Friday, June 13, 2014

Gamification important in corporates, but is Game-based learning?

Gamification is one of the most hip, tech-based and popular methods used to induce a certain behaviour in employees nowadays. It's a way for employees to showcase their accomplishments, compete and participate in various company activities. All this clearly ties back to how engaged an employee is and talks about the employee's performance in the company.

The bigger question that comes to our minds is: "Has this method been implemented in an employee's daily projects and processes?" - Maybe, maybe not! But it can be! Every HR or leader wants their employees and team members to function and engage in a particular way to accomplish milestones which contribute to the larger projects/goals. And all this not just for specific instances like on-boarding but generally at all times. Here we find a missing link between the desire and the milestone to be accomplished. The missing link is the EDUCATION that must be provided to the employee to start thinking, acting and behaving in a manner that will help to achieve the larger company or project objective. Every employee's efforts in the Gamification process should add up to something that is useful and beneficial for the organisation and not just to distinguish between the different levels of performers. This is where Game-based learning comes into the picture!

Game based learning is slightly different from Gamification as Game-based learning culminates in defined learning objectives. It keeps the employee highly engaged in what could be otherwise a boring learning process and increases recall value and retention of the training material. All this in a simulated environment that enables easy transmission of the training /learning into his work. This is especially true of a noob employee that you're trying to latch onto the company work flow. It is more or less ensured that the employee won't fall asleep or zone out when the training module is being "meted" out on him. Much more efficient than traditional training modules?

Also, it is a way to set a company expectation through an experience that allows the employee to be in and learn from it before experiencing the situation in the real-world. It tracks not just completion but the behaviour of an employee, time taken to complete a task and the method used to complete the task. Now you're awarding a true badge to the real performer!

All in all, we believe the Gamification methods and technology coupled with Game-based learning reflects the true performer in the company!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

0 to a 90 seconds video in 1 week!

This past one week has been supppperrr crazzyy!!! Just loved the adrenaline rush that came with it.

Without revealing the name of the customer and the intricacies of the project (not because we don't want to but because we can't :-)), we would like share our experience.

It all began with this really cool team brainstorming about how they can showcase the value of this new system being rolled out for everyone in the company and also promote it. The moment questions like, "How do we communicate?", "How can we educate our users?" and "What is the best way to do so?" pop up, this super natural force immediately transported us into that meeting and we soon became a part of it!

Once we heard the team's thoughts, we immediately got into action and after a week, voila, a crazy cool video launched into the company's blood stream! It was super exciting to see the feedback we got. Here are some comments:

- "Excellent way to let users know about the new system"

- "Very creative. The video is awesome!"

- "We need more of this here!"

We definitely painted the town red with this one!

This was just another experience where we "Engaged Employees" by simplifying Communication & Education

Thursday, April 17, 2014

We just turned 2!

As we turned 2, we took some time out to look back and reflect on our accomplishments, roadblocks, the path we took to reach where we are today and the direction we want to go. We started off in 2012 with a very broad vision and then now we're at a point where we know our strengths, we know what sets us apart from others, we have unique skill sets as a company, we have a team that understands our direction and we've clearly identified the one area that we want to expand and grow in...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Nomination for Best Animated Ad Film (International) at the FICCI Best Animated Frames awards 2014

As a startup success always seems fleeting and elusive, but when it does arrive it is a rather calming and reassuring experience. It is simply an acknowledgement of the risk and effort involved and often serves as an encouraging reminder that bigger, better things await. At Last-Bench, despite our infancy, we've had many such moments and none bigger than getting nominated for a prestigious award - Best Animated Ad Film (International) at the FICCI BAF awards.

The FICCI Frames is a three day global convention covering the entire gamut of Media & Entertainment like Films, Broadcast (TV & Radio), Digital Entertainment, Animation, Gaming, Visual Effects, etc. with nearly 2000 Indian and 800 foreign delegates encompassing the entire universe of media and entertainment attending the event in 2014. It is also Asia’s largest global convention on the business of media and entertainment. The highlight of the conference is the Best Animated Frames (BAF) awards that celebrate excellence in the digital entertainment and animation industry over the last year.

