Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gamification, Reveal and Millenials

I am always excited about how we can improve learning, engagement and ultimately build connections and relationships through the power of face to face meetings. One of the ways we have found effective is through the use of communities that are aligned at an event through a mobile app, with a gamification layer built in.  I had the opportunity to speak with a writer for Business in Vancouver's annual meeting places edition about this over the summer, and much to my surprise, this feature became the cover story released in November. 

The next week I was contacted by some very smart Millennials (thank you Felix) to see if I would consider being their guest at the upcoming Reveal Competition, a business case study competition taking place at UBC and using Siim Software's gamified environment as the platform.  Since I love seeing gamification in action, I of course said YES and I could not have been more impressed, on a number of levels.  Kevin and Khalil were excellent hosts for the day, as I tagged along as a guest judge, and learned a lot. While there will be more prolific and thoughtful people who could share their perspectives on this experience as they lived through it, there are a few of the key things I learned as an observer of this day below. 

Live from the Reveal Competition
Twitter Stream #Reveal2013

1. Millennials will rule the world. Between the leaders, organizers, judges and volunteers, I met a number of smart under 30s who are forward thinking, hard working business graduates whose understanding of finance, balance sheets, commerce, technology, enterprise solutions and organizational structures was impressive. Their ability to judge and accurately assess the acumen, decisions and thought processes of the teams they were judging, and ask thoughtful and probing questions that were still fair was fascinating to be part of.  

They aren't scared of change, they are anticipating change. Their perspective on how they will move through and around organizations and how their education, choices and lifelong learning will impact their opportunities is clear, and they are willing to do the work and they were willing to help others be successful by sharing knowledge.  

2. Gamification works. The platform Siim created was based on a matrix, so teams first chose their hotels (the business of choice for this year's competition) in a draft format, and then as they made decisions, their decisions impacted each other hotel in their neighbourhood and comp set so, as in real life, the decisions were not linear and did not have a linear or expected outcome.  This is where the learning came from, the opportunity to try things, to meet curveballs and to see where your choices led your team.

3. Presentation and decision making skills matter. Not only did the team members have to work through the simulation, they also had to present to the judges, in a variety of real-life formats - via computer, via speaker phone and face-to-face and answer to their decisions. Of course the beauty of this is, it's not real and you may be very successful in the simulation, or you may "fail" or not do as well as you would like - but you really cannot beat the practice that a gamified environment gives you. Safe and immensely effective in learning and honing business skills, and truly competing using your wits, knowledge and acumen, imagine the possibilities for an organization to have talented team members who are not scared to try making the tough decisions, but understand there are multiple potential (not textbook) impacts, and who are practiced at the tough conversations... 
The key takeaway as revealed on Twitter #reveal2013 "Always expect the unexpected."

4. Diversity and Inclusion is our real life. There were a number of teams from institutions of higher learning from across Canada. Every culture, gender and a wide range of ages were represented.  Anyone who expects to see co-workers that look just like us had better take another look around and recognize that talent comes in all kinds of packages, and embrace perspectives.

5. Cufflinks. This is the bonus tip. Yes, dress for the job you will have, those who were there both competing and judging certainly did.

Reveal Conference 2013 provided a unique environment for these learners, and taught them lessons it could otherwise take years to learn in the workforce, making each a more valuable asset for those hiring.  It takes a team to bring something like this alive, and kudos to the talented force that brought the Reveal Conference to fruition. I can't wait to see what they do next year! 

Additional Resource. If you are not familiar with how gamification can positively impact your organization, this link is to a webinar I had the privilege to do In October with Trevor Roald at QuickMobile -  "Gamification" . It takes about an hour but covers the who, how and why of making gamification work for you.  (they have a lot of other resources here too)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

IdeaFest Chicago Interview with Truffleberry

Asparagus as it is meant to be with Truffleberry.

The Future of Food in Catering and Events is a very big topic and after talking with Brittany Ferrin today I long to be in her session in Chicago and share ideas!  Her energy, passion and sheer enthusiasm for elevating food was infectious, and while I am writing this before 7am, I wish I could fly to Chicago for lunch. I mean seriously - above they are picking the asparagus they turned into dinner - hello this is what food is all about!

