Mikkel AKA Zhaky 26-03-2019
I am a gamification consultant, project manager, digital designer, former entrepreneur and as of late also a webdesigner. It is both my super power and my curse to have so many areas of interest, which is why I tend to focus on design and project management, as both areas are perfect for combining my skills and knowledge.
"It is my lack of specialties that makes me a wildcard in many situations"
I consider my many interests, skills and competencies as parts of different roles or hats that I can put on depending on what the situation needs. Granted the lack of a focus (my curse so to speak), often means that I am not very specialised in anything. I do have some specialties, but it is my lack of specialties that makes me a wildcard in many situations, allowing me to handle a wide variety of problems which is especially useful in design and project management.
As a designer I use my tools and knowledge to analyse complex problems (AKA wicked problems), by observing both the context, the elements in the context, the users in the context, the users' behaviour, goals, problems etc. From that analysis I locate the root of the problem, and I apply my knowledge of digital solutions to create and organise a list of design criteria that are required to solve the problem. The criteria often vary in importance, and I have tools at my dispossal for defining the priority of the criteria. With those defined and prioritised, I begin the actual design work, as I design different (usually digital) solutions to the problem, test them, validate them, and eventually I end up with an optimal solution for the actual problem. Having a long list of interests, skills and knowledge gives me a bigger tool box for designing solutions.
Often I find that people - especially noticable in politics - jump the gun in regard to solving problems and end up extinguishing fires rather than dealing with the root of the problem. Sometimes "fire extinguishing" or "damage control" is necessary, but I think it should be used as a priliminary action followed by a proper and thorough analysis of the problem, so that a long lasting solution can be applied. What tends to happen when this is not the case, is that the problem arises somewhere else.
Project management has in my opinion a lot of different definitions. To me it can be boiled down to being about creating and maintaining control and overview of a project and managing communication and resources of the project. For big projects it makes sense to appoint a designated driver, a chief officer, a producer, a project manager to keep track of all the threads of the project, to ensure that there are no loose ends, tight knots, missing connections or wasted resources.
As a project manager I am not necessarily the boss of the project calling the shots, but I am the guy who ensures that all shots called are well founded in the current situation. I make sure that the captain or the team knows what is going on, so that they can adjust their actions according to that. You can consider me the command center, managing all communications and relaying the right information to the right people, as well as ensuring that resources are allocated to the right places.
Apart from being skilled in communications from simple dialouges, presentations, negotiations to conflict handling, I have a variety of tools and methods I use to organise projects - I give concrete examples of these further down in Tools and Skills. Depending on the project and the team, I utilize different tools to keep track of and manage time, money, team members, communication and assets during the project.
It is often difficult to tell exactly when a project is done, and for that reason I apply agile project management to most of my projects, and divide it up into smaller chunks. This makes it easier to get from start to finish. Depending on the resources available, the project may be expanded with more "features" (or tasks). My focus from the start is to find the shortest path to the finish line. I can not predict and plot the entire path from the very start, but I will put up milestones along the way, and check the progress several times, both at each milestone and between milestones, to catch any deviations from the path or challenges ahead. I always expect there to be unpredictable challenges along the way, and therefore I allocate extra resources to deal with those. Of course it is always a gamble, and it is an art finding the right balance between resources allocated and risks.
"A good project manager (such as myself) should be able to fail with grace, regain control of the situation and move on."
On the same note, it is important for a project manager to be ready to face unforseen challenges and face the risks of dealing with them. Even though I thrive when I am in control and there's order around me, I get a high when chaos presents itself and I get to use my skills to find the right pieces of the puzzle and solve it. Failing is not the end of the journey, but just a detour - a good project manager (such as myself) should be able to fail with grace, regain control of the situation and move on.
I first learned of gamification during my bachelor on Medialogy, and with my passion for games and productivity I found it to be an interesting approach to nurture motivation. As my bachelor project I designed a gamification platform for schools that helps teachers utilize gamification in the classroom. I later decided to write my master thesis (on Interactive Digital Media) about gamification. I wanted to understand the basic mechanisms of gamification, and from that try to determine what exactly gamification is.
