Learning from videogames - skill trees

Advantages of structured trees for real life competencies

The virtual world

The enemy is in sight. I am one - but they are hundreds. My preparation is almost complete, as I was able to unlock the final skill on my path - preparing for this moment.
My ridiculously overmuscled Barbarian charges into battle - hopping around like a mad easter bunny, leaving earthquakes in its wake. What a glorious victory.
How do computer games manage to keep me wanting to play, in order to unlock the next virtual ability?
There are a couple of different reasons for that - but one I’d like to highlight is the use of skill trees and how you can benefit from the concept in the real world.

The real world

Let us pretend there’s a job that needs you to have certain drawing skills.
This is what a job description could look like:

Artists needed! You should apply if you:

  • Have a basic understanding of art

  • Can draw various shapes (like circles, triangles, etc.)

  • Are able to apply 3D effects to your objects

  • Are able to apply shadows to your objects

  • Have profound knowledge in drawing in perspective

  • Can draw Buildings

Compare this to presenting the needed skills for the job in the form of a SkillTree.

Looks much prettier - does it? We also have the benefit of instant additional information, like the fact that the ability to draw shapes is the base to creating shadows and 3D effects.

To fully grasp the advantage of a Skill Tree however, we have to realize, that reaching a certain goal like qualifying for a vacant position is not tied to a single point in time.

1. People who are not qualified yet may still be able to qualify in a short time

Imagine you are offering a vacant position. Now compare the scenario of having a list of qualifications with the scenario of offering a skill tree - letting people check everything they believe to be able to do.

When using a list approach, you move the assessment of skills towards the candidate, loosing people in the process who consider them “not good enough”. While some applicants may exaggerate on what they are able to do, you’ll not even get contacted by others, flat out refusing to believe that they will be able to satisfy the needs your company has.

If you offer a Skill Tree based view however, you are free to list a lot of skills which could come in handy, while informing candidates that you are interested in their fields of knowledge and that meeting every skill listed in the tree is not necessarily required.

In the end you might be able to hire someone who possesses 83 % of the skills you need, being able to enable the person for the rest of the skills over the course of a couple of months.

2. Offering low hanging fruit aka “quick-wins”

We love quick wins. I have a friend who is a fan of checklists and usually starts with the item “create checklist” to be able to cross out an entry on it immedately after creation.

Offer this to your employees. While qualifying for the next career step can seem daunting and nothing your employees will even ever start to do, letting them navigate a skill tree is letting them have a great learning experience. Becoming an Artist might be an intimidating undertaking, but learning to draw shapes? A piece of cake. Having mastered drawing shapes one might suddenly be intrigued with the idea of adding perspective to drawings… it is just a single and easy step.

3. Realising which skills are needed for a certain task

Having a skill tree also works the other way around. I need someone who draws shadows in the next project. “Oh we’ll have to get another artist then” - no, you don’t. And you can easily spot that by looking at your skill tree. (Wow that was little text for this paragraph, a quick win!)

Start using a skill tree now

If you want to try the concept just grab some post-its and pens. (This is actually with what we started ourselves before we had the output from the Visual Skill Editor you saw above)
Let us know which SkillTrees you built and what your experience was.

If you are a company representative and prefer a guided process (methodically as well as technically):

Schedule a personal appointment

As representative of an educational facility: Contact the Verein Business Angels to learn about opportunities for educational institutions.

Next time we’ll highlight how you can flesh out your skill entries and why you should consider a multi-level verification process instead of a binary yes/no entry for a skill.

If you’d like to get more information visit us on https://www.skilldisplay.biz/ (driven by the SkillDisplay GmbH for business partners) or https://www.skilldisplay.eu/ (driven by the non-profit association Business Angels to support learning efforts for everyone)