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Review: The Motivation Game

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Title: The Motivation Game
Editor/Author: Peter Gerrickens and Marijke Verstege
Publisher: Gower
Price: £44.22
ISBN: 0566085194
Reviewer: Nigel Harris

Maybe it lost something in translation from the original 2002 Dutch version, but whilst this looks like a pack of playing cards, it most certainly isn’t a game! I would prefer to think of it as a box of visual aids for team activities on the theme of motivation for use within an organisation.

The cards are designed to encourage people to explore and discuss what motivates (and demotivates) them. You get a 52-page instruction booklet and a box of 140 cards. The cards are divided into four sets:

  • 56 activity cards – these are to help people answer questions such as “what do I enjoy doing?” or “What gives me energy?” Answers range from selling and operating machinery to touching (!) and fantasizing.
  • 17 inspiration cards – these look at what inspires people, e.g. art, music, dreams, aspirations.
  • 37 prior condition cards – these enable users to explore questions such as “what do I need in order to be able to work enjoyably and effectively?” The cards include such things as recognition, responsibility, support and variety.
  • 30 obstacle cards – these cover our own obstructive hang-ups, the mindsets that get in the way of clear thinking. They are necessarily subjective, introspective issues such as “I am afraid to ask for help”, I don’t trust people” and I lack the skill to …”

The booklet gives some theoretical background to motivation and looks in detail at the four types of card.

The explanatory notes and examples give plenty of ideas for practical uses. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is used to explain ‘classic motivation theory’, which some users might feel is something of an over-simplification.

However, the booklet is generally helpful and constructive and would help anyone not familiar with coaching and training to make good use of the cards.

There then follow descriptions of 22 different ‘games’ which can be played with the cards. The authors do acknowledge that some participants find it hard to take games seriously and therefore suggest using the term ‘training exercise’ or ‘activity’ rather than ‘game’.

This seems sound advice to me. Personally, I would have avoided the use of the word in the whole package. Reading through the list of games it soon becomes clear that these are all variations on ‘spread the cards face up on a table, pick up x cards that you feel you relate to most and discuss them with the rest of the group.’

The nearest we get to any sort of game is the variation where the other group members have to guess why you picked those cards before you explain the selection yourself! Games can be played with just one set of cards, say just the activity cards, or with two or more sets together.

The authors haven’t thought up an application for every possible permutation – but they get pretty close. For some variations you would need several packs of cards.

The main use of these cards is going to be as a training tool within a wider training context. I can see them being a useful visual aid, maybe as an ice-breaker, for use by professional trainers who could introduce them as a short activity within a longer training session.

I think it unlikely that groups would want to use them in isolation as a one-off exercise. Indeed, managers might find the responses, especially to the obstacle cards, difficult to handle if used with work colleagues and would certainly need careful preparation and planning.

An interesting application might be for use in small groups or one to one to facilitate staff appraisals, especially in evaluating training and development needs. It would be a refreshing change from the standard annual appraisal questionnaire.

For further book reviews see: www.hrzone.co.uk/community/reviews

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