Karl M. Kapp: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

KappKarl M. Kapp, Ed.D., CFPIM, CIRM, is a scholar, writer and expert on the convergence of learning, technology and business operations. He is a graduate professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA. where he teaches courses in instructional game design and gamification and is the Director of the acclaimed Institute for Interactive Technologies. He is author of six books on the convergence of learning and technology and has authored courses for Lynda.com.

Karl works internationally to help government, corporate and non-profit organizations leverage learning technologies to positively impact productivity and profitability. He provides advice on e-learning design, games and gamification and learning technology to companies and organizations in diverse industries ranging from pharmaceutical, to manufacturing to high-tech. Karl He is a Participant in the National Security Agency Advisory Board (NSAAB) (Emerging Technologies Panel) and sits on several National Science Foundation (NSF) visiting committees. He works frequently with startup companies. He has been called a “Rock Star” of eLearning and is listed among the top gamification experts in the world as it relates to learning and instruction. In 2007, Karl was named one of the Top 20 Most Influential Training Professionals as voted by TrainingIndustry, Inc.

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Morris: Before discussing The Gamification of Learning and Instruction, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Kapp: My family had a huge influence on my personal growth. Growing up everyone in my family was involved in teaching. My mother was a teacher, my father taught classes at the local community college and my grandmother had been a teacher. It was instilled in me early that education is a ticket to great things. I learned to value learning and gained an appetite for continual learning. My grandmother was so into learning that during her lifetime, she earned two different master’s degrees in biology. She had gotten her masters in biology early in her career and after about 10 years, she decided that the field had changed so much that she had to go back and refresh her knowledge with another master’s degree. So my family set the expectation that learning was something that was of value, important and should be pursued. I didn’t always appreciate it at the time. In fact, one of most frequent gifts I got as a youngster was books. I can tell you a 13-year-old boy doesn’t really appreciate the gift of books on his birthday when he really wanted a soccer ball. You can’t appreciate that until you are older but over the long run, it makes a difference. I can still remember when my grandmother gave me “Gone with the Wind” to read. At the time, it was the longest book I ever saw and never thought I could finish it. My grandmother paid me to read the book—she bribed me. It turns out I really enjoyed the book and then discovered I could read that many pages.

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Kapp: In high school I had a teacher for composition named Mr. Mortimer. He did two things that had a profound impact on my later success as a writer of non-fiction. First, we had class every day and every day he made us write for the first ten minutes. We would come into class, sit down and he would set the timer for ten minutes and we would write. At the time I thought this was the dumbest, stupidest and most frustrating thing to do. We could write about anything so most of the time I wrote about how dumb it was to write for ten minutes straight. Looking back years later, it was the best gift anyone could give me. He taught me in those ten minutes a day that writing is not an instant inspiration or a shazam of insight but rather a deliberate process that can be mastered through practice. He taught me to write even when I have nothing to write about and something will come. He taught me to overcome writer’s block. He taught me about writing and re-writing. Those ten minutes every day were the best ten minutes I spent in my high school career.

The second thing Mr. Mortimer taught me was that getting published was not just something that “other people” did but that people I knew actually got published. I always thought just famous or special people got published. One day Mr. Mortimer came to class all excited because he had just gotten an article published in “Field and Stream” magazine. I was so impressed and I remember thinking if my English teacher here in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania can get published then maybe I have a shot. It took me almost a decade later for my first published article but I did it and I owe that inspiration to Mr. Mortimer.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Kapp: The turning point for me was landing an internship at an instructional design company after college. There was this company near my hometown called Applied Science Associates (ASA) and no one really knew what they did—something with computers or learning or something. So having an English degree as an undergraduate with lots of courses in Psychology and a teaching certificate, it seemed like interning at a company that had something to do with learning would be a good fit. Plus when I was younger, I was involved in a local theatre group and we were recruited by ASA to play kids in a safety video. So my pitch to work at the company was that I had actually worked for them before as an actor and so now I wanted to work for them as an intern. They gave me a little quiz, I think it was creating a small instructional lesson based on some content and the next thing I knew I was interning for them. As I learned more about what they did and how they created corporate training with technology (at the time green screen computers with text-only interactions), I decided this was the career for me and changed my graduate school enrollment from educational counseling to instructional technology. I loved what they were doing and how the field used all my skills of teaching, Psychology and writing. It was an eye opener because before that I never even knew the field of instructional design existed.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Kapp: My formal education influenced me in terms of writing, from the experience with Mr. Mortimer and then my English degree and teaching certificate influenced my ability to get the job at Applied Science Associates and my Doctoral degree influenced my ability to get my job at Bloomsburg University. At every step of the way, my education has propelled me to the next level. I think what formal education does is to make you study, in-depth topics and that it sometimes makes you learn and do things you don’t think you want to do but in the end are really good for you. Good formal education stretches your mind, it needs to hurt a little, it needs to be a little frustrating and then you can truly grow and learn from the experience. I think informal educational experiences don’t always have the same pain point and, at times, that pain point is good for personal growth even if you may not like it at the time.

Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.

Kapp: I think The Matrix. So why this movie? First, it is one of my all-time favorite movies. But second, it is really about thinking beyond perceived limits. It is about breaking boundaries and refusing to be stuck in the status quo. Innovation in business is about taking a look at what everyone else sees and then finding the areas that can be pushed or destroyed or reconfigured to create new value and to introduce new ideas. So the concept that “there is no spoon” really resonates with me. I like to think about what boundaries can be pushed or removed to create a new way of presenting content or interacting with learners. The concept of gamification is about pushing the boundaries of traditional learning and shaping a new reality…it’s what The Matrix is all about.

Morris: From which non– business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Kapp: George Orwell’s Animal Farm had an impact because it led me to realize that power and control can be a cyclical occurrence. One can be in power and then easily drop out of power and the people who gain the new power will eventually be out of the position of power as well. This served a cautionary tale to me so that I always try to keep in mind that power or control is fleeting and that you always need to be careful of what you do and say to people because no matter what your relationship is with someone, it can change for better or worse so apply the golden rule or you could be in a terrible position. The book also highlighted to me that a person can be influential without having to be in power or control. As a young kid in high school, those were some pretty impactful lessons.

Another book I read in high school but didn’t really understand until my job at the university was Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. Heller so elegantly and hilariously captured the workings, or should I say mis-workings of a bureaucratic organization. Unfortunately, not a week goes by that I don’t think I am in some kind of sequel to the book. It taught me to laugh at the absurdities that surround every working adult.

Morris: From which business book or author have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Kapp: The following business books have always had an impact on me. Early in my career I read everything I could by Tom Peters. I loved the way he gathered and interpreted research from multiple sources, loved the way he wrote and expressed his ideas. He openly contradicted himself, he interviewed smart people. My favorite book of his is Re-Imagine and I hope one day to use that format of tons of graphics, call outs and general chaotic pages for a book. It was brilliant and stands the test of time.

In fact one quote that Peters had in one of his books was by Mario Andretti, “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.” Whether or purpose or by accident, I seem to live that quote frequently. Control is an illusion that we need to get rid of to excel. But that’s hard to do but the results can be fascinating.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Kapp: Leadership is about consensus. I think too often young leaders envision everyone automatically falling in line with whatever they want to do. In reality, to lead is to serve to work with others to accomplish goals. I always try to involve others in my writing and projects. Early in my career I wrote an article titled “Lone Ranger Need Not Apply” the article was about how it takes a team to implement new software. And I think it takes a team to accomplish any goal worth accomplishing and good leaders first create good teams.

Morris: From Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

Kapp: To me information needs to be free. I put all my presentations on the web, make most of my content available and encourage people to use it. Adoption of new ideas is difficult in many social circles and constantly worrying about an idea being stolen won’t prevent it from being stolen and may, ultimately, slow down adoption. So make ideas free when you can.

Morris: From Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”

Kapp: This is so true in video games. For years video games where the scourge of society but they have become mainstream and are being incorporated into business activities. The fringe does become the middle. One of the most profound examples of this was a few years ago when Mercedes-Benz used the Janice Joplin song Mercedes Benz to sell its cars. The song was originally against consumerism and was completely turned on its head. So too is the fate of video games and mainstream business, some people can fight gamification but the march forward is inevitable.

Morris: From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd….’”

Kapp: Isacc Asimov was my father’s favorite author along with Edgar Rice Burroughs. Humans are curious and curiosity leads to discover. I call it the myth of shazam. People don’t shazam new ideas, they mull them over, the work on them in their conscious and unconscious and eventually that leads to new discover. Hard work is the secret to good science.

Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Kapp: Yes, doing the wrong thing, no matter how effectively is a waste of time and effort, always consider what you should do and questions basic assumptions.

