When a mobile game has over a million downloads in the week it launches, it deserves attention. I admit to being in the multitude of people who are hooked on Dots. A recent conversation with colleagues stimulated ideas about how this addictive little game could be used in training.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
For the uninitiated, Dots is a pattern recognition game. Points are awarded for the number of dots you connect and rewards are bestowed upon those who figure out the benefits of connecting dots in a square pattern.
To a certain degree, I think the game is appealing because it allows people to do what the human brain does very well – recognize patterns. We like to do things that we do well. So, here we have a free game that is super easy to learn. It has a high adoption rate and high likability. Now comes the part that is interesting to me as an instructional designer.
I had a conversation with some colleagues who know a lot about workplace learning and development. One of them mentioned that she knows an instructor who kicked off a three-day training event by having participants play Dots for an hour. That’s fascinating. If I was taking that class, I would think it was fun, but I also might wonder why I was playing Dots for an hour and not learning how to be better at my job. How could an instructor justify playing that game? If you think about it, the idea is brilliant – there are great lessons to be learned about work performance.
- When you want to improve performance, you need new strategies. As people become proficient at what they do, they reach a plateau where performance levels out. When that happens, you need to learn new techniques to improve what you do. This lesson is learned fairly quickly when you play Dots. You can play the game the way you played it the first couple of times or you can seek new strategies and improve your performance.
- Learning from others can help you become better at what you do. When I decided to write this blog article, I wanted to investigate Dots so I did an online search. Guess what I found. The Huffington Post had this article: Dots Game Strategy: 7 Pro Tips to Improve Your High Score. Isn’t this an appropriate model for demonstrating how to improve performance? That’s what we want employees to do – find resources for just-in-time learning or seek input from coworkers.
- Focus is important for high performance. We all know multitasking is a fallacy, but doesn’t it happen at work all the time? Many times I take distractions in stride without considering the detriment to what I am trying to accomplish. Well, how about distractions when you are playing a round of Dots? If that doesn’t make the point, what does? Your round of Dots is going to be an embarrassment if you have even a small momentary distraction.
- It takes time to recover from distractions. I’ve seen various estimates on how long it takes to get back into the “zone” after a distraction. The amount of time probably depends on a number of factors including the individual’s ability to shift focus quickly, the depth required to do the work, the nature of the distraction, etc. Regardless of the details, being distracted from Dots draws attention to the time and effort it takes to recover from distractions.
There are probably additional lessons to be learned from playing Dots. We know people believe things they discover for themselves. Playing Dots for an hour can guide people to their own discoveries about work behavior that will make them better at what they do.
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