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Interview with Monica Cornetti – A Gamification Master Strategist, Keynote Speaker, Founder, and President of Sententia Gamification

Today, we will be interviewing one of the biggest personalities in the world of Gamification. This might feel like high praise to some people but believe us when we tell you, Monica Cornetti is a gamification extraordinaire.

Monica is the Founder of Sententia Gamification, the international Gamification Conference for Learning and Development, and the author of the book Totally Awesome Training Activity Guide: Put Gamification to Work for You.

Not only was she featured on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek but is also consistently ranked in the top 20 Gamification Gurus in the world by UK based Leaderboard.

A gamification speaker and designer, Monica was rated #1 among the “Gamification Gurus Power 100” by RISE in 2015 and 2016, and in 2016 was also recognized as a Top 3 Finalist in the “Gamification Guru of the Year Award” by the World Gamification Congress held in Barcelona, Spain. 

Her client list includes United Airlines, Kimberly Clark, PepsiCo, Shell Oil, Cameron Oil, LeTourneau Cranes, IHRDC, RiceTec, Proctor & Gamble, The ASBDC, Texas Tech, The Nature Conservancy, Youth Build USA, American Fidelity, FM Global, SHRM, The Social Security Administration, Headstart of St. Louis, Infinisource, and IAAP.

We would like to thank her for giving us the opportunity for this interview. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Our readers would love to know when and how you started your Gamification journey. Can you please write a little on what intrigued you about Gamification and what your personal experience has been so far?

My adventure into the world of Gamification began in the summer of 2012 when I received a call from a client asking me to develop a Gamification Workshop to teach creative problem-solving skills. I was honored to be asked and thanked her for thinking of me.

I assured her that I was the ideal professional trainer to hire for this workshop … after all, I have earned a reputation for using games to interact and motivate participants in all my leadership, strategic thinking, and communication workshops.

However, as I asked her about her objectives and outcome goals, I was quickly Googling the word “Gamification.” The truth was, at the time, I didn’t have a clue what Gamification was. I had heard the term bantered around, but it wasn’t anything I had turned my focus to.

Fortunately, the first article I stumbled upon was by Adam Carstens, and John Beck called “Get Ready for the Gamer Generation.” (TechTrends, 2005)

I learned from Jane McGonigal that four miraculous things happen to gamers while playing 

  • First, they become urgently optimistic, overwhelmed by a desire to win
  • Second, they bond closely together since those who play together are more inclined to like and trust each other
  • Third, it makes them happy over-achievers, sitting at their screens for hours in a state of focused bliss
  • And finally, it furnishes them with some sort of epic purpose – a larger-than-life reason for being

What interested me about these four states is that they are precisely the things that make up a model employee – an optimistic, idealistic team worker who is blissfully happy to create, innovate, and grind through the challenging work to get to a place of accomplishment and mastery.

And that is what I’ve dedicated the last eight years of my life to – decimating dry, dull, boring, ineffective, “stick a pencil in my eye” training so that workplace learning has a positive impact on not only the learner but the organization and its outcomes.

We would love to hear about your experience as a GameMaster at GamiCon.

Gamification as a concept and practice moved from the periphery of Learning and Development into a best practice for design and delivery. Many researchers, professionals, and practitioners around the world were doing amazing work, and there was not a venue for them to connect, to share, to learn, and to generally discuss Gamification in the United States.

Prior to the launch of GamiCon in 2018, the last Gamification conference of note in the United States was GSummit in 2014. At GSummit, very little attention was given to the application of Gamification in Learning and Development or employee-facing Gamification. Attention was mostly given to outward-facing and social applications of Gamification.

The World Congress of Gamification was a yearly event, held in Spain, drawing practitioners from around the world. Since it encompassed the whole field of Gamification, it did include sessions and presentations that discussed Gamification in Learning and Development. The World Congress did not happen in 2017 for what appears to be organizational reasons. This opened an opportunity and a professional need for a Gamification Conference.

More important to our interests, while Gamification has increasingly been used in L&D settings, prior to GamiCon, there was a major conference for L&D professionals who are using Gamification in their design and delivery.

With the hole left by the cancelation of World Congress in 2017 and the increased professional interest and need in the Learning and Development community, we believed there was a great opportunity to produce the first Gamification Conference and Expo for Learning and Development. And we did!

In 2017, we approached our friends and colleagues at Training Magazine and proposed co-locating our event with their annual TechLearn and TRAINING conferences. 

And now, 3 years later, GamiCon is the ONLY conference exclusively for the design and application of Gamification for corporate training, adult learning, employee motivation and productivity, innovation, and culture change.

This is THE gamification event of the year for business leaders, training directors, instructional designers, trainers, facilitators, project managers, and adult educators looking to learn more about effective gamification project delivery.

Completely gamified, from the opening kick-off event to the closing keynote and headlined by some of the world’s leading gamification strategists, researchers, and solution providers, this event brings together individuals and organizations who seek to create engagement and productive outcomes with Gamification.

We’ve gone virtual for GamiCon 2020. And whereas most conferences give you lots of great information, at GamiCon 2020, you will actually create learning programs in 5 gamification design playshops!  Each one is hands-on, highly interactive, and run by a world-class gamification master!

1- What does the term “Gamification” mean to you?