Five and a half years ago, Brittany and her husband and business partner Vaidotas Karsokas met while working together and three months into dating started Truffleberry Market.  As she said, “It was never a question if it was the right thing to do, we knew it was!”

They are Chefs and artists who are continually exploring options, and below are the tough questions I was interested in asking, and Brittany’s thoughtful responses.

  1. Your food influences are from far and wide – how do you think the ability for many to travel, the influence of TV and the internet on our ability to see what the “world” is doing is impacting how our guests expectations have changed?  Ie. Do your clients want globally influenced food or do they want familiar food?
The influence is HUGE! Before people when they thought of global wanted French or Italian but now there are so many accessible and interesting influences coming into our living rooms every day, and they make the food look really good, whether they are in Central Europe or deepest Asia, chefs like Anthony Bourdain are going deep into food culture around the world and presenting them in a way that you cannot help but be absorbed by the possibilities of these different cultures – suddenly even frog or cricket seems interesting. It is really fun because we get to bring people’s remembered cuisine alive, for example they may have traveled to Croatia or South Africa and want us to create some influences in the menus we are preparing.

  1. I am a huge fan of FLOSS thinking in food for meetings in particular – do you see fresh, local, organic, seasonal, sustainable being part of the future?  (knowing you can have 2 or 3 out of the 5 at any one time)
Again, HUGE. Ideally everyone could operate their food business on these principles and as people become more aware of the source of our food, and how that impacts the flavour profiles, they begin to see the inherent value in this sourcing.  It can be more expensive but do you want your food to be “on sale” or do you really want nourishing and flavourful meals?  For example, if you have a fresh seasonal tomato entirely on its own, vs an out of season mass produced tomato, you immediately know the difference in one slice of each.  Imagine then when you begin to combine flavour profiles if you have started with the freshest ingredients…

We don’t want to see this as a trend, in then out, but rather we see this as a shift – a higher population of people are moving this way. For a while there was a priority to make food faster, cheaper, increase margins and we are definitely moving to how do we make it more fabulous, interesting, tasty and in season.  People are more willing to look for alternatives in their food choices and catering that reflect this shift.

  1. What do you want people to feel when they eat your food at an event?
The question that will keep me up as I think about this.  In one word. “Layers”, we want people to feel these.

At Truffleberry, we really emphasize the processes and complexity of what we create.  Something as seemingly simple as a vinaigrette, at its heart for example a balsamic vinaigrette… oil, vinegar, salt, sugar.  We consider this a good start and then we begin perhaps with slowly making a confit of shallots and then add this and that to make it a layered and complex taste – it is not a single ingredient or component we want people to recognize and say “ah ha this ____ makes it delicious” – it is about an overall sensation of complex deliciousness that slaps your senses awake.  Going above and beyond – no cutting corners, slowly and deliberately.  It really gives you the right end result.  Foundation building, which applies to houses, events and each dish on a menu is critical. We believe that we must begin with the highest quality components and methods and then we create with sincerity. 

  1. If you had one wish for how people would want food / catering to evolve based on your knowledge, experience and passion – what would you wish for?
I believe it is evolving in the way I wish – what we want to do ideally as a catering company is to continue to bring people’s food memories alive and help them create options for their guests. We all have special, succulent memories of shared meals that have remained unforgettable and which we would love to share with friends. For example, taking Thanksgiving dinner – a guest calls and they don’t want ‘same old same old’ – but we know we want to keep in line with flavours and sentiment and then update it.  The process begins with the fun part – brainstorming, researching flavour ideas and concepts and coming up with alternatives. An example would be taking sweet potatoes with marshmallow fluff – you can’t ignore this dish but you can alter it to sweet potatoes roasted with maple glaze, topped with toasted pine nuts and fried sage, reminiscent of the original but elevated. 

5. Why should someone attend your session – which to me would be fascinating? 

 It is really fun to be in a creative and innovative space, and while we create that in our store, we will also bring it to our session. We love getting many brains in one place and creating an experience where we embrace creative ideas with creative people and feed off of each other.  Those who share this philosophy will want to come.

How to get there
Brittany Ferrin will be speaking on "The Future of Food & Catering in Events" in the Event Innovation Forum conference at BizBash IdeaFest Chicago on November 13 at the Merchandise Mart. For more information, and to register, please visit