Storytelling about Attensi with Trond Aas

Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 175. This week we have storytelling about Atensi with Trond Aas.

During this episode, Trond Aas and I are talking about the business case or the use case, of how  prospects ultimately become customers and what that process looks like.

Trond is the CEO and one of the founders of Attensi. Attensi is a game that specializes in high impact training in  working with large corporations and helping them develop, implement and roll out high impact training in the form of gamified simulations.

Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.

Thanks, William

Show length: 28 minutes

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Trond Aas
Co-Founder & Co-CEO Attensi

Trond Aas is the Co-Founder & Co-CEO at Attensi. Previously, Trond was Board Member at Founders Fund. Trond holds a Master's degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology.


Music: Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case Podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better as we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment and HR tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

William Tincup: Ladies, gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today, we have Trond Aas from Attensi, where we’re talking about the business case or the use case, or how his prospects ultimately become customers, and what that process looks like. And I just can’t wait to learn and to hear some stories. So, Trond, will you do us a favor? I know you’re calling in from Oslo. Would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and your company?

Trond Aas: Yeah. Hi, great. I’m very, very happy to be here. I’m Trond, I’m the CEO and one of the founders of Attensi. And Attensi is a game that specializes on high impact training and working particularly with large corporations, and helping them develop and implement and roll out high impact training in the form of gamified simulations. So we are a typical partner for companies that are looking to really impact core key performance indicators, looking at improving their operations through learning and development, or specifically, in our case, through repetitive training.

William Tincup: So I love this, and I’ve got all kinds of great questions, or just questions. We’ll decide later if they’re great or not. So with games as a way of helping people and facilitate training, especially in today’s age, are you already thinking AR and VR and metaverse and things like that? What do your games look like now, and what do you think they’ll look like a couple years from now?

Trond Aas: Yeah, so the great thing with being in the space that we are is that we really, really feel technology is working in our favor.

William Tincup: Yes.

Trond Aas: And obviously, I mean, AR and VR to us are just new platforms, and they are incredibly exciting platforms. And yeah, we’ve done a lot of VR work already, and we’ve done quite a bit of early AR work too.

William Tincup: That’s nice.

Trond Aas: And it’s really, really exciting for us. But from a gamification principle and from a platform technology point of view, what we’re focusing on is developing tools that enables users to create these simulations that people interact with and these gamified simulations. And obviously we want to do exactly the same with VR and AR and type solutions as we do for all the other solutions that we develop.

William Tincup: So what I love about this is it’s meeting people kind of where they are, and it’s not boring, right? Everybody likes to play games. And so you’re simulating things so that it doesn’t even feel like training. You know?

Trond Aas: Yeah. That’s the amazing thing. And I think that’s what people see with these solutions that they find so unique is that, I mean, everyone’s done compliance training, and it’s really, really boring. And you get to the end and a lot of the people that have made those kind of learning and development solutions realize that they have to make the questions easy at the end or else they get a lot of complaints from the users going to the learning and development department.

William Tincup: That’s right.

Trond Aas: So there’s like a race to the bottom. And then the solution for a lot of people, “Okay, then we have to break it up to make it really, really short, because short means people don’t get bored.” Yeah, but it also doesn’t mean necessarily that they improve in their behavior or learn new processes and behaviors. And then games, as you rightly point out, they are fantastic at driving engagement and voluntary repetition. And that’s what we’re seeing.

Trond Aas: We’re seeing people really like to play these games because they are fun, and they’re fun enough to drive repetition. And I mean, we can’t compete with Netflix or necessarily with Candy Crush for that sake. But at the same time, people really want to be good at their jobs. They really want to do well. And of course, when you combine a game-ified simulation that feels really, really relevant to what you’re doing and the work you’re doing, and that at the same time, it’s fun and engaging and you actually feel like you’re improving, well, then people repeat a lot. And they keep on playing because they keep on wanting to do more. Not because the corporation tells them to, but because they really want to.

William Tincup: I love that. And it’s continuous learning. And it’s not, again, like training and learning when you make it hard. Some people will still do it, of course. But if you make it easier, you lower the barrier and you make it fun, they’re going to want to do it. And subtly, you’re just waking up on a more informed, trained workforce, which is fantastic. If you don’t mind, Trond, take us into a couple simulations in games, without company names or any of that type of stuff, but just let’s give the audience a couple ideas of what these things look like.

Trond Aas: So the platform that we have and the tools and solutions we make and the principles are generally applicable in all segments. So these are some that aren’t, but obviously we need to pick a couple of examples. I’ll start with one in retail. So with numerous global retailers, we develop solutions that focus on how does your frontline staff actually meet the customer? What’s the interactions that they have with the customers? How do they then identify the different needs, the different kind of service that those customers need? And how do you then conduct yourself in that interaction? And then we combine that with a very, very realistic simulation of how the store operations really works out. So while you’re talking to these virtual customers, you also have to handle stuff going on at the same time.