In the broad sense, Gamification is about taking what is so engaging and fun in games and using those things (game elements, mechanics, and dynamics) in a non-game context. At Sententia, we also use the term as a type of umbrella term to include serious games or game-based learning instead of being purists who say it shouldn’t feel like a game.

2- Tell us about Sententia Gamification and the concept/idea behind its inception?

My original idea for Sententia was to be a consortium of gamification experts from around the world, especially since Gamification as a discipline is so much more advanced in other parts of the world than in the United States. And while we still work closely with these experts when we can, Sententia has shifted its pursuits toward setting standards for the Gamification of learning through our certification and GamiCon, the conference for the Gamification of Learning.

3- Can you discuss some of the challenges that you had to face during the initial phase of the company?

My vision, as I said, was to create a consortium, and it turned out that not many people had my vision. While most people in the gamification community are nice and happy to help, even collaborate, their efforts and attention were on acquiring and servicing their own clients.

4- What does it mean to establish standards and best-practices within the field of Gamification?

When Gamification first became a trend, there was a rush to call something gamified. The result was a lot of bad Gamification. People would throw some badges and leaderboards at a learning program and call it gamified. The point of our Certifications and Conference is to ensure that more and more practitioners become deliberate in their gamification practices.

5- Sententia Gamification designs gamification strategy project plans, with a five-level ROI framework for analysis. Can you please explain how this five-level ROI framework works?

Our process fits into the acronym, GAMES, which stands for Goals, Adventure, Method, Engagement, and Sync It Up. Where most people mess up with Gamification is the jump directly to the fourth level, Engagement, and don’t lay the foundation. Instead, we start with the first level, which examines who our learners are and the Objectives and Key Results we have for the learning program. Level 2 involves the narrative or story of the program. Level 3 looks at the method of instruction, how it is delivered, what learning activities will we use, and so on. Level 4, like I said, involves assigning the game mechanics themselves. And finally, we get to paper prototyping and playtesting.

6- What goals are you currently working on achieving with your company? (Can you talk about some current projects you’re working on?)

With our primary focus on ending dry, boring learning through the education and certification of professionals who create such learning experiences, we are currently developing and in the process of launching theGamified Learning Academy. On this platform, our Master Craftsmen (people who have gone through all three Levels of Certification) will host just-in-time learning programs for gamification practitioners. We’ll have things like classes on tricks within different authoring tools, creating learner personas, examples of different uses of game mechanics, and on and on. Plus, we’re offering a selection of “off-the-shelf” asynchronous and blended gamified courses in Workplace Learning topics ranging from grammar to HR compliance. These are topics that are in demand in the business and education marketplace, such as: 

  • Onboarding and Compliance
  • Business Grammar
  • Leadership and Management Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Microsoft Basics
  • Zoom Basics

And this past week, after some gentle yet persistent prodding from my Master Craftsmen and the marketplace, we decided to open up an entire suite of offerings for K-12 teachers and students. I’m super excited about this new area of growth for Sententia because I entered college with the plan to become a 2nd-grade teacher. But after getting bit by the behavioral psychology bug in my junior year, I decided workplace learning and development is where I wanted to be.

7- Your organization offers three levels of Gamification Certification for Human Resource and Talent Development professionals. What will be an individual able to achieve from that?

With Level 1 Gamification Surveyor Certification, we introduce people to our trademarked and proven 30-step process for gamifying a learning program. Since for many people, this is their first foray into Gamification, we work with a case study during the Certification with the result of a proposal for Gamifying either the case study or an actual program.

Level 2 Gamification Journeyman Certification covers the same ground, only in more depth and detail with nearly twice the contact hours and plenty more material. The end project for this Certification is to create a prototype of a Gamified learning program that is play tested.

Level 3 Gamification Master Craftsman Certification goes all the way through to implementation. Traditionally, the process begins with a three-day intensive Mastermind followed by 90 days of coaching and collaboration.

8- What changes (apart from the ones you’re already working on) do you want to see made in the next 5 years? Any predictions about the future of this industry? (What change are you expecting in the foreseeable future?)

With our Master Craftsmen out there creating amazing learning experiences, the bar is being raised. It will be difficult to simply have some words on the screen or boring videos in learning programs. Learners will expect better.

It will also be interesting to see how technology changes our learning experiences. Certainly, simulations will be important for certain skills, but how else might XR change learning environments.

9- Name a few mentors, influencers, or friends that you think have helped you understand or increase your knowledge about Gamification.

Because of GamiCon, I got the opportunity to work with the best of the best from across the globe, and I’ve become really close to many of our speakers and ambassadors; I count them as both friends and family. Mentors and influencers… there are so many. Still, my shortlist includes Bernardo Letayf, An Coppens, Marigo Raftopoulos, Valary Oleinik, James Bishop, Jimbo Clark, Karl Kapp, and Darryn Van Den Berg.

10- If you could give one piece of advice to anyone entering Gamification, what would it be?

Start any and all projects with a “player” persona and clearly defined goals. Know exactly why you are using this game mechanic in this way in this program for these learners.

11-  Could you share a picture of your workspace with our readers?

Eeek – we’re moving in a few weeks to South Padre Island, so my office is a mishmash of stacked books, working projects, boxes, etc. It’s literally a maze. But I will include a picture of the view from my office as of October 1st. The PERFECT place to create!