How I Failed at ATD ICE 2016

IMG_3732In the L&D ATD ICE system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important, groups: the presenters, who instigate learning; and the participants, who prosecute bad learning. These are their stories.


bearIn the next couple of days, you’re going to read tons of blogs about the ATD ICE conference from the more than 10,000 participants. Lots of pictures and memories will be shared. For those who did not have a chance to attend, a picture of a blue bear peeping into the convention center is a picture of a blue bear. Nothing less. It’s like looking at your friends’ pictures from their wonderful vacation at the beach: look, this is the beach; beach in the morning; waiting for sunrise; glasses on; glasses off; you can’t see me under the waves, beach again, sandy feet, etc.

#1 takeaway: people want applicable, actionable advice

So, here’s my recap with pictures, stories, but first of all, practical tips from the conference. If you just want the tip, read it, move on. If you’re into stories, how I failed at the conference, welcome to read them all.


TIP: I’ve talked to ton of people at the conference who were first timers, many of them were just entering the world of L&D. Don’t wait for the annual conference to connect! Build your PLN (personal learning network) and social brand online. Follow people. Here’s a list that Brian Wushburn put together.  Here’s a good article WHY by Shannon Tipton. Check out Resources for the conference curated by David Kelly.

IRL (in real life) is the opposite of online. Don’t underestimate the power of social media and your personal brand. Reputation travel fast in cyberspace. But I have to say, meeting people IRL beats it big time. Here’s some of my “encounters.”


Trina and Nicole from Articulate, whose Storyline templates I used and repurposed many, many times…



First time IRL: Michelle Ockers (Australia), David Smith (UK), Trish Uhl, Shannon Tipton, Sam Rogers and Brent Schlenker (US)



Megan Torrance, my new LLAMA friend. Great convo on xAPI and using agile for learning and development.


And a random blue bear. Along with JD Dillon and Justin Brusino. Not the first IRL but it was good to see them again in action. And that #jamification card, James Bound. More to come on that! Speaking of! If you’re not following, follow JD Dillon! Ton of thought-provoking, original opinion and content, he’s a “wifi source, not a repeater!”

TIP BONUS: Dan Steer and Tim Slade! If you have a chance, go and see them IRL!! Awesome presentation, good humor and sharp learning points.


Tracy Carroll wasn’t even there but apparently listening on the backchannel…

People I kept missing but really wanted to connect with: Monica Cornetti (gamification), Ashley Chiasson (elearning), Priyanka Chopra (instructional design and that’s her real name :)), Julie Dirksen (had a great gamification/learning convo at the ATD Techknowledge conference in January and I wanted to continue that)… and lots of others. You can’t do it all!!

STORY #2: Vision and Leadership

TIP: From Amy Franko through the keynote speaker, Simon Sinek, the message we got was clear: leadership is a daily hard work, an exercise you commit to. It’s a mindset. Your resilience can be a bone (fixed mindset) or a muscle (growth mindset). The latter helps you get stronger every time you us it. You don’t have to create a vision. You just have to find one you believe in. And if you think leadership is about taking charge, consider this:


Sitting in an arena with 10,000 other excited learning geeks (24% of them not even from this country) is an experience. Simon Sinek’s opening keynote was powerful and set the tone for the conference: “Get to know each other!” So, I just wanted to thank all the “strangers” at the conference who share with me their problems, passion and knowledge through the days! As the opening statement says, in this L&D system, the people are represented by the speakers (many who I knew personally) and the participants (many who now I know personally), two equally important groups to make the most out of your experience.


And not only IRL! There were thousands following the backchannel to virtually participate in the learning. Those who couldn’t make it, yet felt like they’re part of it. Here are some folks who were some of best to pass on the info for others via 4754 photos, 100 videos, 23826 tweets, 143 blogs…


STORY #3: Games and Gamification

TIP #1: It wouldn’t be my post if I didn’t add this topic to the list. It was great to catch up with Karl Kapp and Sharon Boller on games and gamification. Karl brought some lessons learned from building a zombie sales game, including how to get inexpensive resources for a game. Sharon showed to over 200 folks again that anyone can build a game. But not anyone can build a game that is worth playing. Either way, the first step is PLAYING GAMES. Play often. Analyze them! Look at the goal, structure, game mechanics used. How would you use that for learning? The effectiveness of a learning game does not come from the game itself! It comes from the INTERACTIVITY built in the game. The feedback loop that makes it exciting to FAIL and the REFLECTION time you need to build in to digest!! Games and Gamification I could talk about forever. Speaking of! ATD member in Orange County, CA? Interested in the topic? See you there in September!

TIP #2: Gamification is hot! Please read the research and not just circulated one page infographics. Numbers and hips don’t lie, says Shakira. Unless they do. If someone talks about stats and shocking numbers without referring to a study, paper or any data source, exercise caution! Even if it makes sense, like learning styles or the 10% we remember what he hear thing... 🙂



Karl Kapp playing James Bound, the #jamification game. More to come on that! It’s always good to catch up with Karl and talk games: what’s new, research, where are heading, what the numbers say.


