Edgar Solano Upgrading Our Brains with Games | Episode 322

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Edgar Guillermo Solano is the author of the Best Seller “Innovation for square heads”. His new book, “Playliving” shows how to take strategies used on games into the business world. Creator of the game and the book WakeUpBrain to accelerate innovation using games.. He has been Commercial and Marketing Manager in tech companies such as Hewlett Packard, Compaq and Lexmark. He is the director and host of the Podcast “Square heads club”. He is the director of the WakeUpBrain Academy. He is also the creator of i-Tournaments, innovation tournaments designed to transform culture in companies.

 

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Full episode transcription

Rob:
Hello, engagers, and welcome to another episode of the professor game podcast. And we have Edgar with us today. But Edgar, we need to know before we begin, we need to know, are you prepared to engage?

Edgar:
Absolutely.

Rob:
Fantastic. Fantastic. So, Edgar, welcome to the podcast. We’re happy to have you here. We would like to know, what does a regular day with Edgar look like?

Rob:
What are you doing doing in a normal day like this one?

Edgar:
That’s an interesting question indeed. My day starts before my day starts before I wake up. I am always thinking things, and I have to recognize that sometimes the best ideas I have ever had has been born before I really wake up. So I have this state before I start working officially in my day, but I had to write them down. So my day starts after breakfast, of course, reviewing those notes that I have taken before, at night, maybe sometimes after breakfast, I always go to walk, because for me, it’s very important to let the ideas to flourish, to mature.

Edgar:
And walking is, I think, the best way that you can have in order to have more the ideas, to have a space to flourish, to grow. And after that, I go to a cafe three or four days a week. I always have time going to a cafe to work, to write, to play. So normally you can see me with cards and plastic pieces and doing things like that in a cafe because nobody talks to me and I can work and play a tc just in my office. I have my office, but it’s difficult because everybody is trying to interact with me and maybe add some ideas, and it’s beautiful.

Edgar:
But for me that I have a very short amount of focus. So it’s very difficult for me. And that’s at least three or four times a week. I have this kind of routine when I’m not traveling. This is the kind of day I typically have.

Edgar:
And after that I have to go to the office. I must go there because I have some responsibilities to work. That’s the kind of day I usually amazing.

Rob:
Thank you for that, Guillermo. And let’s actually now dive into a story. A story about a time when you were trying to do something. It didn’t go the way you were expecting, so you were going north, things went south. We want to be there in what you maybe would like to call your favorite fail or first attempt in learning.

Rob:
Can you tell us that story?

Edgar:
Yes, I’ve been thinking about that. As I design games, you must imagine that I have a lot of failures and things, that the final result was not what we were hoping to be. But I think that the most important of them are related to expectations. Because when you’re working on something that is called gamification or game designing, people are expecting different things from you. And if you’re working with an organization then they expect from you that you go to entertain them and maybe they have the wrong expectations about what they are going to receive.

Edgar:
So in two or three occasions we have developed some applications around games and gamification to work with some organizations. And the people who were participating on those programs were expecting. They were told that some people expert on games were coming to do some, I don’t know, some seminar or some workshop. They were expecting to love from the beginning to the end, to play all the time. But gamification goes more deep in the motivation level of interaction.

Edgar:
So when you arrived and you maybe don’t bring a lot of playing things like, I don’t know, balls and Ula Ulas, I don’t know. Yeah, they start thinking, okay, maybe they are boring people who are trying to sell themselves as entertaining people, but not so. We have learned that gamification is a dangerous world if you don’t use it correctly, because can create different expectations in people. That’s our main learning from those experiences, because our main objective is to have people happy, but besides that, to get important things for them, to learn something, to achieve some result, to progress, to find solutions, a serious objective if you want, but through a deep motivation based on gamification. So you have to be clear, when you sell yourself as, I don’t know, gamify.

