Kahoot! founder advocates for fun in the workplace

Jamie Brooker, Adviser & Founder at Kahoot! and Partner & Founder for We Are Human, spoke to Innovation Enterprise about why he believes technology can lead to a more positive society, ahead of his presentation at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit


Kahoot! hit the scene in 2013 offering educators an innovative and interactive way for them to inspire students. The game-based learning and trivia platform has 70 million monthly average users and has reached more than 200 countries.

Jamie Brooker, Adviser & Founder at Kahoot!, took time out of his busy schedule to discuss fun in the workplace, human behavior and personality in the business place, ahead of his appearance at Innovation Enterprise's Chief Innovation Officer Summit in London on October 3–4, 2018.

Having now stepped away from his day-to-day responsibilities at Kahoot!, Brooker spends much of his time at We Are Human, where he is a Partner & Founder, which aims to create purpose-driven organizations that aim to make a "sustainable social and commercial impact".

Innovation Enterprise: How important is fun in a professional environment?

Jamie Brooker: In my opinion, Play (as a behavior and philosophy, not table tennis tables or mini golf courses!) should be a hugely important part of any company that's trying to develop a culture of innovation. When we play, we sense no limitations, fully immersing ourselves in what we're doing. We allow ourselves to take more risks and accept failure as a learning opportunity – all necessary elements of the innovation process. My colleague Tim Moore has written a brilliant article about this for anyone that's interested.

IE: How would you define "improved human behavior"? What do we need to improve on?

JB: In the context of designing digital products, people often focus on what the technology does. I personally find that misleading – it's how we end up with buzzwords and trends, and where, for example, the discourse becomes about machine learning as a thing, rather than what machine learning enables in society. For me, technology is an enabler of human behaviors (at scale) and if we're to truly use technology to "disrupt" the existing norms, then we should be focusing on how technology can motivate new human behaviors that improve the lives of a diverse range of individuals and help create a more positive society as a whole.

IE: Is there still room for personality in the business world? How important is a company's culture?

JB: The people and the culture that develops within a company are the most important things business leaders can spend their time on. When growing Kahoot!, we placed a huge emphasis on creating an environment that people wanted to be part of – one that unlocked their intrinsic motivations to work on something that had purpose and enabled them to grow as individuals. Part of that is trusting and empowering them to find the solutions to the business's problems or opportunities. From my experience, when you get that right, that's when true innovation happens. We really believe in leading from behind and providing the process and space for creativity. Creative people don't react well to autocracy!

IE: Can you keep the human at the center of your business if you're designing the way they behave?

JB: Yes, always. It goes back to culture. Placing the end user at the heart of everything you do enables a culture where every employee really cares and understands them, they feel their pain and always want to solve their problems through their work. Every interaction with them is a learning opportunity, and it's about understanding them beyond when they're using your products too. At Kahoot!, we asked every designer and developer to spend time on support every week. A common mistake in companies is where they forget that their customer isn't necessarily their end user – in that case, the user is forgotten and they end up having a poor experience with your company through your products and support channels. Since leaving my day-to-day role at Kahoot!, I've had time to reflect, especially when helping other startups and established companies, and really this human-centered thinking is central to all the work we do at We Are Human.

Register today to watch Jamie Brooker's presentation at Innovation Enterprise's Chief Innovation Officer Summit in London on October 3–4, 2018

IE: How can data-driven teaching keep the individual learning in focus?

JB: Like with product design, I don't believe a data-driven approach is correct in teaching either. There's a common school of thought that says "quantitive data tells you what, and qualitative data tells your why". I don't think that's completely true, but the point is that having a data-informed approach (rather than data-driven) means that you use data to provide the signals that allows you to focus in the right areas to find the solution, rather than treating the data as the solution. The same applies to teaching. Data can provide a teacher with an overview of a learner's current ability, understanding and growth in a snapshot, meaning they can then adapt their individual learning path and spend more time supporting those that need it.

IE: What makes an "office superhero"?

JB: I would say it's someone who's responsible for unlocking the potential in their colleagues. When Kahoot! is used in businesses, it's the same product experience and, therefore, the same behavioral principles apply as with a teacher and student dynamic in a classroom, because learning is an intrinsic human behavior no matter who you are or where you're from. So, in the same way as a teacher is a superhero to us, those that enable a more creative and playful work environment are very much superheroes too!

IE: How does Kahoot! bridge the gap between the knowledge of "established society" and the culture of youth?

JB: We believe that Kahoot! can become the first learning-centric product to become a mainstream consumer brand beyond the classroom. When we founded Kahoot!, we set out to create a brand that is loved by learners. To do that, we wanted to design a product experience that was the complete opposite to what you'd expect to see in the classroom – something young people would want to take away and use beyond the classroom. Most tech products used at school are designed like old text books, whereas we took inspiration from social media and gaming brands. To do this, we studied the behavior of young people beyond the classroom, and we applied similar intrinsic motivations and rewards to help them take control of their own learning, to feel progress and be able to visualize what their future holds. Kahoot! is really a gaming brand which is used for learning – we've always said we want to bring the learner from the back of the room, to the front (for the right reasons!), and we use behavior design to make that happen at scale.

Jamie Brooker will be speaking on Day One of Innovation Enterprise's Chief Innovation Officer Summit in London on October 3–4, 2018. To attend and hear more great insights from some of the biggest brands in innovation and the most exciting startups, register here.

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