Over 200 people showed up for the last session on Monday to be energized by games. Sharon Boller didn’t even have enough cards for the crowd! The moment you let participants MAKE CHOICES (as in play a game socially) WITH CONSEQUENCES (as in win, lose or inbetween) while providing CONSTANT FEEDBACK (as in progress to mastery) the magic happens: no more sleepy heads, no more coffee zombies, the energy shoots through the roof. That’s WHY the power of games is crucial in learning IF/WHEN applied appropriately.


I heard this often throughout the conference: “I use Storyline, Captivate, Lectore, etc. How can I gamify learning without a platform? They are so expensive!” Good news is, you don’t have to wait until you have a “gamification” platform. Applying Game Thinking does not require anything other than you have today. Mostly your brain. Will you fail? Yes, you will. But it’s a process of learning through experience. Game Thinking is focusing on the player experience through ACTIONS. Traditional instructional design might be more content-driven. You don’t jump from one to the other. You do this step by step. Iterative design, playtest will be your best friend. And you will learn that failure is not the end, in fact, it is the beginning of something new. “I’m not creative enough” – another thought I ran into daily. Creative people don’t come up with great ideas all the time! They come up with lots of ideas all the time. Most of them are crap! You just don’t see them. They fail all the time. Why? Because creativity is not a gift or talent. It is an addiction. The process of thinking releases drugs in your head! It feels GOOD to create. Create anything new. You only see the surface with those great ideas you’d never think of but under the hood, there are lots of “failures” on the road there. But I tell you, it feels good to fail. If you have doubts, here’s a simple question I want you to ask yourself: “Does my idea make learning more effective or engaging? Is it better than what we have today?” If the answer is yes, take the risk. Here’s some great examples how to start applying game elements in daily life on courses.

STORY #4: Interesting Tools and Applications

TIP: there are like 400 vendors in the Expo area at the conference. You can literally spend days there without coming up for air. If you’re into tools and applications, it’s heaven. What you find interesting depends on your needs. So, instead of talking about it (as we often do instead of showing), let me give you some examples what they look like in action, so you can decide for yourself:

TruScribe – now an application that lets you create hand-drawn whiteboard narration within minutes. And by that I mean minutes. Example I’ve done for the Games and Gamification summit right before the conference. This took me about 10 minutes.

It is an a new, startup phase with lots of potential. You can just type the text, record your voice and it creates the basic magic flow. You can then edit and tweak, and the presentation is ready.

NawmalMAKER – a powerful 3D animation tool that has amazing camera capabilities. You don’t need programming experience. Animated characters can walk, talk and react to each other. You can spin, pan, move and do all kinds of camera angles WITHIN minutes. Automatic cut or transition. Here’s episode #1 of James Bound that I created while testing out the features (and here’s the rest of the story if you wanted to know how it ends) :

STORY #5: How I failed at ATD ICE

And finally, here’s my story how I failed at the conference. I’ve created a quest/game called James Bound. I used an app called Actionbound, that allows you to create a quest for smartphones. You can use GPS tracking to have players locate a place, have them hunt for QR codes, answer timed questions, guesstimate numbers and get points etc…

It went viral!! Not really, but the hawkeye TSA spotted it before it even got to the conference. After all, what would be more suspicious in a luggage than 100 Jamification cards packed in small plastic bags…


So was #jamification born. You might have seen the cards all over. Through the quests, I wanted players to learn a little bit about player/user types while they’re following along with a mystery. Lenore is lost. James Bound was assigned to the case but too busy, so it’s up to you to solve the mystery.

Here, you can watch all 6 episodes of James Bound without going through the game. 

I want to thank all speakers and game/gamification gurus out there who helped me by sending a secret from their life that nobody knows (list at the bottom of the page). If you played James Bound (comes with a ribbon!!!), you know there’s a quest where you need to guess who has what secret. Like someone was a figure skater, or was lit on fire as a stunt, or played a game called, blob…


Creativity and innovation come with lots of trial and error attempts. Did the James Bound go viral? No. It did, however, created good conversations around games and gamification. Speakers and non-speakers who wore the James Bound ribbon, you guys ROCK!! And if this experiment triggered something in at least one person to explore more beyond points, badges and leaderboards, I say it was worth it.

Highlight of my James Bound experience? Where least expect. The END OF THE DAY. On the bus. On the way home from the networking event. I ran into some excited folks who made my day saying they’ve been looking for the James Bound ribbon:


This is what this conference is about. Let me close with Simon Sinek’s words about the END OF THE DAY:

simonsaysSpecial thanks to:

+ Axonify, Articulate, Torrance Learning and Women Evolution (SHAVON LINDLEY is awesome and brave!) to be part of the experiment.


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