Rob:
I think it can lead to a very interesting conversation because you’re saying that they were expecting you to, I don’t know, dress like a clown or something. Again, you don’t have to name any names of any company or anything, but is there a particular time that you remember when this happened and you can tell us that story? How was that experience? What happened? What did they expect?

Rob:
I don’t know. We kind of want to be there with you and live a little bit of that funny part.

Edgar:
Of course, I can remember us trying to solve the situation because fortunately we have some material, our cards, we have this wake up brain game. In one occasion, we were working with public service organization here. They’re very serious people because they do accountability around public services here in our country. So we’re working with them in order to let them to find new ways to approach to their clients, to the users. But the people who were selling our services inside that group, the people we were talking to was the marketing guy.

Edgar:
And he designed this brochure, this poster, and send it to the participants. So we were posted like entertainers? Yes. Clowns, maybe. I don’t know.

Edgar:
They were thinking as like a Disney movie coming to their offices. So it was a very wrong image that we were projecting them before the workshop. And when we realized that was too late, someone show us at the middle of the workshop, someone show us the piece, the communication piece that they have received. And we understood what had happened. And we have to change because they were expecting that.

Edgar:
Although we are not planning to do that, in that case, we changed our prepared plan. So we took our cards and we improvised some games, trying to not to lose our main objective, but trying to increase the level of entertainment to the group. We had a very difficult time at the end. Nobody was really happy because we were trying to negotiate between one position and another. But we learned that we have to have more control on the communication that is coming to the participant, to the final participant in an experience, maybe in a workshop or in an activity inside a company or any type of organization.

Edgar:
But yes, maybe you have enjoyed our faces, showing our effort to solve the crisis in real time.

Rob:
I’m sure anybody would have. Yes, looking at the back scenes, so to speak, they would have enjoyed seeing what was going on. And that’s a funny moment after the fact, right? Because at the moment, it’s the worst moment ever. There’s no solution.

Rob:
This is never going to be solved. But eventually you do arrive to a solution and it’s all laughs after that.

Edgar:
This is the same thing. I think, Rob, that when you buy a game and the COVID tells you another story different, the one you’re going to find inside of the box. So this is the same situation. You’re disappointed. Even if the game is a good one, you will be disappointed.

Rob:
Of course, it’s all about managing expectations. There’s a. Not sure if I want to call it a formula, but the customer satisfaction is equal to expectations times. We call it delivery, but it depends on how you want to phrase it. Right?

Rob:
Like, how is the actual service actually delivered? That’s definitely there.

Edgar:
It’s a question. The expectation minus your delivery. Your delivery minus expectations. So you have a lower level of expectations. You will have a higher.

Rob:
Yep, yep, absolutely. So, Edgar, amazing lessons. Good stuff to learn from, but it was a tough time. So how about we actually turn the tables around and instead of going for a difficult moment, we actually go for one that you might maybe call a proud moment. One of those times where things did go your way and you managed to pull through differently.

Edgar:
Yeah, but the other side, we have a lot of good experience. I always talk in plural, because we’re a team, always. But one of the most beautiful things is when you realize that all around the world game is the same. People have this kind of approach to playing that is universal. It’s human completely.

Edgar:
So it’s a magic moment when you have people coming from different countries all around the world and playing together, even if they don’t understand each other, because they speak different languages and they are playing. And you say, this is the most incredible way to communicate. Playing is human and the most insightful meaning, because you learn to play even before you learn to talk, and you build new communication channels, you build trust, you start to feel confident in the other. So the first time that I feel that was in a work with it, with a swiss company called SGs, I don’t know if we can mention them. And we’re bringing a lot of people coming from different parts of the world.

Edgar:
And we were working with them in a way, to work with some certification programs they have, using some kind of gamified elements. But we were participating in one conference with them, and before the conference starts, they told us, okay, do you have any game that we can play with the people? So they have enough time to arrive for the people who is just coming from the airport, and we take our cards and we organize a little game. So this game expanded, and it took like an hour. We were thinking of something like ten minutes or 15 minutes, but it were taking more than an hour.

