Who is Chemistry?
Chemistry is a strategic, practice-based, experiential design consultancy with offices in both Singapore and Amsterdam. Practicing for over 20 years, it is a collection of design strategists with design-agnostic backgrounds, ranging in disciplines such as industrial design, communications, spatial design, UX, and business design. Our clients include a wide gamut of organisations, from large multinational corporations, governmental and non-governmental organisations, as well as startups, academia, and beyond. Chemistry also makes its own products, one of which is an innovation readiness card game called BossUP!
What are the origins of BossUP!?
We started out by talking to our clients in order to learn about their internal innovation processes. From here, we distilled the common challenges that all our clients faced, and used them to build a rich collection of Challenge Cards for BossUP!. To help address these challenges, we turned to trends in society, culture, technology, management consulting methods, and organisational best practices to create a rich set of Trigger Cards. We then added a ruleset for risk-and-reward, play-tested the game with hundreds of players in Asia and Europe, and BossUP! was born.
Why did we make BossUP!?
Over the last 20 years we have worked across an amazing range of organisations. What we found consistently over the decades, is that the major obstacle to innovation was often not a lack of ideas, but the need to change entrenched organisational mindsets and behaviours. We believe gameplay has the power to break these barriers by creating a safe and fun space for teams to engage in a different way. BossUP! is a tool designed to engage not only your teams in a creative way, but works across all functions of an organisation, so as to stimulate ideas and conversations that may otherwise never take place.
Previous Works – Other games used as an assessment tool
Gamifying the interview process is not just a trend, but rather, what seems to be a legitimate method to help identify and predict an applicant’s potential performance and soft skills for a myriad of potential roles. One such example would be KnackApp, founded by Guy Halfteck in 2010. He was motivated by his aspiration to move away from making human employment decisions and career decisions based on resumes and credentials. He wanted to move towards looking at the candidate’s abilities and potential.
Other Evaluation Methods
Google has been well known for their innovative methods of assessing and evaluating their potential hires. They use a method called ‘structured interviewing’ to determine who gets hired. Unlike the traditional format where questions change based on the applicant, resume, the interviewer, and other variables, Google pre-determines the questions (behavioural and hypothetical) that each candidate will be asked. They then come up with a grading rubric to match. In order to score well on these questions, candidates have to be able to think on their feet and walk through their thought processes. “The candidates are not necessarily trying to drive toward a correct answer… the interviewers are really curious to see how they think,” says Lisa Stern Haynes, Global Staffing Lead and Senior Recruiter at Google.
As part of expanding the potential of BossUP!, we introduced it as an ideation tool in our series of Design Thinking workshops. It was extremely well-received by participants and we began thinking of how we might push this further. Looking back at the core of BossUP! and the more we played the game, we realised that it did more than just engage and stimulate ideas and conversations. BossUP! helped spotlight certain attributes of the players as well. This led us to our opportunity statement:
How might we enhance our interview process by introducing BossUp! to assess and analyse a potential candidate’s strengths/weaknesses, thinking beyond just qualification and portfolio?
How were the experiments structured?
The experiment was broken down into 3 phases – A pre-interview questionnaire, playing the game in the actual interview, and a post-interview survey.
In order for us to gain an initial understanding of the interviewee as well as their personal characteristics, behavioural preferences, and how they approach problem solving, we crafted the pre-interview questionnaire around Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ 16 personalities. These findings not only allowed us to better understand them and their past experiences, but also served as an indicator of job-relevant behaviours.
We also carefully curated a custom deck of BossUP! cards that would be played during the interview. It deviates slightly from the original deck of BossUp! cards, and offers a much more compact, yet still good mix of pragmatic and ‘wild’ challenge and triggers cards that still offer an almost unlimited amount of combination permutations.
The gameplay is the same – you are the new Innovation team for a large, established and hierarchical cooperation, and your job is to get your organisation innovation-ready. Whilst we would usually explain the game prior, the interviewee would usually go last – this is to allow him/her to familiarise with the gameplay. The usual sharing of their works would continue after a round of BossUP!
After the interview, we would send out a post-interview survey to learn more about how they felt and their thoughts on gamifying the interview process. This would then allow us to better refine and design the recruitment and evaluation process.
Internship Applicants: Fresh Graduates, Diploma to Degree Level of Education, Aged 18 to 25
While the experiment currently only focuses on internship applications, we are hoping to extend this to full-time employment applications in the future. The participants we received came from different education levels, some from Polytechnics while others with undergraduate degrees. Their disciplines ranged from Industrial Design and Graphic Design to even Games Design.
What data was collected
Through the post-interview survey, we found that interviewees did not experience such an interview format before and generally enjoyed the game. A majority did not think that they would have played their cards differently if they knew that the game was played as part of an evaluation. They felt that the game had helped them to better express the way they work and think by breaking out of the traditional interview format.
What we learnt
We spoke to the team who participated in the interviews and they felt that such an interview format was a great way to see how a person reacts, communicates, and thinks spontaneously when dealing with a new, potentially uncomfortable situation and challenge. The natural, unrehearsed and serendipitous activity gave interviewers an insight into the interviewees’s cognitive process, personality, as well as one’s soft factors. This allowed the interviewers to strengthen and contextualise their evaluation method, by exposing spontaneous problem-solving and personality-type dispositions more easily.
The game definitely makes the interview session less boring but possibly at the expense of stressing the candidates out more because they might not be familiar with the content contained within the cards (blockchain, procurement, etc.). Through the several rounds of interviews, we also found that the current set up of sitting with 3-4 members of the team, potentially including several directors, can be intimidating for more introverted candidates.
Next Steps for BossUP!
With the valuable insights and findings from the study, the next step is to continue to refine the content (more domain-specific depending on the applicant) and the interview process itself. This is to ensure that future candidates are able to relate to the content, feel comfortable, and ideally present themselves at their best.
It is unfortunate that the current COVID-19 situation has disrupted the traditional face-to-face interview, but we are prepared with the tools and capabilities to conduct remote interviews, and also in the midst of creating a digital version of BossUP!. This would enable us to continue the journey of refining our interview process. In addition, we are exploring new methods to analyse and synthesise these qualitative and quantitative data through codifying the interview dialogue.
In sum, not only did gamifying the interview process make it a more fun and engaging experience for both interviewers and interviewees, it was also a great way to present ourselves as an innovative design company. We understand that as much as we were evaluating the candidate, they were also evaluating us as a company. It is also a great opportunity for us to showcase how we apply our methodology not only in the work we do, but in our internal processes as well.
“Finding a job that is a good fit is as much about you selecting the right company as it is about them selecting the right candidate.”Miles Anthony Smith
There is definitely a lot of refinements to be made, but it has shown that the future of job interviews need not always be based on performance, knowledge, and experience. Factors like personality and spontaneous problem-solving is just as important to uncover in finding the best fit.