At denkwerk we celebrate diversity with our international employees. We also do what we do best, creative problem-solving. That gave rise to the internal initiative "Denklisch – The Game".
Bringing language learning into the workplace is challenging, for both employees and employers, remote and in-office. This initiative is a way of accompanying language learners into starting to apply their learned language at work. A solution that is driven by service design, co-created and led by the denkwerk community.
The outcome of it is Denklisch /dénk-ɡlɪʃ/ a collaborative language learning game that brings language practice closer to the working routine. With weekly check-ins and daily challenges, the game brings learners together and challenges participants to practice a bit every day, in fun and unexpected ways, providing not only a reason to practice but also the right people to do it with.
The game consists of a small community of learners engaging with language learning challenges on a daily basis, in order to collect points to reach a weekly goal.
Designed to get participants outside of their language-skill comfort, the daily challenges bring small bites of practice into a participant's daily routine. Every day the challenges (located on an online whiteboard) were unveiled to the community, keeping the surprise effect on a daily basis. The challenges were designed to be level agnostic, but with different kinds of challenges per day, participants can decide which challenges they take and how they want to do them.
Each challenge takes between 5-30 minutes and targets one or more of 7 key skill categories: listening (i.e. German coffee with a colleague), speaking (i.e. PowerPoint karaoke), writing, reading, grammar, vocabulary (asking colleagues for expressions), reflecting.
At denkwerk we believe in the power of play, to boost creativity, promote outside-the-box thinking, improve our health, presence, and overall well-being. At a neurological level, studies show that play allows us to take in novelty and newness, use it to adapt and become more flexible — and have a good time in the process. Play is how we learn. How we explore. How we relax. How we connect. Play is how we brought Denklisch to life.
Visualization of progress is key to intrinsic motivation in learning. We used a system of “brain points” to motivate and track the hard-to-see (let alone celebrate) day-to-day progress. As learning demands mental energy, we make this more clear, assigning each challenge a number of points. The harder the challenge, the more points, and the numbers are multiplied to make it feel more rewarding. Kicking off each week participants set a personal goal for the points they will reach, as a target to aim for. The goal reminds players to keep their eye on the prize and be realistic about what they want to achieve in that week. This ritual provided the space for participants to be honest with themselves, their schedule, and their learning capabilities for the week.
Ending the week is a communal review session. Weekly meetings were a social and relaxed time to reflect on the week's activities. We used the session to see where people were at and get feedback on what activities were fun, what was engaging, and what was helpful? We also used the time to play learning games together and connect. Some of our favorites were: Scattegories, Quizz, Word Chain.
If all the participants are already minimally comfortable with the target language and agree to it, these meetings should already be in this language, as this is a perfect example of a safe space for practicing.
The weekly meetings helped to build a stronger community of people and space where people could reflect on their language practices and openly share. This made the learning process more transparent and conceivable between colleagues with diverse experiences and skill levels.
Forming a community of international employees around the topic of language learning was not difficult, most had already struggled with learning in various ways on their own, and all had that in common. We simply provided the spark, the reason to gather! We kept the spark alive by organized touchpoints and challenges that encouraged cooperation and teamwork.
A slack channel connected us asynchronously and was a place to share inspirations and thoughts, as well as let everyone know when the boards were revealed. And a weekly review made sense of it all. Zoom-face-to-zoom-face held everyone accountable and provided a deadline to take action on that week’s challenges.
We used a service design approach to move from understanding to prototyping, keeping community practices as the forefront. From the community, we held a retrospective to gather feedback and input from our pilot. Drawing from those shared perspectives and conversations, here are the overarching conclusions of the program.
The game provides a safe space to get into the learning role, and outside of their professional working role.
Language learning is a big undertaking and very likely a long process. There is no single answer nor single method that can facilitate this process for every different learner. What does help, is gamifying the process to increase motivation and get people outside of the limitations of professionalism. Challenges that remind that even the smallest practice counts towards achieving the greater goal of learning a foreign language. Mindset shifts that help participants to realize that those small daily moments here and there are in fact opportunities to learn.
A community that not only connects individuals but inspires them.
“The safe space, makes you realize you can do more than you think.”