Morris: In one of Tom Davenport’s recent books, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” What do you think?

Kapp: Most of my experience is that a collective or a group of people actually make a difference and that while often only one person gets the credit or decides to stand out in front, it really takes a group to accomplish great things and often group will exerts itself for the common good. That will might be represented by one person but that person doesn’t stand alone. He or she can’t it’s often too much for one person.

Morris: Here’s a brief excerpt from Paul Schoemaker’s latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: “The key question companies need to address is not ‘Should we make mistakes?’ but rather Which mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?'” Your response?

Kapp: I really like the mantra “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than beg for permission.” Mistakes are the way kids learn, the way adults learn, and the way organizations learn. Any organization that is punishing mistakes or being so conservative that they fail to make mistakes is an organization that is in its last days. Making mistakes is progress, failing to make mistakes is stagnation. Of course, it goes without saying that the mistakes an organization or an individual needs to make to move forward need to be new mistakes if an organization is making the same mistake over and over again then…that’s a problem.

Morris: In your opinion, why do so many C-level executives seem to have such a difficult time delegating work to others?

Kapp: Because they perceive that delegation has not made them successful. There is, at times, a tendency for C-level folks to perceive that they have gotten to the top through their own expertise, knowledge and acumen. Many believe they are smarter than everyone else. When you are smarter than everyone else, it is really hard to delegate. And often they are perfectionists and, almost by definition, it’s hard for a perfectionist to delegate because nothing is every “right.” On the other hand, there does seem to be a number C-Level folks who have learned to delegate. These are the people that take the time to work with possible successors and others and to collaborate on project, assign stretch assignments and look out for the good of their people. I would like to think that more C-Level executives are in the category of trying to work with people and constantly striving for a balance of delegation and leadership by example.

Morris: The greatest leaders throughout history (with rare exception) were great storytellers. What do you make of that?

Kapp: Storytelling is a fundamental communication strategy among humans. It is basic to who we are and how we make sense of the world around us. Crafting a story is an excellent way to allow listeners to identify with the leader to make connections and to see themselves playing a part within the story being described. Stories convey messages and lessons without being didactic or punitive. Stories allow us to live the life of someone else, to witness mistakes from a distance and learn from others. Stories are a vehicle for emotions and for conveying more than just facts. Leaders who harness stories impact our emotions, our minds and our souls—that’s how powerful stories can be.

Morris: Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original (perhaps unrealistic) expectations. More often than not, resistance is cultural in nature, the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

Here’s my question: How best to avoid or overcome such resistance?

Kapp: Well, one method is storytelling: create a story related to the change you want to see occur and help people identify with the characters in the story. Another method is to include the employees in the decision-making process so the employee doesn’t feel like something is being done to him or her but, rather, they are a willing participant. Let people contribute to the process rather than feeling like they are a victim of the process. Victims will resist the change and hang on to the status quo.

Morris: In recent years, there has been criticism, sometimes severe criticism of M.B.A. programs, even those offered by the most prestigious business schools. In your opinion, in which area is there the greatest need for immediate improvement? Any suggestions?

Kapp: OK, this is a broad brush but these kinds of programs can be heartless, emotionless and soulless. In some cases, these programs only focus on the bottom line, on maximizing resources and on making decisions only for the good of the company or to avoid bad PR. Ethics are compartmentalized into one “ethics” course and not emphasized throughout the entire program. Numbers rule and people are “expenses.” I think we need to have less focus on the bottom line and more focus on creating a better society for everyone. Success shouldn’t equal wealth, there are many other definitions but in our society and in many M.B.A. programs if you are rich you are successful. The fruition of much of this thinking is the animosity of the 99% against the 1%. The “winner take all” mentality taught in M.B.A. programs and the desire for wealth above kindness, compassion and empathy.

When the only focus is cold, hard numbers business leaders make decisions not on what is best for people but on what is best for the business and, often, what is best for the business is not best for the employees. And in the end, we are all just people on the planet and a few extra thousand in profits is not worth callous and calculated cuts of human resources or of destroying natural resources. These programs need to be careful in the models and examples they share with students. And while some M.B.A. programs claim to have a humanistic approach, you can look at the number of human resource courses versus economic courses and you can see the disconnect.

Morris: Looking ahead (let’s say) 3-5 years, what do you think will be the greatest challenge that CEOs will face? Any Advice?

