How do you make a respected training program even better?

In mid 2014, XPLANE was approached by an extraordinary client looking for something very specific: a board game that would help them train their next generation of leaders. The client, a leading consumer goods brand, already had a deep culture of creativity, collaboration, and professional development, and their week-long leadership training course was one of the best in the business. So when their learning and development team came to XPLANE looking to make it even better, we knew the bar was set high.

The only real gap in their program was teaching leadership competencies, a crucial but somewhat dry set of skills and best practices that were notoriously difficult to connect with the real-life practice of leadership. It was the client who proposed the idea of a game to bring those competencies to life, opening the door to rich collaboration that ultimately transformed the entire program.

An intensive workshop at the client’s headquarters focused on understanding the audience, the skills to be learned, and the experience they hoped to create. By the end of the first day, the XPLANE team was already prototyping possible game mechanics with the client; over the course of the next few months, we’d go on to iterate multiple versions, adjusting both the content of the game and the way it was played.

Structured around the metaphor of an expedition, the game also drew on extensive internal research on different leadership styles, encouraging each player to identify their own, and maximize its strengths. Fundamentally, it was about presenting players with realistic leadership scenarios, then guiding them through their options in a way that let them internalize the right competencies rather than simply giving superficial explanations.

The pilot version of the game, tested just four months after the project kicked off, was enthusiastically received and provided feedback for a final version released early the next year, which has since been scaled up for distribution throughout the organization.