Christoph Brosius, Germany, Founder and CEO of “Die Hobrechts” in the category Young Leonardo – Fun Energized Learning”
One definition of playing is learning in a safe environment through trial and error. Games also have clear goals one can work towards. And gamers adore the rewarding feeling of having mastered an epic challenge.
Learning as of today is still expected of people in systems that punish failures instead of celebrating them. Most of the time it stays unclear for what purpose one should learn something new or why it will be beneficial in the long run. And you rarely see people taking risks that ultimately would lead to epic breakthroughs and innovations.
Regardless of the context, may it be in schools, universities, corporations or in life – I strongly belief that this new generation, having grown up with games and being used to responsive and heavily feed-backing systems that explain themselves and adopt to your current skill level, needs to be given a completely new set of tools. Such that build upon intrinsic motivation, guide you if needed and contextualize the process. We need to create learning experiences, because no one actually said that progressing in real life while solving all those epic questions of our time can’t be more fun after all.
In order to develop such experiences, or any innovative approach for that matter, organizations need to open up to perspectives outside of their own domain and comfort zone. A game designers perspective is just one of many lenses available and waiting to be applied. To me, learning’s main challenge in the 21st century therefore boils down not only to the what, why and how, but never the less to this: From whom will we learn and how will we find and grow to trust each other.
What is the most important learning experience in the profession and in the life of our award winners, what is your story and what are you as a person about?
I've always played – with everything. [After a presentation recently, a person in the audience actually said to me: “You don’t really present things, but play with the topic and the guests.”] And I have always been surrounded by a family that is completely and utterly taken up by its independence. The company was always a warmly welcome family member at the dining table. In my childhood there was hardly ever a difference between work and play. My parents certainly also had clear rules and dependencies within which one could act (the market) but also free self-expression and self-realization (self-determined independence). In retrospect that actually corresponds to my experience with board games and computer games or playing freely with toys and without rules. Money was never the primary drive for an activity, but more of a positive by-product and means to an end.
From a professional aspect it was therefore obvious to look into industries and professions that seemed to have professionalized the production of pleasure. Alas I quickly had to realize that the majority of people around me unfortunately see money as the primary impetus. Work becomes a burden, money a carrot, and we ourselves become a donkey. Sustainable pleasure while working does not seem to be a specific value in any industry or sector – not even in the entertainment industry. I have been resisting this view of the world and of my own life ever since, and have essentially noticed in my own independence that work, life and learning can actually be fun and fuse to create an experience that is mutually enriching. At the heart of the issue is the question as to whether I am pursuing an occupation (= interaction) that intrinsically inspires me. So far I have always held a job for as long as it could inspire me on its own terms.
What therefore spurs me on every day is the decoding of the factors that are fundamentally responsible for certain positive experiences. Gamers are today in their mid thirties and at the age of 21 have spent 10,000 hours playing games, which is the average time needed to finish secondary school. As is also the case for myself, this period of time leads to certain expectations of the world: Why can’t the things in real life be so self-explanatory, adapt to my skills, be easy to handle, motivate, etc. like my games?
The most important perception for me is therefore that there is an increasing gap between reality and the demands of the people – which is also particularly true in the working world. Game developers will therefore particularly have to be the ones who can bridge the gap and, given current demographic developments, provide the decisive competitive advantage for organizations: jobs, products and services that increasingly feel and behave in a way that best supports intrinsic motivation.
And by the way: in my opinion it should be Fun Energized Learning, as humour is only one of the possible experiences. And my concern is not that of a hospital clown or comedian – my goal can already be achieved long before the resounding laughter.
What was one of the most important experiences on your journey that got you so far in life personally?
As is so typical for the work in a creative industry, but also for my personal life, most undertakings are projects and not recurring processes. A part of my training, and today also a primary part of my teaching, is therefore the management of projects. This is where I learned that I was not alone in gathering the insight that projects of a certain size and complexity are incredibly difficult to control. Particularly creative and completely new projects very often tend to get out of hand and deviate from the original plan. This is then normally paid for by the lifetime of the people working on the project. With decreasing quality of life. A real setback in my quest for more joy in life.
After a few such experiences in my own projects I learnt that even NASA has to deal with this phenomenon. Therefore NASA already analysed its own data a few decades ago and came to the conclusion that the uncertainty about the assumptions of a project become exponentially smaller in the course of the project, and can be up to four times higher at the beginning than at the end. This basic insight about projects is described as the cone of uncertainty:
This cone has since become not only the mission statement for my work, but also a tattoo on my forearm. To me it also describes all interpersonal relationships, in fact even human life. It remains uncertain until the end, even if the uncertainty increasingly falls and you think along the way that things will proceed exactly the way you now think they will.
This knowledge particularly helps me in an ever more complex world, which increasingly allows anyone to do anything at any time and at any place. Standstill will not decrease the uncertainty, and at the beginning I will not know exactly what will come out at the end. It is important to take small steps and to plan individual phases in detail, because anything beyond that will change until I have arrived at that point anyway.
Transferring uncertainty into certainty is therefore another way of describing what drives and motivates me every day. Whether for myself or for others, it’s the ever recurring processes in the approach that thrill me.
Fantasy: Being able to imagine something new before it becomes reality. Thanks Lego! Communication: Understanding people through active listening and being able to adapt to them. Thanks to my parents who were so influenced by the retail trade!
Implementation expertise: The intrepid addressing and achieving of big goals driven by perfectionism and an obsession for harmony. Thanks to my zodiac sign Virgo!
Motivation: The enthusiasm of others through one’s own conviction and joy. Thanks to my father, who told me to "do only what you enjoy"!
Domain knowledge in the creative industry: Expertise in a variety of working environments including printing, advertising, television/film and games. Thanks to my impatience.
Analysis and combinatorics: The quick comprehension of systems, the simplification to an understandable level of complexity and the creation of innovations through the combination of existing elements. Thanks to my family, where – as a middle child – I quickly had to be able to orientate myself