I found out what gamification is, and I can now pinpoint the basic mechanisms that make gamification work so well, but also point out that gamification is just a term that has been applied to a method that has always existed, and that the mechanisms of gamification is not inherent to games, but are very noticable in games and even more so in digital games, so the trend that gamification has become is a result of the digital trend, and has drawn attention to these mechanisms, and given us a better understanding of them as well as a way to utilize them.
Gamification is the process of using game design elements in a non-game context to design a game or a game-like context that can elicit and nurture intrinsic motivation towards non-artificial feats.
The definition that I created during my master thesis, was based on several other definitions. Among those were the more popular definition from Sebastian Deterding, however I didn't find it to be adequate in the context that I use gamification, so I made my own: "Gamification is the process of using game design elements in a non-game context to design a game or a game-like context that can elicit and nurture intrinsic motivation towards non-artificial feats."
Other than having written my bachelor and master thesis about gamification, I also like to create my own gamification tools, and have done so using many differnt medias from simple post-its, power point presentations, to webapplications. I will also feature many of these projects under Projects.
Apart from these projects I have also held talks and done lectures about gamification, and would love to do so again. This was mainly during my internship at School at Play. During this internship I learned a lot about the connection between gamification, game based learning and learning, and gained experience in how gamification and games can be utilized to educate and motivate.
I do not know if my entrepreneur adventures are over, as I still work on the project I did during my semester at New Venture Creation, but it has been downgraded to a spare-time project that I do in collaboration with School at Play. Apart from that I have a dream that gamification can be my next business adventure, but I will not go into details about that now.
My experience with entrepreneurship first started when a couple of friends and I started our very own game development company called StonePlant Studios. I had prior to this done a similar project with them and some others, but the difference in commitment from the individual parties created a great divide between us, and so I left that endeavour but told a few of them that I was ready to help out, if they needed someone to administer a similar project in the future - and so the did. So I took on the role as CFO, producer, secretary and whatever administrative role there was. I took care of anything from contracts, bookkeeping, planning events, meetings etc. It was an interesting endeavour, but not something we managed to make a living from, so we shut it down after two years, but it had given us much experience and lots of friends and contacts in the business.
During my 8th semester (2nd semester on Interactive Digital Media), my group and I were asked to design a game for young people with special needs, but as the thorough designers we are, we analysed the shizzle out of that problem, and ended up realising that what they really needed was an easier way to find and acquire the games that were already available. As they liked the idea, and I liked the idea of making it a reality, I decided to spend my 9th semester pursuing this idea on New Venture Creation, which was a single semester at AAU, where we were taught in the lean start-up methodology and were tasked with designing a businessmodel using what we had learned.
The group split up after the semester, as we all had our separate projects to work on, in my case it was the master thesis on gamification. After I graduated I fairly quickly got a deal with School at Play, whom I had been in contact with several times now, both during the bachelor project, the New Venture Creation project and met a few times in the game development business. I signed up for 8 weeks as an intern. My role was pretty much assisting Tore (the one-man-army that is School at Play) in anything from assisting in workshops, business development, and I was even tasked with designing a new business model in which School at Play would target other companies than schools. There was some potential here, but we quickly learned that most companies are not yet ready for gamification and game based learning as a way to motivate and educate their employees, so the porject was put on standby, when I due to ended internship and personal life no longer could invest the time required by the project.
All in all, I'm very much about generating ideas and doing business.
I still remember the evening I decided to learn how to create websites. I was in my early teens, and I lived in a house with three apartments, in one of the apartments lived a guy who was very tech-savy, and he taught me a lot about computers, and he gave me a link to a website, where I could learn HTML, and so I did. In just one evening I taught myself early HTML, and made a very ugly looking pokémon fan page. Unfortunately I do not have it anymore. From then I decided I wanted to be a webdesigner, and I even wrote my final exam in high school about webdesign.
Despite my choice to pursure other interests, the interest never went away, and when I got the opportunity to get classes in webdevelopment at the university and incorporate it in my bachelor project, I got inspired again and so decided I wanted back in the game. At that point I decided to go with Wordpress, and it was really cool, but I didn't like not knowing exactly what was going on behind the scene, so some months ago I decided to rebuild my website from scratch and learn the necessary skills to do so. That is the website you see here. I'll write a bit more about it under Projects.
I have tried to organise my skills and tools under the five hats I presented above.