Not sure. I sometimes think that labor will once again become an equal partner in business operations but I don’t know. I think CEOs need to find a way to diversify their focus away from the bottom line and toward the human condition. I’m not against capitalism or the right to make millions of dollars, what I’m bothered about is the common prevailing thought that money is the ultimate measuring stick and that CEOs should be rich at the expense of the workers who have had no real wage increases in decades. This situation is unsustainable and sad. This kind of situation has caused revolts. And, this is why books and movies like The Hunger Games, V for Vendetta and The Matrix are so popular. People see this and are frustrated that they can’t do more. CEOs should take leadership position in crafting a good society.

The recent fuss about the NFL is a good example. The NFL is a non-profit organization that makes billions of dollars and, until recently, turned its head the other way when it came to violence against women and children. The CEO of the NFL is in a good position to take a leadership role in promoting less violence off the field among players but, instead, is playing catch up. And you can bet that non-marquee players would not have gotten the same leniency and marquee players because of the revenue they generate for an already rich league. Just how rich do corporations and organizations need to be before they decide to cut the average worker a break? All this fuss about the minimum wage—for goodness sake when companies are making profits of millions or billions of dollars, it’s time to raise the minimum wage. So, I think that CEOs need to take action about the wealth gap in the United States and around the world. Or, unfortunately, I fear the government may do it for them that might be less than desirable.

Morris: Which were your favorite games to play when you were a child?

Kapp: I loved the Atari and Intellivision games. Old games with cartridges. I liked the board games Risk. Stratego and Monopoly. I liked Coleco hand-held football game. Card games, I like a lot of different games. I played soccer and swam as my youth sports.

Morris: I don’t know about you but, until high school, the games I played on the South Side of Chicago – touch football, basketball, hockey, and baseball – were self-regulated.

With all due respect for the need for officials in interscholastic athletic competition, I think my pleasure when playing any game as a game diminished when it was officiated by others. What are your own thoughts about all this?

Kapp: Kids are not allowed to “play” any more. Everything they do is regulated. Sports have strict rules starting with Under 6 leagues for soccer, T-ball and many other sports. Kids can’t just go outside and play, they need to be watched every minute because of the sad and sensational news reports about missing kids (although the media does overdo the coverage of these still rare occurrences). We no longer let kids be kids or let kids mediate their own games or problems. We are creating a large dependence on outside interventions. I saw a brilliant TEDx talk during which the speaker correlated the absence of play in our society with the rise of mental disorders and he made a strong case that the loss of independent play is a huge societal problem. I think he is right.

Morris: Long ago, I resolved to be the first on either side of my family to earn a high school diploma…and I did. Then In earned B.A. and M.A. degrees. For me, learning was self-motivated and then, after earning an M.A. in comparative literature from Yale, it became self-directed.

Here’s my question: How do you explain the fact that so much of formal education – especially in schools — is passive, complicit, and deferential?

Kapp: I think it is because school is no longer about learning. It’s about positioning yourself for college or about having enough kids reading at the eighth grade level so that funding continues or about making sure that the star football player has enough easy classes so he can quarterback the team every Friday night under the lights. Schools have gotten away from learning and inspiring kids. Teachers teach to tests because they are forced into it. The passion of teaching has transformed, for many, into a grind and that is reflected in the lack of motivation. Another key piece is that many schools are devoid of the stimuli of the outside world. Many kids have smartphones but can’t use them in school. They have tablets but can only use them when designated. Schools are no longer a reflection of how society functions and the kids understand the disconnect. Schools need to be more project oriented and game-like to be motivational.

Morris: How cane game-based methodologies and strategies guide and inform as well as enrich formal education so that those who experience are much better prepared to benefit from informal education?

Kapp: Well, first of all, games are about challenge. We need to challenge learners with meaningful problems and relevant problems. For example, the one thing that was a total disconnect for me with Algebra was the questions about trains leaving stations. We always had questions about trains and if they left at a certain time, travellng a certain speed, estimate the train’s time of arrival. I always had two problems with that. First, I’d never been on a train so what was the point? It was not a way that I would travel and second, what happened to the train schedule? Why could I not just look at the schedule? So the problem was irrelevance. Those algebra questions were not relevant to me. My father was an engineer and he needed algebra daily. Why not use examples and challenges from an engineer as a way of motivating kids. Next, games typically allow more than one way to win and along the way they allow failure. Schools tend to punish failure and there is only ever one right answer. As we discussed above, failure is required for success and moving forward but it is not handled well in school. Games handle failure and multiple chances very well.

