How PHI Factory deploys gamified learning as a game changer for a sustainable shift in organizations

How PHI Factory deploys gamified learning as a game changer for a sustainable shift in organizations

For many organizations, gamified learning platform is a new, innovative way to get big groups of people to learn, act as a collective, and accelerate their sustainability goals. And as always, innovations raise questions. What is the actual impact of gamified learning? How do you engage people to play? Does it lead to a more sustainable mind shift?

2B talked to Marinda Bosman, Circular Economy Accelerator, from licensed partner PHI Factory.

PHI Factory is an early adapter for gamification because they have been working with gamified learning programs for the last 3 years for both corporate and governmental organizations in the Netherlands. As a consultant in the PHI team Behaviour, Marinda implements gamification and ways to influence behavioral change daily in her projects. We asked her about their experiences with implementing their platform, the PHI Accelerator at their clients’ organizations.

Marinda, let’s start with the most important question. Gamification sounds fun, but what does it lead to? Is it a game-changer?
Absolutely. But not if you look at it like a stand-alone solution for everything. It is a brilliant way to create traction. To get hundreds or thousands of people to take small steps in the right direction. When we work with an organization, we often implement several interventions. The PHI Accelerator is one of those interventions: it’s the most effective way to reach and activate large groups of employees at the same time with a participation grade of 90% of people who signed up.

Before we used the gamified learning platform, we noticed that we were working toward sustainability goals with only a small group of people instead of with everyone. Still important, because this small group of people has a lot of mandate and is often very dedicated, but in the end, less impactful on many levels. Because you miss out on so much expertise in the specific functions and specialties within the organization and you need everyone's support to start a movement.

What happens when you let large groups play the PHI Accelerator?
People become fanatic and competitive! Playing the game, people get really excited to earn points and awards, both individually and in teams. But most of all, they all become more aware. About topics like circular economy, inclusiveness, and sustainability. This leads to conversations about these topics and to better questions about the company's goals and everyone's effort to reach those goals. Employees start to ask: what can we do? Because of the program, they experience that they can openly share ideas and knowledge about circularity, which are usually less common topics in their day-to-day business. It gives employees permission and a platform to innovate socially, on these very important, future-oriented topics.

How do companies react to this form of social innovation? Can they handle the traction it creates?
It can be impressive, hundreds of people learning about and acting more circularly at the same time. So as an organization, you need to be ready for it. It asks for preparation and strategy: how can we let the energy and ideas flow as much as possible? How do we organize community management to keep everyone active during a six-week program? Do we have budgets available to implement improvements that employees come up with? But in fact, budgets are not key factors. We let everyone take ownership of their ideas. A gamified learning program creates a circular ecosystem in an organization: if you let the employees be, then they will organize themselves. So, to answer your question, most of the time, organizations act enthusiastically toward gamified learning as social innovation. Because circularity becomes a vibrant topic in the work environment and employees become more aware of the sustainability goals of their organization. Effect measurements show an increase of 33% when it comes to employees' knowledge of their own company’s sustainability goals.

Can you give an example of changes and ideas that people come up with while using PHI Accelerator?
It is all the things together that make the difference. People address each other on separating waste. Reusing coffee cups. Lowering the building heating systems. Asking for more vegetarian and plant-based food at lunch. Changing the way you travel to work: more often by train than by car. Cleaning up waste outside of the office during lunch breaks. Asking questions about business trips by plane: can we do it differently? Organizing meetups, like swap parties for clothes and stuff, or regreening the outside area. And one of my favorites: repairing and buying second-hand instead of new. Something which isn’t very common in organizations. There isn’t one best example. It depends on the context, the sustainable goals of the company, and its ambition. It is all the things together that make the difference. Especially when improvements are data-driven.

The PHI Accelerator immediately shows the impact of small actions performed by the participants in the platform. Like the reduction of carbon emissions or the amount of prevented food waste. This is something very concrete and highly motivating: often people feel that their actions don’t matter. If you realize what the impact is when everyone comes to work more often by train, you’ll most likely choose to do this more often in the future. And when you realize that that is something everyone can do as a collective, you also realize that it effectively helps to reduce carbon emissions.

Are there any unexpected side effects that you noticed while using gamification?
We often hear that certain, unexpected people stand up to become ambassadors for sustainability. The PHI Accelerator tickles intrinsic motivation for a better future. These people feel the need to pitch in on the company's responsibility to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. This is social innovation at its best.

We also hear from participants that they really enjoy the teambuilding part. Working together in teams with colleagues, sometimes people they were not familiar with yet, makes them connect with each other in a whole new and fun way. It is a really strong side effect that we didn't expect to be so important.

What would you say to companies still a bit uncertain about using gamification?
Give it a try. Just go for it. Get inspired by the effectiveness of a gamified platform. It is a great way to spread your knowledge and the experience of others about the sustainability issues you are interested in.

PHI Factory is a consultancy firm that specializes in accelerating companies to a circular and inclusive economy. For the last three years, they have been implementing gamified learning programs for Nationale Nederlanden, Vattenfall, Rijkswaterstaat (Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management), FM Haaglanden, Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and Compass Group Benelux.

Number of people activated: 5500
Expertise: Circular Economy
SDGs: 6, 8, 11, 12, 13  

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