Episode: 385 |
Aneta Key:


Aneta Key


Show Notes


Aneta Key is an independent consultant who has established her own firm, Aedea Partners, where she helps organizations design rollout and usher programs like digital transformation, or strategy rollout, or change management, and culture change. She also designs and facilitates decision-making offsites.

Aneta can be reached through her website, www.aedeapartners.com and she is active on social media. 


Key points include:

  • 03:27: Applying gamification to business scenarios
  • 14:18: Capability building for consultants and consulting firms
  • 18:39: The design and delivery of sessions
  • 26:39: The topics covered by Aneta’s firm


One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host Will Bachman. And I’m excited to be here today with Aneta Key, who is the founder of a data partners. We’re going to talk about gamification. Aneta, Welcome to the show.

Aneta Key 00:20
Thank you so much for having me. Will

Will Bachman 00:23
Aneta, why don’t you start off by just giving us a quick overview of your practice. And then let’s get into how you incorporate gamification into the different elements of your practice.

Aneta Key 00:37
All right, so I am an independent professional, based in San Francisco, but serving a diverse set of clients globally. Most of the time, I work as a consultant on large scale initiatives, where I help organizations design rollout and usher programs like digital transformation, or strategy rollout, or change management, culture change, things like that things that take a bit of time. I also design and facilitate decision making offsides. Now, it’s not an off site, it is a virtual workshop, where the main objective is for leaders to get together on the same page and make decisions rather than execute on things. I work with executives one on one, and I also coach teams in whatever they need to get done. The second thing that I do, which is about a third of my practice is various capability building programs. So you can think of training programs for leadership development for cross functional leaders, project managers, fair bit of a boot camps for consulting boutiques, or consulting professionals. And then the final bit of projects that I do are around team building. So this will be the fun short bursts of one day events where a CEO asked me to help his team discuss team effectiveness or just work with a startup team and have some fun. So this is the general three buckets of my portfolio. In reality, you know how it is in every client situation, you generate the proper blend. So any single project can have a little bit of decision making and workshops, a little bit of capability building and training and coaching and a little bit of making things pleasant and engaging so that people can sustain the cognitive focus required to be on a virtual zoom for six hours, right? So within the context of that, I say if this is my pie chart, my kind of the core of what I do I wrap it around in gamification, which is just a way to take problem solving and engagement to the next level, through applying things that normally we see in games to a business situation.

Will Bachman 03:24
So tell me about that. how that plays out.

Aneta Key 03:27
All right. So people are probably familiar with playing games, it’s a innate human state to be playful. If you look at kids, kids can come up with a game from out of nothing. Just the other day, my daughter was saying, I know how to sort out any boring situation is to make a game out of it. Right? So if you think about what the game is, a game has some sort of a context and rules, maybe an objective, and then it has some mechanics of what you do. And then it has a feedback, right? So if you think about that, and you apply it to business, there is a whole spectrum of possible applications. logistic knock off the obvious ones on one end, on one end, you can just play standard games for pure fun, right? This is the that’s why a start up office would have the room with the shared spaces and with the games because that would create opportunities for communication. collusions, right. You can have games play regular games, just for fun for team building. You know, this would be the equivalent of during COVID people getting together on a Thursday night and playing a game online together just for the for the team building. You can actually use standard games explicitly for team building. So I have colleagues who put teams in Minecraft and via And give them small tasks. And then they debrief the team and say, Okay, what can you learn about your collaboration style based on what happened within this game environment? These are all fine, right? I count this as pure fun. But it’s good to acknowledge them, right? On the other end of the spectrum of sophistication, you will have, let’s say war game strategy games, in which let’s say, I’ll give you a real client example, a pricing strategy project, in an industry with a handful of players, perfect situation for a game theory play out, where we would prepare a war game strategy event with in that case, we had about 25 different executives there was split into different teams, each team assumed the role of one of the players in the marketplace. We had briefed them with as much information as we could on the state and motivation and anything we could glean from public information on each of the players so that they can act as close to how that player would act. And then we run through a bunch of scenarios, macro scenarios, competitive scenarios, moves, counter moves, what would happen if we introduced this pricing? What would happen if they do this? What? What would happen if some other scenario occurs, and after? You know, as we’re going through the various scenarios, and the game in multiple rounds, each of these teams get to make the choice, that would be the most reasonable choice for that player. And then at the end, we debriefed, and it was very clear, just shifting perspective, and putting yourself in the position of different players, different competitors, and playing through different scenarios, it was very beneficial, and it was immediately obvious. What are the range of better choices for them? And that would be an example in the gamification space. This is called a desktop because it’s not computerized. It is old tabletop kind of tabletop game. But it does have the objective it does get the mechanics he does give the teams etc. Yeah, so these are the two spectrums.

