Behavioural apnea or effective change?

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Behavioural apnea or effective change?

Four months of intense learning have passed…
I don’t know a more effective way to explain what an ARG is and what is it for, than to think about these four months.

First of all, ARG stands for Alternate Reality Game and it’s a game in which many times we are not able to separate between our daily reality and the reality proposed by the game.
This kind of game as been a permanent inspiration to explain what immersion means and what is the use of immersive experiences.
We use these ARG to lead participants to learn, to feel and to be willing to change. Somehow, this is what has been happening to us for four months, in a very intense way.

Suddenly, we were not allowed to be close to one another, we were forced to use a surgical mask, to avoid infecting those closer to us. As we had very little knowledge, and still have now, about the possibility of being infected, but asymptomatic.
We were locked down for 14 days trying to reset a reality that we didn’t know, we washed and still wash our hands as if the world was coming to an end, and started working remotely, pushing limits of balance between focus management and house routine management. All of this and and many other things, we had to be able to integrate into our “daily game”.
A new reality.

Now imagine for a moment that all of this, happening around the world, is the plot of a game!
The game rules are those we have known over the past four months and the goal is very simple: each one of us has to become a better person than we were before – better in every aspect or perspective we can think of, from health and well-being to happiness, from interpersonal relationships to skills development, and so on.
We find ourselves playing this game so intensively and so immersively, that after some time, we can no longer tell apart from what is the “real” reality and what is the reality of the game. Or is it that we have always paid special attention to the journey of the hands, ours and above all, others’?

It was the game that made those changes in us. This is what an ARG does.
An ARG (a “serious ARG”) is meant to help us change behaviours, using the experiential approach of learning. When we participate on an ARG, we are compelled to do things in a way that in the “real” reality we wouldn’t do and this gives us the opportunity to draw conclusions about these new “ways of doing”.

Let’s take a slight detour in our reasoning by raising a question: this game made us change many behaviours in our life, but is this really a change? An effective change?

The context changed and we changed with it, almost coercively, adopting some habits that we believe are positive and healthy, therefore in some aspects, we changed for the better facing the noisy awareness of a new and demanding reality.
Gradually, as the volume of this awareness decreases, meaning, the topic is less mentioned at the media and we are less aware, we find ourselves lowering our guard, and slowly returning to the old paradigm, even concerning behaviours we should perpetuate (for example, we don’t wash our hands as often as we should, we don’t sneeze towards the elbow as we should, we don’t exercise as much as we did in the lockdown period, etc.).

Was it really a behavioural change?

This is the big question that people and organizations face in a daily basis: how to ensure behavioural change?
4 months of intensive learning have passed… of ritualizing new habits, of great opportunity for individual and organizational change, but we don’t really know what will, actually, last.
Probably, those behaviours that transformed our lives for the better should be made permanent…but this requires courage, we will see.

We don’t have all the answers, but we have some:

  • experiential, or immersive approaches, applied to skills development and behavioural change, have a more relevant impact in terms of “intention of practicing what I’ve learned”, rather than just talking about these topics in a training room – as this “real life ARG” demonstrates;
  • if we mean to implement effective behavioural change, we have to change the contextual variables, both in the personal and organizational areas (for example, if we want people around us to adopt Dutch as the organization’s official language, we have to speak with them in Dutch and they’ll only receive feedback if they speak in Dutch);
  • behaviours will only last if we, as individuals and as organizations, have the courage and intention to make those behaviours change.

One last provocation: do you know exactly which behaviour you want to change in yourself or in your organization?

Start addressing this issue today and think about strategies on how to transfer training and learning into current behaviour.

Carlos Moreira, Partner da Immersis.