ways we combat this is to change up the format and introduce different gamification techniques. One of my favorites is called the Sailboat or Speedboat exercise. Here’s how it works:

Draw a picture of a cloud with wind, a sailboat with an anchor, and an iceberg similar to the one seen below.

Let the games begin2The imagery here represents the following:

Winds = The things that propel us.

Anchor = The things that are holding us back or making us slower.

Iceberg = Things to look out for.

Have the team take time to think about each of these aspects of the project or sprint and write them down on post-it notes. Take turns placing the notes in the appropriate area of the image and discuss each one with the group.

Use dot voting to identify the things the team thinks are most important to address. We capture any action items that come out of the discussion and post them in a visible area in our team room.

3. Measuring the health of our teams

We identify closely with the engineering culture at Spotify. A few of us were fortunate enough to hear two of their agile coaches speak at Agile 2014. One of the things we have stolen borrowed from them is the squad health check concept. This workshop involves the team rating themselves on several “health indicators” using red, yellow, and green cards. The cards help facilitate a group discussion around each of the health indicators. The discussion is the most valuable part of this workshop. (That’s also why surveys don’t work well for this sort of thing.)

Much like retrospectives, this is a really useful tool for the team to help identify how they are doing. The difference is that the team is measuring themselves on specific dimensions such as: teamwork, quality, fun, value, etc. This means that they can identify trends and respond accordingly.

Let the games begin3.jpg


These are just a few examples of how we employ gamification techniques to improve team member engagement and outcomes. Here are a few resources if you’d like to learn more:

GameStorming – a toolkit for innovators, rule breakers, and changemakers.

A Guide For Retrospectives – Tips on how to organize and facilitate effective retrospectives

TastyCupcakes – Fuel for Invention and Learning

Innovation Games – Library of innovation games


Jason B. is a software testing professional that loves a good challenge! When he’s not working to make the world a more “agile” place, he’s probably out running waterfalls in his kayak.

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