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You're the hedgehog's best friend: The creator of power-ups
How you can accelerate performance by leaving a trail of resources throughout your online working environment.
My entire life, I’ve played the original Sonic the Hedgehog videogame. First, on the Sega Megadrive as a child. Then as part of the Sonic Mega Collection on PS2. After graduating, I played it on the XBox 360. And, while commuting to work here at Mind Tools, I’d play it on my iPhone.
A couple of week’s ago, my wife went out for the night. So I downloaded it onto my XBox One, and absolutely blasted through the Green Hill Zone.
What I like about the game is its timeless simplicity. Your objective is to travel from left to right. Collect rings, avoid the robot bugs, and jump through the hoop for a chance to win a Chaos Emerald.
Then there’s the power-ups.
Power-ups transform your spikey blue avatar into a legend: super speed, temporary shields, invincibility. Doctor Robotnik will fear my maelstrom of erinaceidae prickles.
This might seem like an odd topic for a newsletter about learning experience design, but I was thinking about my old blue friend on a client call the other day.
The client was telling me how they conclude their coaching workshops by pointing to learning resources that help participants put their new skills into practice. And I thought: Wait a minute, that’s a power-up!
Others I’ve spoken to link to our Mind Tools library from their intranet homepage, in their email signature, or as an FAQ at the top of their ‘training request form’.
I’ve seen links to specific resources in absence management policies and in interview guidance, posted in Yammer Groups and as a pinned links in Teams.
It’s not typically how we think of learning resources, but I think ‘power-ups’ is quite a useful framing.
It’s a bit like the concept of ‘learning in the flow of work’, except that I’ve always found this phrase a little too focused on pausing, learning, and then returning to what I was doing.
A power-up, instead, doesn’t make you stop or slow down. It helps you go faster.
It’s the checklist that helps you zip through a process; the template that ensures you ask the right questions; the top tips that reduce the time you have to think about how to approach a situation.
And I think a key difference is that it doesn’t matter if you learn anything. If the power-ups are sprinkled liberally across your organization, in the places where they’ll be most useful to your colleagues, then you don’t need to worry so much about spaced repetition or retrieval practice.
I still think formal learning has its place. I wouldn’t be able to blow up Robotnik’s hovercraft if I hadn’t practiced.
But power-ups make your day-to-day work so much easier.
And as an L&D pro, you’re ideally suited to build and position these for optimum momentum.
Seeking power-ups to help your managers accelerate their performance? Check out our collection of 2,000+ resources or reply to this newsletter from your inbox.
🎧 On the podcast
We’ve sped things up, so now let’s slow them down. This week on The Mind Tools L&D Podcast, Sanaa Khan from Lloyds Banking Group joined Gemma and Owen to discuss the role that organizations can play in employee wellbeing.
For Lloyds, that’s a real challenge: The organization has 65,000 employees, all with individual needs, preferences and circumstances. To meet that challenge, the wellbeing team spend a lot of time speaking to the people they’re tasked with supporting.
‘What we do is really hold space for colleagues to share what it is that they're feeling, what it is that they're experiencing, so that we can listen to that and react to that. So we host[…] focus groups to ensure that we are creating space for colleagues to talk openly in a confidential space so that we can then keep improving the services.’
Sanaa is an enthusiastic speaker and one of Learning Technologies’ 30under30 cohort, so check out the podcast below 👇
📖 Deep dive
Long-term readers will know that I’ve spent much of the past few months speaking to Mind Tools clients about their priorities, with management and leadership development coming out on top.
And for good reason.
A recent report by the Chartered Management Institute found that:
82% of managers who enter management positions have not had any formal management and leadership training
52% of managers do not hold any management and leadership qualifications
33% of managers have never received any formal management and leadership training.
You may ask: Who cares? If managers are making do without any training, maybe the training isn’t worthwhile?
Except that, for many organizations, bad management is a real problem.
The report continues:
50% of workers who rate their manager as ‘ineffective’ are planning to leave their organization in the next 12 months
This continues a longer trend. In 2019, SHRM reported that:
50% of American workers believe their individual performance would improve if their supervisor had better people management skills
And in February of this year, UKG reported that:
69% of respondents said that their manager had an impact on their mental health
Finally, according to The Economist:
‘Half of Americans who have left a job said they did so because of a bad manager, as did nearly a third of British job-leavers.’
If you want to build a better organization, it’s a good idea to start by building better managers.
👹 Missing links
This week, Mind Tools Learning Experience Designer David Sharkey showed me a course he built to test a variety of AI tools. It includes AI-generated graphics, AI-generated voiceovers, a chat interface, a talking head video, and a clunky-as-hell arcade game that he coded with help from Chat-GPT. In his own words, the course is ‘terrible and buggy’, but it’s cool to see these tools applied to a single output.
The demo from David also illustrates a point that Dr Philippa Hardman makes in this post: AI is not a new piece of technology, it’s a foundational infrastructure more akin to electricity than a calculator. Just as electricity re-shaped society through light, home appliances, communication and entertainment, so too is AI likely to change how we live and work.
This has absolutely nothing to do with L&D or AI but, as an awkward British man who sometimes has to travel to the US, I found it incredibly useful. For years, when not playing Sonic, I worked as a waiter at large events. If I took home £5 in tips, I’d be delighted. But, in America, the world of tipping is governed by an opaque set of norms and expectations that are communicated to visitors only through eye-rolls and snark. To overcome this social hurdle, the writer of this 2014 article interviewed 123 people working in New York jobs that involve tipping to find out what’s expected. Non-Americans should save a screenshot to their phone.
👋 And finally…
Speaking of video games, one of the Mind Tools Custom team revealed a childhood fondness for this horrorshow: Austin Powers: Oh, Behave!, available on Gameboy Color - but hopefully not anymore.
Everything about it is terrible. Enjoy!
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