Morris: I am a passionate advocate of shared learning and indeed of shared leadership. In your opinion, how can technology facilitate, indeed expedite both forms of collaboration?

Kapp: Technology tools like Google Apps and Google Drive make sharing documents, ideas and concepts easier than ever. Technology tools allow for real time sharing across distances but also for anytime sharing. So that sharing ideas and building off of another’s idea is no longer contingent upon physical proximity. No longer do two scientists have to work side-by-side to quickly share results. Findings, questions and eureka moments can be shared no matter where they are physically located. So collaboration is now free to occur anywhere and at any time with virtually no interruptions or delays because of technology.

Morris: Now please shift your attention to The Gamification of Learning and Instruction. When and why did you decide to write it and do so in collaboration with Lucas Blair and Rich Mesch?

Kapp: The The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook: Ideas into Practice then was the next natural step. This was especially true because people kept saying, “OK, I get it games and gamification are effective for learning but how do I actually do this in my organization or classroom?” So the Fieldbook was a direct response to that question.

I always intended to have contributors to the book. In fact, all six books I have written all make extensive use of contributors. I don’t believe one person can know everything on a particular subject and I believe that true insight and learning come from multiple perspectives which are impossible for one person. I specifically picked Rich for his experience with Simulations and Lucas for his experience building games. I thought that to teach people how to create games and simulations, that the teachers should have years of experience doing exactly that and Rich and Lucas and myself combined had year of experience so I know it was a good team to create something that would be useful to practitioners who wanted to apply the concepts from the first gamification book to their organizations. And from the feedback we have received, it seems to have worked very well. So the fieldbook was always going to be a major collaborative effort.

For the book, we spent many hours on Skype deciding the content outline for the book and what was general information for games, gamification and simulations and what would be specific to each chapter and contributor. We did not set limits on how much each person would write, instead we each wrote what we thought was needed to help someone in our area of expertise and then we combined our efforts when we found a great deal of overlap. It was a smooth process and Lucas and Rich are both great designers and thinkers in terms of the field and what they are contributing both through the book and in their everyday interactions with the field.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.

Kapp: Well I guess the element that most eluded me in the writing of this book was that I originally wanted a cookbook. I really wanted something like …Step 1 do this, Step 2 do this, and now you should be here and you need to do this. However, and I knew this, you can’t build an interactive learning event like a game, creating gamification or simulation by a recipe. It really doesn’t work like that. It’s as much art as science. So the real struggle was how to boil down our art into instructions that were not overly prescriptive but where helpful enough to move someone along from a state of not knowing how to design an interactive learning event to being able to create an event that was meaningful and had all the elements of games, gamification or simulations that they needed and wanted for the learning they were crafting.

I am happy with how it turned out but it was different from my first thoughts on the book.

Morris: For those who have not as yet read Gamification, please explain the essence of each of the ten elements suggested by Robert Koster in his seminal work, A Theory of Fun. First, System (architecture of the game)

Kapp: We are surrounded by systems and games are nothing more than interconnected systems and subsystems. A system is a set of interconnected elements occur within the “space” of the game. A score is related to behaviors and activities which, in turn, are related strategy or movement of pieces. The system aspect is the idea that each part of a game impacts and is integrated with other parts of the game. Scores are linked to actions and actions are limited by rules and rules bound players to certain activities which lead to predefined outcomes.

Morris: Players

Kapp: You’ve got to have players to play a game. Games involve a person interacting with content. This happens in first person shooters, board games and games like Tetris, someone is playing the game and they are the player. So we need to acknowledge the role that a player occupies in any discussion of games or gamification.

Morris: Abstract

Kapp: Games typically involve an abstraction of reality and typically take place in a narrowly defined “game space.” This means that a game contains elements of a realistic situation or the essence of the situation but is not an exact replica. This is true of the game Monopoly, for example, which mimics some of the essence of real estate transactions and business dealings but is not an accurate portrayal of those transactions.

Morris: Challenge

Kapp: Games challenge players to achieve goals and outcomes that are not simple or straight forward. For example, even a simple game like tic-tac-toe is a challenge when you play against another person who has equal knowledge and skills. A game becomes boring when the challenge no longer exists. But even the challenge involved with the card game of solitaire provides enough challenge that the player continues to try to achieve the winning state within the game. So players need to be challenged to be engaged with the game.