Edgar:
And it was so deep, the experience, that they expanded the game, the whole today’s conference, and we were improvising because they asked us for duties in this moment, that they were expecting people to arrive from the airport and they were a little delayed. But we understood that people from all over the world place in the same way. It’s the same sensation, the same emotion we are sharing, and it’s a very powerful thing. And we understood that we are on the right place because we were building meaningful things with people. It was a lot time ago, was almost 15 or 16 years ago, and I have not forget that moment because it was very insightful, very revealing for us.

Rob:
Sounds very meaningful. And I don’t know if there’s. Because it was not exactly what you had planned, but what you did have under your sleeve was what you needed for this experience. And I’m guessing that’s why it actually went so well. Am I right?

Edgar:
Yes, you’re right. We did our formal and programmed session at the afternoon, but all around through the entire conference for two days we were using the concept they built on that first experience they had early in the morning of the first date. So at our time, we did our programmed workshop. But even in other conferences, in another workshop, they were using those concepts they found in that first game. But there was people that were coming from new distributors and new partners coming from all around the world.

Edgar:
And yes, games brings you things that you are not expecting, really. And you have to be prepared to that to take advantage of those things emerging from people, because game is people interacting.

Rob:
Yeah, totally. So, Guillermo, with all this experience that you’ve had all these years, you mentioned this was 17 years ago in the process, and now you’ve built a new game as well. I’m sure that there is sort of a way in which you do things right. So you’re going to face a new challenge of, I’m going to build this and you have a way of doing things. Can you lead us into that?

Rob:
How’s your process? How do you come up with new stuff? Or if you come up with new stuff, how do you go about it?

Edgar:
We have an internal process. We call it wake up game. And normally it’s the way we start designing a new game or a new gamified approach to a solution with companies, organizations of any type. And it’s like this kind of process where you go to a restaurant that has a bowl, so you have to base first, maybe rice or pasta, I don’t know. You have the base of your bowl and then you add some toppings.

Edgar:
So it’s the same concept. So we have like a base game always to start with. So we have some different kind of game base to start with. And we take one of them or two of them, or we divide our group into teams and each team takes one base. So maybe you can say, okay, we’re going to design like an experience that is collecting things.

Edgar:
So it gives you the general idea of the game. And after that you have to do an expansion of the experience, adding toppings. So we have some other mechanics that are compatible with the objective you are trying to get at the end. And after that, we do one thing that we call it balancing. Balancing means that we have to balance different styles of players.

Edgar:
Because one other thing that we have learned in those experiences is that we are working with people from different game styles. And it’s very important because if you’re a game designer, Rob, maybe you can, just for fun, you are designing games for selling in retail, maybe, or video games for fun. You can go to a specific type of player. Maybe you’re designing a game that is competitive, but there are a lot of people who don’t like competing really. So maybe they will not like your game.

Edgar:
And you don’t worry about that because you have enough of those other kind of gamers that they going to buy your game. But you enjoy trying to work with organizations, with communities, with group of people. You have to know that you will have all different type of gamers inside of that community. So you have to design a game that engage all different kind of players. And that’s a very demanding thing.

Edgar:
So you have to balance your game so you can give each type of player a thing to like. That is the final part of our wake up game process, the balancing. Normally we use this process, but process here are designed to be broken. So normally if something very powerful or with high potential is emerging, we go with it and we let it to develop. And this kind of process, I think the main value is to avoid it to be like in a state that you don’t feel if you’re advancing.

Edgar:
So if you have something to start with, it’s very easy for the design aspect of the process when you are trying to become with an idea, with a flavor for your experience. So this is roughly our main process we normally follow.

Rob:
Well, it seems like you have plenty of that. So that’s not a problem for you guys to have your process in place. And you have your wake up brain as well. So plenty of stuff to think about there. And Edgar, if we want to know more about wake up brain, where can we find it?

