Lockdown in a Gamified-Training Consultancy with Nadia Benedetti

The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Alexandra Carmen Buza

The Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.

In this interview recorded in June 2020, Julia Skupchenko of Lockdown Economy meets Nadia Benedetti, a Game Thinking Facilitator and the founder of PlaynBe in Paris. Once the lockdown was announced this situation with COVID-19 has affected her business that way that she had to change the focus of her activity from in-person to remote sessions. It took her a month to re-design the workshop’s flow to adapt it to virtual work sessions. Her experience where Nadia had managed teams at distance for the last five years came in handy. Unlike many other facilitators whose clients cancelled everything, Nadia delivered about three workshops per week. She noticed that her clients which were international companies had less resistance and an easier time adapting to the remote collaboration, than the local businesses. Once they saw they got real value out of it, they gradually grew used to it.

Tell me, “Play and Be” sounds very exciting, I feel already playing with something. Who do you play with and what games do you play?

Nadia: That’s a good question because it could seem something for children and actually plan B is serious play. We play with a serious purpose of training or management and this is dedicated to working with teams so adults at work. It’s an activity at training based on playful activities.

If I understand correctly that’s bringing the play element into the companies through facilitation and training, to make their employees or to make their managers achieve something without actually being at it very seriously.

Nadia: Yes, the idea is helping teams really working together in a better way with more collaboration and creativity. In this way, they can just have a better working life and, on top of these, we change soft skills. The idea is that we help people in teams to work together and also to face change and to have creative solutions in case they have to innovate as they don’t have a solution for the new situation.

This is basically what I do and I do it with playful activities because playing is one of the best ways of learning, we do it a lot when we are kids and then we forget it or we do board games. In my case, I make the difference between a serious game and serious play and then use in a specific way serious play because it’s not a question of a tractable game, for instance, something like Monopoly or something structured like this. It’s more simple activities, sometimes body activities between people, just to understand, to perceive the dynamics of the group and improve and explore a better and more effective way of working together. This is the purpose.

So there is a difference between the game and the game and you are engaging the elements of the play into a serious conversation the companies are supposed to be having. I hear from you that it’s either training and facilitation so it has a lot with people and being together in one room and interacting, engaging. So how did the Lockdown affect it?

Nadia: This is a good question, a lockdown was a sudden and a critical change for me because as you said, I used to do basically a face-to-face workshop with people in the same room so actually with lockdown we were not able anymore. Fortunately, I have a small part of my activity which is helping managers to face with remote teams and what I did is just improving this part of my activity and just diverging also not just in managing at distance but also in building collaborative activities and creative workshops at distance. We have a lot of tools today to do this so I just changed the focus on my activity from face-to-face to remote workshops.

At the beginning it was a bit surprising because I have to say, the feeling when you can’t see the people in the workshop is a little bit of scary but then it took me a while, a full month, to redesigned my workshop and to improve my workshop in another way I already had. I have to say that now I have been much more confident about, just in case another crisis comes, I know that they can also do remote workshops in an effective way.

And how many workshops did you do remotely because that seems fairly new and did you have a chance to try them and perfect them and how early is it in this journey?

Nadia: I’m quite experienced in remote working because I’ve been working 100% mode for almost five years and my work was managing teams at distance. I know how to mobilize at distance, I just transformed this experience in workshops and now I’ve been training for two months during the lockdown and I’d say, at least three to four times a week which is quite huge for the moment. When I say workshop you have to consider a session of three hours which means three times 45 minutes or two times with 1 hour and a half. I feel quite experienced in the activity, I can manage a team and I can manage a workshop with a team quite easily at this moment.

That’s unusual to hear because most often I hear that facilitation online is a challenge and it’s not the same and it’s difficult but sounds like you really had a lot of chances to practice and find your way in it. Given your experience with working with teams and with teams remotely especially, it must be an interesting experience to be in one of your workshops so I would like to participate if there’s gonna be an opportunity. Tell me, you’ve been busy during lockdown with developing the remote training and workshops, right?

Nadia: Yes, I’ve been very busy with this and also because there was a demand. At first, the demand was normal from the managers who need to be trained in how to deal with teams in a remote way. We are not accustomed to the tool, we are sometimes not equipped for how we manage. So I already added in my catalogue our training about how to manage an online time and automate to remote teams so this was not new.

What changed for me is that I was told that I have to do basic training online and in the end also the facilitation part. It’s quite good and there is a demand for this because I have to say that most of my customers are international companies and they used to have a meeting somewhere so they had a lot of travelling costs like that and with the care that we have now for the environment and also for reducing cost and, of course, the pandemic situation. Companies are becoming aware that we can also focus on the essential for face-to-face meetings, especially when we have to build the team, but then there are a lot of things we can do in remote mode, including collaborating, making decisions, imagining new scenarios about the future and things like that.

So the lockdown basically enabled the people appreciation of the virtual collaboration and I heard that many people indeed open up their horizons to it even if before they were reluctant to use it. Now the teams and the facilitators and the people who never called anyone on video are doing all of that so that’s pretty exciting. Since you mentioned the customers, have you had any time to get in touch with the customers that you were not working for in the meantime?

