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Game On! Maybe Lean Can Be Fun

by Lory Moniz
April 15, 2014

Game On! Maybe Lean Can Be Fun

by Lory Moniz
April 15, 2014 | Comments (3)

Learning something new is hard, especially as you get older. Plus, everyone learns at different speeds, in different ways. It’s really hard to learn something new that goes against everything you’ve been taught.

For example, Lean says, “Make your problems visible for all to see.” What?! That’s just crazy talk!

One of the ways we see a lot of our community members get their team members engaged learning new concepts and practices is through games. I’m not surprised. Any parent knows games are one of the best ways we teach kids. Think of all the math games, word searches, and Scrabble you play with kids. But we’re beginning to figure out games are just one of the best ways to teach human beings, no matter what their age. It turns out games promote teamwork and collaboration, and support different learning styles. Perhaps most importantly, they encourage active, ongoing learning in a risk free environment.

Dr. Sivasailam "Thiagi" Thiagarajan, expert in human performance technology, says, “By design, good games support the approaches of concrete learners through a myriad of feedback mechanisms: visual, auditory, textual, progress charts, etc. while abstract learners can ignore which ever feedback mechanisms they choose – often by simply switching them off.” And abstract learners, he says, “can develop theories and test them out within games in ways not feasible in real life.” 

So games help both concrete learners and abstract learners learn more effectively? AND games are fun?! We should probably be playing more of them at work then.

Not convinced yet? Need more evidence? Games apparently also make us want more for ourselves and our company. They motivate us to improve our performance and help us continue on when the going gets rough. As Aaron Dignan tells us in this video, "How to Use Games to Excel at Work and Life", from 99u, “Play is nature’s learning engine… and games activate our seeking circuitry.” Think about it… Who hasn’t spent hours trying to master the perfect angle to shoot birds at green pigs in the hopes to topple them all down and move on to a more challenging level? We all know Angry Birds because it’s fun. We all know what it’s like to be learning something, but not care one bit about how fast or how much we’re learning because all we want to do is win.

At LEI, we use games in some of our workshops like Key Concepts of Lean and Standardized Work and are currently working on a game using an easy bake oven. You heard that right, folks. Easy bake oven. When I’m not working on design or website projects, I moderate our forums. There are several threads on educational lean games. One recommendation there is the ever popular Beer Game about which one poster said, “There is so much to do around the initial purpose of the beer game... communication, accounting, flow, pull, supermarkets, flexibility... It was just amazing.” Check out other game ideas on the forum thread and add some of your own.

What are some of the games you use in your organization? Which games worked? Which didn't? We’d love to hear your thoughts. 

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  education,  games,  musings
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3 Comments | Post a Comment
Mohamed April 15, 2014


Really thank you for your interesting comment. I have tried this method before during my lectures for employs and students and I found big differ happen.


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Lory Moniz April 15, 2014
Thanks Mohamed. Any particular games you find useful?

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ChuanPeng April 24, 2014
2 People AGREE with this comment

We played the Lego Game - as part of the Lean Awareness Learning Process...

In te Lego Game, our team-mates get to role-play as the CEO, Plant Manager, the Production Line makers, the Supply Chain connector, Inspector/Auditor, etc in the context of delivery a 'final' product through the production line processes. Everyone had good laughter while understanding the key Lean concepts of Pull vs Push and many other good leadership skills (as we continuously improved the process using Lean) along with progress of the game. We even involved the Observators to provide feedback as internal and external customers. 


All the results are tracked so that our team can appreciate this fun yet engaging game in their Lean journey!


This game has always been a talking point in all our team-building events.. 

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