Edgar:
There’s our web page that is wakeupbrain.com. And you can find it all over the game and the methodology and our new game that is eco brain, that is intended just for sustainability.

Rob:
Amazing. Amazing. Thank you for that as well. And Edgar, now that we’ve been talking about the good stuff, the not so good stuff, how do you do things with all the experience again that you guys have already? You probably have come up with one or more things that you say, well, do this or don’t do this or do that, and your project will at least be a little bit better.

Rob:
Sort of a best practice. No silver bullets here, but have you come across one of these things that you can sort of tell the engager, well, stay away from this or stay close to this other thing and you’ll be a lot better off?

Edgar:
Yeah, I have some guidelines that I apply to myself. Some of them are first play a lot. I play myself. I play like 20 hours a week as a part of my discipline, I play mainly board games. So if you play, you can have that feeling that something is going to work or not.

Edgar:
You need to playing hours in your brain. I think another thing is very important is not to be so sure that something is going to work. So in game design, doing, having prototypes and testing them with real people, in real situation is basic. So we’re not so in love with our creations until we prove them. We tried them, we validate them with real people in real situations.

Edgar:
And another thing that I tried to not forget is the thing we were talking about some minutes ago. That is the balancing aspect of the games. Because maybe you like the game you are designing, but that is because you are that kind of gamer, but you are designing for other people. And designing for other people is an open act. You have to be generous enough to design things that even you don’t like it, Rob, because you are thinking in other ways to understand the world, to play, to have enjoyment.

Edgar:
So you have to remember always that you have to check here. You are taking into account other types of players, other different way to play the play that other people have. I think that gives you a more wide perspective of what gamification is and how can it get more impact in communities or groups of group of people. I think those three things are incredible powerful if you have it when you’re trying to develop your own solutions.

Rob:
Sounds like amazing recommendations, that is for sure. Thank you for that, Edgar. And talking about recommendations, is there somebody that you would like to listen to? A future guest for professor game? Yes.

Edgar:
A know I was on gamification Europe and I have some beautiful experiences there. There is this guy coming from that. He’s developing a lot of things around social impact and even environmental impact.

Rob:
Antonis?

Edgar:
Yes. You know him? I think he’s very.

Rob:
Yeah, he was in Madrid, I think a couple of months ago and we had a chat live. It was one of the first live recordings I’ve had sort of physically recording with somebody else.

Edgar:
Okay. And there is Andres Sutreras from Chile. I think this has been doing a terrific job bringing gamification elements to companies. He’s working with private companies, trying to tell them how to incorporate gamification into different processes, including human resources and marketing and those things. I think there are a lot of people doing incredible things.

Edgar:
And of course I’m going to send to you other maybe marvelous people that I have in my mind.

Rob:
Right thing. Sure thing. So Andres Utrez could be a nice recommendation. Seems like you might be doing interesting work. I’d never heard of him.

Rob:
So good stuff.

Edgar:
Okay, great.

Rob:
Let’s keep up with recommendations. And would you say that there is, of course, right next to the books that you have? Is there any book that you would like to see in the bookshelf next to yours or just any recommendation for the engagers?

Edgar:
Okay, there’s my book, play living. Unfortunately, it’s just in Spanish, but it’s an effort that they’ve been doing in bringing on game mechanics into real life, into personal life. How can you apply the playful thinking into normal day challenges you confront? And this marvelous book that is from Marcos Cristal from Argentina, that is Ludic. What is the name?

Edgar:
Ludic intelligence. Yes, intelligentsia ludic intelligence. You know, Marcos Crystal could be a good addition to your list of guests.

Rob:
Oh, sounds like he could have something to say for indeed. Amazing. Amazing. What’s your superpower, Edgar? That thing that you do better than most other people.