Nadia: Yes, I had some contacts because we have been thinking about restructuring what we were supposed to do in the first place way in a different way. With some we just postponed some training and workshops, with others we decided to try the Online way. I have to say that since I’m accustomed to the remote way, it’s ok with me. But from the customer side, it was pretty new. As you said, there was a lot of resistance and of course, when they see a result after an online workshop, then they start to see the other value of working in this way.

I can’t say they’ve been in touch less than before. With some customers, I’ve been in touch even more by email or online meeting. At the beginning of the lockdown, as you said, a lot of people were feeling excited about doing online meetings. Everybody wanted to meet you online and then, of course, people got accustomed. From my side, I have a benefit of this online situation which means, from one side, I could have new things with my customers aligned with my value proposition and aligned with their needs and then, on the other side, I’d be in touch with an international community of facilitators. Because of the pandemic situation and the lockdown, in some way, it was quite normal to get in touch with people all over the World while in normal times it’s not that evident. I had this improvement and this helped me to share opinions, visions and facilitation techniques with people from all over the world, get inspired, I hope to give inspiration as well but in any case, I had a lot of models to take and to share with my customers. In some way, even if the situation was not a very nice one, in some way we had a lot of improvement.

I guess it was easier given your experience with the remote work and that you already had a sort of a preposition in the remote working for companies and teams. So you were already on the move and that just pushed people to accept it more. In that sense, indeed it was a good change, the lockdown did have some positive effects and as you said, maybe this interview also inspired some people who watch it. Tell me, what are your plans for the next few months? You’ve been very busy, you already have clients that are demanding your services on the remote workshops and facilitation and how does the future look for the next few months?

Nadia: It’s hard to say. One of my favourite activities in the workshops is when we imagine future scenarios. And I know very well that you can plan something and then, something you haven’t planned occur and you have to change everything. In any case, what I see coming in the next months is, of course, to find myself again in face-to-face workshops because I think they are essential for the teams first of all and there is the pleasure of being together and interacting in a face-to-face mode. Also, the physical action you know in a place which is important. When you are in remote work, you are sitting in front of a video so it’s not the same experience. I would love to start as soon as possible, I already have some in September, I would like to start again to make the legal serious place workshop when we use hands and use the lego bricks to build a future scenario, strategy and so on.

So I plan and I already have some workshops scheduled but what I’ve learned is that the workshops online are effective and they can help teams that cannot afford to move from where they are, especially when you are sitting in different countries. Working together is effective, not only by sharing information but by building strategy, building visions and things like that. Be in a collaborative and creative way. So I think if before the activity was 20/80, where 80% was the face-to-face workshop. I will try to find a balance and I am thinking 50/50 is not that bad. Also, because I’m working between Paris and Milan because I’m living in France but I’m Italian. I want to keep this bridge in the two countries and for me, it is important to be able to continue the relations with people I met in Italy even if I’m sitting in Paris. I think I will improve the bridge in a more virtual than office space way, even if the face-to-face workshops are very very important for me.

I hope that very soon we’ll be able to have those face-to-face workshops. Is anything that you learned from the lockdown? A short one learning that helped you through the time?

Nadia: I’d say one is resilience and during the lockdown, the best way to face the situation just to be resilient, we accepted the situation and tried to find the opportunity even in the situation which was not a positive one in a global term. So resilience is a keyword for me and I have to say that I’ve been changing my offer, my workshop working mode with this word behind in my mind which means that now I focus more on helping teams develop the way they can innovate and take opportunities from critical situations.

I expect the crisis will come again in a different form and different kind of crisis so I think it’s important to learn resilience and accept that things don’t go the way we planned but we can use our creativity according to what happens and we adjust.

About the Guest

Nadia Benedetti is a Game Thinking Coach and professional facilitator, she uses the power of play to put teams in action and train their creative intelligence in solving problems, and innovating, especially when facing change and complexity.

Nadia is an Italian native. She moved to France to develop an international career in the world of publishing and educational toys. For 18 years, she had the chance to travel and to meet multicultural teams with different backgrounds. Facing the complexity of remote working, she learned how success depends above all on the ability to collaborate creatively. At the same time, she experienced the power of playful activities to mobilize teams.

She then trained in coaching, creative facilitation, and gamification. In 2018 she created PlaynBe, her own company, specialized in corporate training and facilitation through the power of play.

PlaynBe introduces play at work for agile learning, team development, and product innovation. We help managers to innovate their practices toward collaboration, collective intelligence, and creativity. In particular, we design playful workshops to help teams in risk-taking, critical thinking, problem-solving, and strategy. We apply Game Thinking approach to bring innovative projects to life in a faster and better way.

Our purpose is to teach teams how to activate their creative intelligence to transform change into an opportunity for evolution and becoming a real player in the organization. For the organizations, our playful learning approach is a simple way to bring the key competencies and great fulfilment in the digital and agile transformation.