The Three Things You Can Learn from Comic Conventions
Last weekend, I visited FACTS, Belgium's largest comic convention and one of the only places where geeks can truly be themselves.
One of the things I like most about FACTS is that it's basically one giant learning fair with smiles and funny costumes and people continuously praising each other. There is very little fear, and a lot of personal growth. Even when, if you would look at it from the surface, it would look like a bunch of weirdo's contesting who created the better Manga costume.
Learning at Facts?
This blog closely links to themes such as gamification and storytelling.
Think about it: the comic convention is a celebration to TV series, computer games and (comic) books. Every person there has identified him- or herself as a "Fan" and wants to model certain behaviour (through "Cosplay") with other people from the same or related fandoms.
They show an incredible engagement to whatever has taken over their heart. They slave themselves away for many days, looking at YouTube 'How To' videos on costume making and sfx makeup.
When at the convention, they congratulate each other on the incredible effort, observing others and taking mental notes for future editions. There are workshops and contests, areas to play games with each other, and so on.
The workplace as a fandom
What if you could create that kind of engagement in training and development, or in business? I don't expect people to put on whacky costumes all in favour of better performance. It does, however, make a strong case for storytelling and gamification.
1. Excitement through competition
Generating excitement in training, through competition for example, might result in more innovative behaviours among employees. In FACTS, this can be seen as the many mashups of costumes that visitors display, in want of being crowned Best Cosplayer. Wouldn't it be amazing if your co-workers could link two problems, or better yet, two solutions and pose exemplary cross-industrial innovation, just like they would link two fandoms?
2. Engagement is inclusive
Gamification also works for everybody (link in Dutch). Not always in the same ways of course, but at FACTS you see all kinds of people. Ages range from 0 to 99, all different background are present.
A game that engages really pulls together people, from different levels in hierarchy; to the point where you forget about each other’s mandate and just get along.
3. One giant learning network
Even though it's all fun and play in games, at FACTS people don't shy away from politics and news items. At Q&A sessions with writers and actors from TV series and comic books, parallels are continuously drawn between the "real" and the "imaginary" world. People exchange views and perspectives, and learn from each other (link in Dutch). It goes on afterwards as well, with recordings made available as well as discussions on social media.
I realize that comic conventions are not everyone's cup of tea. However, the community around it, the endless inspiration and exchanges, the positive vibes and inclusion is a real example and can serve as a starting point for the creative exercise that is growing learning cultures.