Trond Aas: It can be something happens with your drink dispenser that you need to address, or should you not address it? There are several customers maybe in your store, and you need to prioritize which one to address first. There are several customers in a line, you need to figure out how fast you should process the dialogue that you’re in and so forth. So it’s really all about condensing a work day into a gamified simulation where they have to meet the same kind of challenges and do the same kind of priorities as they would in their work day, but adding gamification to it so it actually feels that the learning journey for them is engaging and fun. And it works superbly well for onboarding new employees. And it also works really, really well as a… Well, I would say a reminder, but very often it’s turned up that people aren’t actually trained very well at these processes. So it also works really well for existing employees.

William Tincup: Real quick, a question. Have your customers pulled you into talent acquisition or simulations for candidates?

Trond Aas: So several customers are actually already using them in their candidate process for a couple of things. One is for actually part of brand building, of showing innovation, and then a new kind of position. And then we are in the process of developing assessment as part of the simulation.

William Tincup: Oh, cool. To find out how they like games. There’s all kinds of really cool things that you can find with assessments. It’s just their aptitude and attitude.

Trond Aas: Exactly, exactly.

William Tincup: And again, if they don’t like games, then we’ve got to find a different way to train them.

Trond Aas: Yeah.

William Tincup: I know folks that are listening are going to ask, “Is it custom? Is it bespoke?” Is it built for that company, for that position, et cetera, or do you have some templated things that then get personalized? How do you work with your clients?

Trond Aas: So I would say the vast majority of customers have access to our creator tool suite, where they can create their simulations themselves…

William Tincup: Oh, cool.

Trond Aas: … and customize the content. So obviously the simulations need to be filled with content, and the content, some simulations are pre-made and they address various, like for instance, teams training. But mostly they focus on, as I said, the key performance indicators of the corporations. And so usually the content needs to be tailored to the customer, and that content is developed either by us, or by one of our content partners, or by the customer themselves working on the creative tool.

William Tincup: Yeah. Because they don’t have to code, because they don’t have to do the stuff behind the scenes. The creator helps them go through that.

Trond Aas: Exactly.

William Tincup: It enables them, and you can train those folks to then be able to build those things for their team. So I love that.

Trond Aas: Exactly. And most of the trainings are actually not focused on learning how to use the tool. Most of the training is focused on best practice, on how do you make these engaging solutions and how to create compelling content. And I guess that’s the main focus of that training is getting people to utilize and unlock the power, in a sense, of gamified training.

William Tincup: So where do you see kind of in the technology stack, where do y’all exist? Do you exist in training and development, learning and development, and maybe a little bit in performance? Where do you love to be placed in an organization?

Trond Aas: That’s a great question. And the answer is that we are working with many different parts of the organizations, obviously with learning and development in many organizations. We are on the operational side and the performance side in many organizations. And with quite a few organizations that have a focus on IT, we also are with the IT departments since it’s a software as a service type platform. But we engage quite broadly.

William Tincup: I love that. So let’s talk a little bit about the buying question. So when your team shows the software to people, what do they fall in love with? What’s that aha moment where they like, “Okay, my team will get this. I haven’t seen anything like this. I haven’t heard anything about it, but my team will get this.” What is it when they first see your software? What is that for them?

Trond Aas: I think actually what they fall in love with is the concept, because it’s such an obvious concept. And when you talk to people about it, they say, “Yeah, of course, it’s like that.” We use examples like, “Okay, how do you become a great dancer? You don’t read about it. You can’t do a kick box exercise to become a great dancer. You can’t know or learn how to dance. You actually need to practice in a sense.” And with us, it’s very similar. If you want to be great at customer interactions, you have to practice customer interactions. I can’t tell you what you should do. You have to practice it. And it’s such an obvious message.

Trond Aas: And then they say, “Yeah, okay, but how do you do that?” And then we show it in the solutions, how they actually use the solutions. And it feels like a realistic replica of their environment in which they practice the difficult situations that you face at work. And then we show them how repetition is driven by the solution. And it’s obvious in many ways, well, it’s an aha moment that, “Yeah, obviously, this has to work,” in a sense. And then of course, we substantiate that with any number of impact cases that we have with customers and increases in sales that are very, very concrete and provide great return on investment for buyers.

William Tincup: Take me into a couple of those, if you don’t mind, Trond. What are some of the impacts things that you talk to folks about? Because everyone’s going to be critical at first or cynical at first, and you’re like, “Oh, okay. Well here, let me give you five examples,” or whatever, but give us a couple of those.