Edgar:
Okay, maybe inventing games from usual things. I’m telling this because someone told me that yesterday. In fact, we were with a group of people, with some friends, and we were with some things over the table, and I was inventing some games with things. And they tell me you have like a superpower. With that I was thinking, maybe I am.

Edgar:
So that’s the first thing that come up in my mind. If this is a superpower, I don’t know.

Rob:
Anything can be a superpower, Edgar. Remember that.

Edgar:
Okay, I will remember that.

Rob:
And now let’s get to the tough question of the podcast. What would you say is your favorite game?

Edgar:
Okay, I have. My favorite board game is Eldritch Horror. It’s a cooperative one. It’s based on Cthulhu Mythos universe. And you have to fight against monsters coming from, I don’t know, from other levels of the reality.

Edgar:
And you have to go around the world trying to avoid the world being destroyed by those new entities. There are no new entities at all. They are ancient beings coming back again. Yes, from some millennial ago. So this is a game that you can play with some friends, you can play it by yourself as a solo experience.

Edgar:
But obviously it’s more rewarding if you play with some two, three or four game, four players, and it takes like 2 hours. And it has a lot of things doing. The setup of the game is overwhelming sometimes, but if you have something, you have everything. A ranch, you can do it in some minutes, but it’s not a very known game. But if you can check it, maybe it would work.

Rob:
Can you repeat the name of the game?

Edgar:
Yes, Arkham Horror. It has the same name. Although at that site in the Batman. Batman, yes. But Arkham in the Lovecraft universe is the place where something’s happened.

Edgar:
There you have the university in Arkham, and Arkham is a very important place in this universe. So they call. Yes.

Rob:
Amazing. Amazing. So, Edgar, we are running Arbit. I said Guillermo, because he’s Edgar. Guillermo, I always see both names together.

Edgar:
You’ve been changing names. So the people at this time, some listeners been maybe having a difficult time to know where you would.

Rob:
I’m being confusing. I’m sorry about that. And the worst part is, when I was writing emails to you, almost every time I started writing, I said, no, it’s not Guillermo, it’s Edgar. Edgar. So here I am, repeating the same mistake.

Rob:
So, Edgar, before we end the interview, before you take off, please let us know where we can find out more information about your work, what you’re doing, what are you up to, and of course, any place you want to lead us to. Any final piece of advice, this is the right time.

Edgar:
Okay, I have, my account in most of the social network is at Solanobrainer, Solano as my name, my last name, and brainer, because we call all the people who’ve been certifying themselves in wake up brainers. We call them brainers. So my account is solanobrainer. You can find me in LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook without the same name and even Twitter or whatever it’s called right now. And of course, wakeabrain.com, as I told you before, and really, really open to share, to discuss, to interact with other people interested in games and applying them to solve problems.

Edgar:
We’re launching, as I told you, ecobrain, those next days. So I invite you to check it and maybe be give some support to the project and very happy to be here. I’ve been following you, as you know, for some years. That’s true admired from your work communicating and giving awareness of the people to the people around those marvelous and very important concepts around games, and how games can transform lives and organizations and culture inside of the organizations. So be really happy and honored to be here.

Edgar:
Thanks, Rob.

Rob:
Absolutely. To be honest, I realized when we started talking, I was just surprised that we had not done this earlier. So thanks again, Edgar. Thank you very much for being here. Thank you for sharing your experience, your knowledge with the engagers.

Rob:
However, as you know, and as the engagers as well, very well know now, at least for now. And for today, it is time to say that it’s game over. Hey, engagers. And thank you for listening to the Professor Game podcast. And if you want more interviews with amazing guests like today’s, then please go to professorgame.com Slash subscribe and get started on our email list, which is, by the way, absolutely free, at least for now.

Rob:
That way we can be in contact. You’ll be the first to know of any opportunities that professor gay might have for you. And remember, before going on to your next mission, before you click continue, please remember to subscribe using your favorite podcast app, which is also absolutely for free and will forever be. And listen to the next episode of Professor Game. See you there.

End of transcription

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