Morris: Rules (do’s and don’ts)

Kapp: People need rules in society and they need rules in games. The rules of the game define the game and prevent chaos and confusion. They are the structure that allows the artificial construct to occur. They define the sequence of play, the winning state and what is “fair” and what is not “fair” within the confines of the game environment.

Morris: Interactivity (between/among teammates and with opponent/s)

Kapp: Interactivity occurs at many levels in a game. The player is interacting within the rule system, they are interacting and cooperating with members of their own team, they are in conflict while interacting with members of another team. The entire process of a game is weighing the consequences, advantages and benefits of interacting in a certain fashion with others and with the game.

Morris: Feedback (measurements of success, failure, and progress)

Kapp: One thing that sets a game apart from many other human activities is the rate, intensity and visibility of feedback. Most games give players immediate feedback on progress, distance toward winning and clear results of opponents’ actions. Players are able to take in the feedback and attempt corrections or changes based on both the positive feedback they receive as well as negative feedback. Few situations provide as much corrective feedback as games.

Morris: Quantifiable Outcome (final “score” or result that is definitive)

Kapp: Games are designed so that the winning state is concrete. The result of a well-designed game is that the player clearly knows when they have won or lost. There is no ambiguity. There is a score, level or winning state (checkmate) that defines a clear outcome. This is one element that distinguishes games from a state of “play” which has no defined end state or quantifiable outcome. This is also one of the traits that make games ideal for instructional settings.

Morris: Emotional Reaction (“the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat,” etc.)

Kapp: Games typically involve emotion. From the “thrill of victory to the agony of defeat,” a wide range of emotions enters into games. The feeling of completing a game in many cases is exhilarating as is the actual playing of the game. But at times frustration, anger and sadness can be part of a game as well. Games, more than most human interactions, evoke strong emotions on many levels.

Morris: At one point in your brilliant narrative, you observe, “Together these disparate elements combine to make an event [i.e. an interactive learning experience] that is larger than the individual elements. A player gets caught up in playing a game because the instant feedback and constant interaction are related to the challenge of the game, which is defined by the rules, which all work within the system to provoke an emotional reaction and, finally, result in a quantifiable outcome within an abstract version of a larger system [or reality].”

Here’s my question: Which of these elements seems to be the most difficult for executives to ”get”? Why?

Kapp: I think corporations and educational institutions have tended toward emotionless interactions between and among employees, clients and other businesses. So I think emotion is a hard subject to address in a corporate setting. Most people don’t think that executives should not deal with emotion and that emotion has no place in the workforce but we are human and therefore we have emotions about work successes and failures, we have emotions around feeling slighted or emotions around the thrill of landing a big deal. Emotion should be fostered and leveraged for team building, overcoming difficult times and for creativity and innovation.

Morris: You do a brilliant job of explaining game-based strategies and methods that can maximize the benefits of ILEs (i.e. interactive learning experiences). That is, the “what” and “why” of gamification. It seems to me that you wrote the Fieldbook with Lucas and Rich in order to devote much more attention to the “how.” Is that a fair assessment?

Kapp: Yes, that is correct. The fieldbook is the “how.” The first book is the “why?” When I wrote the first book, the “Why” was really needed but then, very quickly, people needed the “how.”

Morris: What are the defining characteristics of someone who will derive the greatest value from the information, insight, and counsel you provide?

Kapp: The book is written for anyone in the training, eLearning or teaching professions. I think of two types of people who would most benefit. First for those who design, develop, and delivery instruction to others whether the instruction is online, in the classroom or through books or film. We wanted to convey the message that interactivity, game elements and engaging instruction can be created using the same thought process as game designers and that those process, when applied correctly will create engaging instruction. And, at the same time, we wanted to let game developers have a way of understanding the instructional elements behind games that they create. We really wanted to bridge the rather large gap between those who develop instruction for a living and those who design games for a living. We wanted to create a common reference book so the two sides could get together, understand each other and create awesome learning experiences.

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Karl cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

Karl’s Website link

Karl’s TEDx Talk link

YouTube Gamification link

Facebook link

Pinterest link


“Gamification Myths Debunked: How To Sidestep Failure And Boost Employee Learning” link

“Improve Training: Thinking Like a Game Developer”link

“Gamification of Retail Safety and Loss Prevention Training” link

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