Last-Bench representatives at the FICCI BAF's
What's makes this recognition extra special is to see something we built from scratch, enthused with all our hard work, get recognized on an international stage. It's almost like a David vs Goliath story, where we were pitched against some industry heavyweights like Prime Focus, Cartoon Network, Hungama, Disney, Nickelodeon and still managed to get recognized. Of course winning the award would have sent us to cloud nine but getting nominated itself was far beyond our imagination.

Our entry was our in-house sales video for our content design services. Prior to development, our goal was simple: create video that would convince every viewer that they needed a video made by us. For that we'd have to truly create something special. And we did. In retrospect, we did accomplish our goal but it would be a lie to say we were supremely confident about getting there. It is through sheer effort, dedication and creative brilliance of the entire team that we even came close to achieving something this big.

Our Content Design Services video

What made the development process even more challenging were the many hurdles that we had to face as we lacked the size or muscle power of a bigger production house. Remember, when we developed the video we were a team of 5 and it would be impossible to dedicate people to the making of this video without negatively affecting other aspects of the business. The big question was: Can you develop a high quality video, inclusive of ideation, scripting, storyboard, animation, editing, etc., with a virtually zero budget, within a month and without a dedicated team? What turned the odds in our favor was the abundance of skill and creativity within the team. Discounting timelines and budgetary constraints we not even for a moment ever doubted if we could build something this special. We knew we could create something spectacular but the real challenge was developing a 3 min animated video with a minuscule budget and within a month! Suddenly we felt like we were our own clients! And like every other client of ours, didn't we end up satisfied :D

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My Trip to the Valley!

I had a very short but interesting trip to the valley! This time it was not about the vacation or the holiday, it was about business!

As soon as I landed, I rented out a car and drove to Los Gatos, where I had my first meeting. After the meeting, I drove to Cupertino and you know what that means - Yes, I went to the APPLE HQ. Sadly, didnt have a meeting there but was just visiting a friend who works there. Later that evening, a couple of my friends and I went to dinner at Mountain View. This place was full of Googlers everywhere!

The next day, I started my day brainstorming with my team on a new content-based product idea where we conceptualized what we intended to build. Later in the afternoon, I felt the taste of a hungry, smart and business focussed person from the valley. Meeting him was great experience not because he was influential in the valley but also because the picture he painted through his conversations was just astounding. I adapted myself to the situation and as an entrepreneur started talking (or at least tried talking) in the same tone and language as what I assumed is the type of tone used in the valley. Post that meeting, I went to meet an Entrepreneur from Mumbai. After knowing about our startup, he immediately connected us to another startup where he thought synergies could be discussed. This I think is the best part about Entreprenership - there is always a lot of sharingof either connections, knowledge orlearnings. He & I spoke more from a grassroot level which made me want to think about a lot of other things in the process. I think the thing that stuck the most with me is the conversation about surviving. He asked me to think about a situation where we would have a ZERO bank balance, and asked me to further think of what we would do to ensure that we dont have a ZERO bank balance. He hinted SALES! Excellent discussion! There is always a lot to learn from other Entrepreneurs.

The final day in the valley, my friends took me to Santa Cruz - a beach area where we chilled out a bit before we headed back. Before I went to the airport, I had this one last meeting. This meeting, I was able to demo one of our products in MVP stage and the good news was they really liked it and wanted to talk further!

Well, the perfect way to end the trip in the valley. Like I said, it was a short trip but a great learning experience and also progress from a business perspective too.

I didn’t take pics but I have the memories in my mind. I now wish I had Google Glass! :-)

- Rajeev Chhajer
LinkedIn | Twitter

Friday, January 24, 2014

LISTENING: The part of communication that is IGNORED!

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said” 
–Peter Drucker, Management Theorist

While expressing your thoughts in a coercive, powerful manner is crucial to being a good communicator and manager, this is, in fact, only half of the battle won. The other, equally important aspect of good communication involves developing your listening skills.