Trond Aas: I’ll give you a couple. So one example was training sales representatives in a furniture retail store in Scandinavia and focusing on personal sales, on identifying customer needs, and adopting your recommendations to the customer needs. And after you’ve mapped out the customer needs, rolling that out. So great. We created a great simulation for them, rolled it out with them, and then basically measured impact on revenue. And the impact was double digit increase in sales. And the great thing is that usually in the organizations, not everyone is as good to implement a new training solution. And in this case, we had some regions that were great and others that were not. And you could correlate very, very clearly with training to direct increase in sales, and it was very, very significant. And we’ve done it with food stores. We’ve done it in furniture. We’ve done it with the pharmacies. We’ve done it, well, in so many different industries. So that’s one use case.

Trond Aas: And then I’ll use another case, which is, in a sense, even more exciting. We have a policy of having a few do good type projects always. And one of my favorites is a product called The Helping Hand, which is about helping kids deal with trauma. How do you teach kids to process trauma? And together with a psychologist, we’ve developed a simulation called The Helping Hand, which teaches kids how to sort green thoughts from red thoughts, how to enable them to speak to people about that, and how to address that. And that was rolled out in a study in Lebanon with Syrian refugees.

Trond Aas: And then we measure, “Okay, so using the World Health Organization index of wellbeing, we measured their state before that training was conducted and after the training program was conducted. And we saw an increase from a general state of depression, I think the score was 44, to a general state of normal teenager wellbeing. I think, again, at the end of it, it was 72 or 74. So you can actually measure the effect on a person’s wellbeing from having trained with a simulation. And of course, that’s a fantastically rewarding project for all of us to be working on. So it’s both. We both measure on real world key performance indicator improvements, but we also can measure on assessed type improvements, like that case.

William Tincup: I love that. I forgot to ask you at the beginning, in terms of the games and simulations, where does one actually play the game or do the simulation? Is it desktop, mobile, et cetera?

Trond Aas: Yeah. So it’s cross platform. I mean, they run on all different platforms: on mobile, on pads, on desktop, on VR, and some of them also have AR functionality. So it’s cross platform.

William Tincup: It’s wherever that person wants to play the game.

Trond Aas: Exactly.

William Tincup: So that’s wonderful for folks. So this is a different type of question. It’s buying questions. Like when you think that you’ve run across somebody that just gets it, what do they ask you? They’re not asking you about price. They’re asking you other, deeper type of types of questions. What are those that you love to hear from prospects, that you just love to hear those types of questions?

Trond Aas: I guess, we really like to have discussions on real impact. So what’s the real pain point we’re trying to alleviate here, and how do we actually help you fix that real problem? And I guess there are questions then, luckily, if you get to that lucky position where that’s your focus, then their questions would obviously be around, “Have you been helping other customers with this?” Typically, they would be asking quite detailed questions about how would the gamified simulation in this area look? What are the kind of impact that we could maybe expect from going down this route? And then obviously, it always also is part of the discussion is what’s our involvement? What’s our kind of resources needed for this first solution? They’re also quite interested in the tool set and how they can get their super users or their users up to speed on the tool set, so that they can start developing their own content and their own simulations.

William Tincup: Right. And it’s familiar to those in the L&D space. That’s kind of the train the trainer model?

Trond Aas: Yeah, exactly. So to enable them to really get the best use of the platform.

William Tincup: I love that. So I forgot to ask you, I did ask you about the buyer and where you sit, but I didn’t ask you about the kind of integrations with other HR technology. Where are your clients, where do they need this data to be tied to? Is it rewards and recognition or is it just it stays in kind of learning and development? What are your customers kind of asking you about where this data can go?

Trond Aas: Again, so most of our customers are larger customers or from medium size to large customers, I would say. They invariably have a learning management system or an HR system. And typically, we integrate with any number of systems to exchange data and the user data, so play through data and so on, on user data. And we very often also report data to performance systems in addition to their learning management system or their HR system. And then more and more customers now have a centralized authentication system that we obviously also integrate with.

William Tincup: I love all that. I can see in the future that rewards and recognition for people that are playing the game. And they’re doing this in a simulation and again, they’re doing it because they’re having fun and they’re learning, but I can see incentives and rewards and things like that, just like you do in games. You get stuff. The more you play, there’s stuff that kind of… You get stuff that’s added to your profile. So I can see some companies wanting to use incentives or recognition, like somebody’s already achieved this level or whatever the bid is, and then communicating that back out to the rest of the firm.

Trond Aas: Absolutely. And we support leader boards, obviously, and the best case implementations would typically be where they run campaigns with the prizes and the common leader boards, and incentives for the best stores and the best regions and so on. And then also we have a system that goes across all of our solutions that basically rank people with points and stars and achievements to do well across the various simulations. So I absolutely agree. And I think one of the great things here though, is that people get so much more data from a simulation than from a traditional solution. And I think the data, because these are data on behavior in the simulation, and then we know there’s a high transference to real world behavior. And once you know that and once you accept that, then of course, it’s also easier for companies to incentivize learning and development and training, because you can actually prove that conversion to real world behavior instead of paying or giving incentives for learning and development, where that connection is much more intangible.

William Tincup: One of the things I love about leader boards is everyone’s competitive in some way or another, right?

Trond Aas: Yeah.

William Tincup: But you never really know, your teammates, you never really know who’s really super competitive until there’s a leader board.

Trond Aas: That’s true.

William Tincup: It’s like, “Wait a minute. Holy moly, Melissa is like… I didn’t know she was that competitive. It’s crazy.” So I love leader boards for that, because it just kind of brings out that inner competitive self.

Trond Aas: Yes, that’s absolutely true. And we have some crazy repetition numbers for people when they start competing to be at the top of the leaderboard. It really creates a fantastic competitive spirit. Or if you want to make it a more of a cooperative spirit, you can do that too, because then you can compete between stores or between departments or in teams. And that also creates an incredibly strong team feeling. So you can use these features in various ways.

William Tincup: So two questions left. One is questions from your prospects and customers around kind of learning styles and learning differences. How can you help them through understanding where games and simulations play in both those, both learning styles and learning differences?

Trond Aas: I think if you look at the users, if I take a user perspective, a lot of our discussions around our solutions has been, “Well, how does this actually work with different age groups and different profiles? And will this actually work with any age group?” And we’ve been very happy and almost surprised to see how this also engaged with an older group, where you would assume that they have a different learning preference. And I would almost say the opposite, because to quite a few of them, they have had a lot less exposure to games and gamified learning, and once they get that exposure, they’re almost more excited about it.

William Tincup: Well, that tracks for me, Trond, because they’ve also got a bunch of bad experiences.

Trond Aas: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

William Tincup: Right?

Trond Aas: That’s right.

William Tincup: So I can say that. But they’ve had a bunch of, “We’re all going to get in the conference room and this is how we’re going to do the formal training,” this, that, and the other. So they’ve had a bunch of that stuff, so they’ve had a bunch of bad experiences. And now all of a sudden, they’ve got a game that they’re playing that doesn’t even feel like, again, they’re learning, constantly learning, but it doesn’t feel like that way.

Trond Aas: Exactly.

William Tincup: And it doesn’t feel like the bully pulpit, where someone’s up at the front of the classroom teaching you, and you have to sit there with a notebook and learn in one way. So that tracks, that older folks kind of get it.

Trond Aas: Absolutely.

William Tincup: Because of the baggage.

Trond Aas: Yes, exactly. And it engages across all user segments.

William Tincup: I love that. Okay, last question. And this is just your favorite kind of innovation story where somebody’s used Attensi, and you’ve never even thought somebody would use it in that way. And then you’re like, “Wow. It just blows me away.” And it could be your most recent one. You’ve probably got hundreds of them, and of course, without names and companies and things like that, but just somewhere where someone’s used it and you’re like, “That’s cool.”

Trond Aas: I think, again, I would have to go to a couple of the do good projects that we’ve done, where they used these platforms. And again, I would pick another one then where they used it to train people on how to talk to kids about difficult situations. And I think primarily because it’s such a heartwarming thing to see. Because we make our platform to help people be better versions of themselves. And I mean, we’re a very purpose driven company. And when we see that, it just makes us so grateful and happy to see the impact we’re creating. So I think that would be my immediate story of [crosstalk 00:26:37].

William Tincup: Oh yeah. Well, you got it back to impact, right?

Trond Aas: Exactly.

William Tincup: So you start with impact. I love that when you’re talking to prospects, it’s like, “Let’s start at impact. Where’s the problem? What do we need to solve for?”

Trond Aas: Exactly.

William Tincup: You’re doing the same thing with the feel good stories. People are tackling some really tough issues, but it’s all about impacting and that’s impacting society. So now you’re not just impacting inside of the four walls of a company, you’re impacting society in general. I love that.

Trond Aas: Exactly, exactly.

William Tincup: Trond, thank you so much for coming onto Use Case Podcast. This has been fantastic.

Trond Aas: Thank you very much. It was a pleasure to be here. Thanks.

William Tincup: And thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case Podcast. Until next time.

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William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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