Will Bachman 07:22
Yeah, I was gonna say I found in business school, in the few courses that we did some sort of role playing, that the learning was so more powerful, emotionally, in your gut like it, the lessons stayed with you just emotionally, even 15,16 years later now. Like in negotiations class, that was all based on role playing, and you’d actually play out a real negotiation. It was like an exercise, but you would play out in negotiation with a partner. And often in Michael Feiners, class, high performance leadership, there was role playing where you’d roleplay with with the professor or someone who’s another student, on how you would coach someone or counsel someone in just that role playing of putting yourself in someone shoes and not just saying, “oh, if I were this executive, this is what I would do,” but actually playing that person and doing the role. It just lodges in your internal in your guts somehow, in a way that talking about it doesn’t so that that sounds very powerful, what you do.

Aneta Key 08:25
Yes, and so exactly. So role playing is its own genre. In this is, again, the end point of advancing the problem solving the What should we do about this through games, the biggest and most pragmatic way of using gamification, where your listeners can steal some tricks from my bag right now is in the space of engagement. So for me, any sort of interaction in a client situation is all about productive engagement. You want people to be engaged so that they are fully present and included and bring their talents to the table. But at the same time, it is not just about having good time together, you have to come up with whatever the outcome is. So hence the productive bit. And the gamification that consultants already use, for example, I icebreakers so anything that makes people interact with each other and builds trust quickly and establishes the positive foundation for a good interaction that could be considered gamification. So a simple game like you know, two lies in a truth by the standard introduction consulting games that would be there. You could have side games, so I often in longer events, I play some side game, it could be something silly as you know, the the, you know how in meetings when we were younger consultants will bring up the bingo game piece of paper with all the expected common phrases that a given client or given partner with us. So whenever somebody say paradigm shift, you just kind of check out the paradigm shift and then you compare it in a way, it’s a way to keep people engaged and listen actually more carefully for this specific words. So that would be another another way you can absolutely use it, for example, by I like to just say, with clients, okay, to keep us more engaged over the zoom, what’s one phrase that such and such frequently uses? Oh, you know, they say, they say up to the moon, recent example. And then the game is okay, whenever we catch them saying up to the moon, everybody will just make a big gesture on screen, maybe do jazz hands or something like that. And it naturally brings a moment of levity and a crowd engagement. And there is this moment of interaction, especially now on screen that happens. Beyond the icebreakers what you mentioned, with education, that’s probably the biggest field of applying gamification. And anything that you want to transfer experientially, the would be there. So I’ll say, some paper to draw on, I gave him 60 seconds in silence. So 30 seconds in silence. And then I asked them to show the little pieces of art that they’ve produced, inevitably, we see very different perspectives, very different outcomes. And now in an easy to brief, you can, you can broach the topic that it is expected that people with different perspectives will come up. And we’ll have a different read on the same situation, which is on elephant, right. So this is a 32nd experiential activity that immediately gets a point across that I think we as consultants intuitively do all the time. Let’s see what else well, if you’re Amazon, they just announced this week that they’re using some internal gamification for their warehouse workers to keep them engaged and more productive. where, based on how effectively your stocking shelves and filling in boxes or whatever else they need to do rather repetitive, boring things, they earn digital rewards, such as you know, they have probably avatars and pets and whatnot. And it is just for the engagement. I don’t know how we can do that in consulting without the app. But I can tell you a very simple trick. I asked people to answer a question. And whoever answers the question, I just renamed them. And I put a little star in front of their name, which is the equivalent of a digital badge. And that works wonders as well. So there are many little tricks of how we can use gamification. Things that we steal from games in the flow of facilitation to keep people engaged.

Will Bachman 13:59
As fascinating. Talk to me a bit about your capability building part of your practice, where you work with individuals and sometimes with consulting firms or independent consultants, what types of capabilities are you helping to build? And how do you go about that?

Aneta Key 14:18
Yes. All right. Let’s talk about that. So I call it a steal from the consulting playbook. Because in reality, the the skills that we develop as consultants are very transferable to any business situation. So if while I was at McKinsey, I spent 10 years with McKinsey between 99 and nine. On one hand, I was serving clients on strategy and change management and risk management, but my you know, back page activities to help build the firm was actually leading trainings. So I was training our associates I was training our managers I was training our you know, we facilitating leading I Lw sessions, initial leadership workshops. So this is for people who are transitioning from management to junior partnership roles. So that would have the standard toolkit of problem solving, strategic thinking, you know, how to how to manage a project or the hardcore stuff, it will have skills around collaboration, communication, team management, creating buy in shareholder engagement, change management, all of the things that a consultant would need. Now, what happened with time? Well, because as I was training more and more cohorts of McKinsey consultants, they would view me as their trainer. So when they would have a client situation that would require a, you know, a one day Academy for the frontline workers or something like that, they will bring me into structure design and deliver training for their clients. And that’s how it became a bigger part of my client facing portfolio as well. And then in 2009, when I broke off on my own, I noticed that clients basically are asking me to help transfer some of my skills to their own teams. So they’d say, hey, whenever we work with you, it feels so seamless. We tried to do it without you to save on the budget. And then it doesn’t go as seamless as we thought, could you just teach our people to do whatever you’re doing. And I started teaching what I know, which is exactly the same thing. So critical thinking problem structuring, I call it strategic decision making, I call it professional superpowers, which goes beyond the hardcore skills, and also has some success factors mindsets, habits of thought that we have. And I’ve been doing it for the past, both since 2009, that has been steadily growing. Subsequently, fellow McKinsey alums who have gone off to have their own boutique consultancies have asked me to come in and deliver like two three day boot camps for all their people, especially when, at the beginning of the summer, if they’re taking a huge intern class of let’s say, 15 interns, and then they have 15 people internally that a full time within their network. That’s a good opportunity to have a level setting boot camp on you can think about about it as core consulting skills, but delivered in more. What’s the word post McKinsey style means applicable to clients who have not already benefit from two years of structured McKinsey training on the inside?

Will Bachman 18:22
And how do you work those? Do you have sort of the whole thing designed around a case similar to way McKinsey does basic consulting readiness your first couple weeks? Or tell me about the design and delivery of those sessions?

Aneta Key 18:39
Yep. So there are two models. One is for large clients who have the budget in the interest we design a program from scratch. So I will start by actually interviewing the leaders of what are your strategic objectives? What are the capabilities, therefore, that you need to develop? How do we develop them, that would basically involve sometimes developing internal cases, but more often, actually selecting a slate of internal projects that we use as a case study. So real case studies, so the value proposition for the clients becomes, we build the skill set at the same time we apply it to real time relevant cases of real life. We give, we give our upcoming leaders this scaffold that opportunity to develop their skills, we give them some visibility because let’s say the the teams get to present to the steering committee. We promise to fund one of the cases that has been especially well developed through the process or whatnot. So that is the custom tailored whatever the client needs, trying to simultaneously build capabilities and advanced the actual work of the client, it is usually a combination, you know, the field and forum process where you will have intensive events. Stick a series of intensive events which are more instructional and everybody comes together synchronously. And then periods of asynchronous work where teams work independently with coaching calls, I also have online app where it’s offers self guided training in activities like that. So this is on one end. On the other end is I have developed through all these client work as basically almost off the shelf modules, which are ready to be compiled with much lighter customization to people who want to just go for, you know, let’s be fast, nimble, efficient, let’s get 90% of the benefit with you know, 20% of the budget. in there, the module is, we have three or four levels of intervention, one is going to be interactive training, live self guided that the second level is a lab, which is which try to apply all these things, the concepts to whatever the participants are working on right now. And then the next one would be lab, you know, within the training, and then the next one will be they actually go do something. So I’ll give you a practical example. Let’s say a client wants to upskill their folks on how to put together a deck, like very classic request for more junior folks, I want this person to be able to independently, you know, figure out what the deck should be go executed and give it to me in a client ready form. Right? So there is a little bit of how do you start? How do you do you know, let’s start from the beginning. Who’s the audience for this deck? What’s your objective? How do you do it? What’s the content? What’s your messages? What is the analytics now let’s go through the process. Here’s the storyline here is the ghost here is the various you know, the storyboard, the ghost, the various charts, how do you put it? How do you prove it? How do you rehearse it, all that stuff, kind of the theoretical? Then we say, okay, bring in your last PowerPoint presentation that you put together. Now let’s compare how you went about it versus what we were just talking about. Immediately, some lightbulbs go off, then it’s like, Okay, now let’s go and retro actively redo it following these steps. Now, it’s something in the past, it is very safe, because they are not on the hook for delivering it again, it is just a pure, risk free environment. We are playing with it. They get to peer coach each other on what works, what doesn’t work, we maybe we do a few iterations because that’s one of the biggest lessons in consulting you iterate. And that’s Canada. Step two, step three would be okay, now you have a real presentation coming up for next Monday. Let’s work on that. Right. And we repeat.

Will Bachman 24:03
So in that it sounds like you have a variety of kind of modules that are ready to go off the shelf beyond the one of basic consulting skills, what other sorts of modules or topics are you ready to cover?

Aneta Key 26:39
Alright, so the topics will depend on what is the level of expertise of the target audience there and what are the skill sets that they need to develop? I generally have them on one and it is the basic project management, problem solving, communication, collaboration, stakeholder engagement, all kind of consulting, basic consulting skill set. Beyond that, for for Canada meet tenure level folks, strategic decision making on the risk and uncertainty. So this is more specific for decision making and strategy development. General going to higher level communications, different types of communications from communications for change management programs to public speaking. Lately, a lot of requests have been around leading distributed teams in facilitating online workshops. So how do you make online meetings and online workshops interactive and then one thing that I always include a certain portion of regardless of the other content, or the more fundamental, I call them, success factors, but these are the practices of thought and mindsets that help you be effective so if you think about things like lifelong learning, how do you constantly learn and renew yourself? You know, how do you coach yourself if you wish or things like taking the top management perspective, having a bias for action being explicit in your communications in your in your thought process, you know, things like that which are not specific skill training, but the more a way of approaching situations that make consultants and professionals effective.

Will Bachman 29:01
Got it. And that I know from watching you on LinkedIn that you have been experimenting or were maybe moving forward and with video and that you’ve been doing some interesting things there. Tell me a little bit about what you’ve been doing with videos.

Aneta Key 29:22
Well, what have I been doing with videos okay. So, one thing that I have noticed, just like you have noticed is different people have different attention span, depending on the day and the topic in their personal style. So I wanted to experiment and see what would happen if you both. And the use cases there were I was actually a guest on a different podcast. So I posted the big podcast, which would be your long form. And then I selected just short highlights that I posted, online and in that gives very short, very synthesized perspectives on a narrow were part of the broader topic. So that is one. And then the app is, as I mentioned, I’ve been developing self guided, can a nano learning, app based modules program. So this is when people are learning at their own pace, they’re on their mobile phone, or maybe they’re on their iPad, or on their laptop, and they follow a program. And basically, the program is structured in very, very tiny bites. So you have a 15 minute session, which would have five minute steps in it. And maybe one of those steps would be watch this video about a topic and around that I’ve had to produce bunch of small videos around the focus topic to just provide the content for the self guided elearning programs.

Will Bachman 31:33
That’s very cool. So Aneta, if listeners wanted to follow up and find out more about your work, or follow up with you, where would you point them?

Aneta Key 31:45
Please come to my website, www Aedeapartners.com, which I’m sure Will include in the show notes to save us all some grief in spelling. I am fairly active across social media. One thing I believe is that as independent professionals, we have to support each other and collectively elevate the field. So as part of that I actually broadly share much of my tool bag and tricks. I have a newsletter in which I share information freely. I have monthly events where I mix and mingle my professional circles and everybody is invited to join them. Occasionally I give public seminars depending on what’s going on on the client front. And I’m always available to have a conversation.

Will Bachman 32:46
Fantastic. Well, we will include those links in the show notes Aneta, thank you so much for joining today.

Thank you so much. Will

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