As a manager, good listening skills are especially important to you in order to help you develop a better rapport with your team members, understand and hence resolve any problems with customers and colleagues more effectively, and to ‘read between the lines’ more adeptly to gain a clearer understanding of how well or otherwise your audience is responding to you.

The first step towards developing good listening skills is to want and consciously intend to do so. The second step is to acquire and master certain behaviors that will help you to be a better listener.

1. Know your objective

Determine the purpose for, or objective of, your listening. For instance, you could be trying to empathize with someone, or analyze or solve problems when communicating with someone else.

Being clear about your objective will help you to be more receptive to cues in the conversation, and hence sift through all the clutter to retain only those bits that are most pertinent to you. Knowing your objective will prove invaluable in situations where the person you are conversing with either rambles, or talks about multiple topics as the same time.

2. Actively interact

While being a patient, quiet listener has traditionally been confused with being a ‘good listener’, it is important that you learn to distinguish between the two. A quiet listener may not gain complete understanding of what is being communicated to him/her, and will also fail to inspire confidence in the speaker since he/she is unsure about whether or not he/she has succeeded in capturing your attention.

Communicate your interest by asking questions, seek clarifications where required, and even feel free to disagree in case of differences in opinion. Further, when asking questions, prefer ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions that require a certain amount of elaboration, as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

3. Stay focussed

Simple as it may seem, but focus is probably both the most important and most difficult of all listening skills. Listening well requires self-control and to not allow your mind to drift into random thoughts. Consider the case of a college lecture: most students accurately comprehend and retain only about half of what they hear in a 10-minute period. Therefore, students who can stay mentally engaged and focused on listening to their instructors during class stand a much better chance of learning the material presented, and accurately applying it in assignments and examinations.

One way to increase your focus is to first be clear about your objective, and subsequently the value you will gain from the interaction. In the case of a lecture, for example, tell yourself that you are going to find some nugget of valuable information or thought stimulator in what you are about to hear. Think of it as a treasure hunt, a game or a challenge, and you will automatically find it much easier to stay interested and hence, focused, on the interaction.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Working from 'The Center for Agile Thinking' HQ!

The new year started with a big bang at both the Last-Bench! office in Mumbai and The Center for Agile Thinking office in US. The boys in Mumbai have been on a roll and continuously producing learning content. I'd like to share my experience working out of The Center for Agile Thinking HQ in Princeton, New Jersey.

Work as usual started from the 1st day of January. That I'd like to call #LifeOfAnEntrepreneur. Prof. Anne, Charlie and I started work with getting an agenda down first of what we wanted to accomplish over the next 4 days. We came up with a list of 9 items and we achieved 8 out of them, which was very exciting!

The day started out with coffee, went into discussions, ideations and brainstorming. We also got down to some real work which included content and technology. I got to meet a very interesting management consultant while I was there with whom we validated our product, idea and value proposition.

Charlie and I got our hands wet with some server issues, discussed wireframes, design and user-interface. Prof. Anne and I reviewed content for some of our offerings. We had our first virtual team meeting with Sajid and Venkat in India and I was here in the US. It felt a bit different but the feeling was good.

Our days started at around 8am and went on until 8-10pm but it never felt tiring or stressful. Intermittently, our conversations ranged from culture to experiences, which maintained the balance and equilibrium in our minds!:-) I learned Charlie is an awesome musician who also learnt from Pt. Ravi Shankar back during his college days. He played the Piano on one of the evenings as we all were relaxing and it was perfect! The music was relaxing and it got us energized. He played Jazz to Classic Rock. I didn't know a whole lot of Jazz but he played Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Billy Joel. What an experience to see him play the Piano!

Even on the last day, usually one would feel relaxed but we were on a roll and got a lot of work done on the final day too. With al the work, I was balancing calls and work back in India and tried in whatever little way I could to support the team in every possible manner which included communicating all our discussions here with Sajid and Venkat too.

Prof. Anne and Charlie were great hosts. For me, it felt like home and working from the office was the best start to the New Year!

Here are some pics: