Thursday, Dec 24 – Jay Stephens joins the show to talk about gamification and how beneficial it can be for damage prevention and safety.
Jim: [0:10] Good morning there LinkedIn Community. I don’t know what it is there today, but I woke up and I was feeling just a little bit there frisky. I’m not really sure what’s going on. I felt like I have wanted to have a little lutefisk. Maybe do a little ice fishing. I’m sorry. Wait a minute. What was going on? I might’ve been channeling something James, maybe my past Minnesota days.
James: [0:32] Never speak of them again.
Jim: [0:34] Yeah, never speak of Minnesota again.
James: [0:36] So do I, I understand.
Jim: [0:37] I see what you did there, I like that. Anyways, we have a fun episode today with, I’ll just give you a little hint because James will bring our guests in, but let’s talk about Damage Prevention Academy. That kind of says it all. James, how are you this fine and beautiful morning?
James: [0:54] I’m well, nice and brisk day here in Texas. I think it’s in the 40s or 50s. I’ll take it, feels like winter, but our guests may know winter a little bit different than we do down here in Texas. Jay Stevens, we figured out a new title for him, he can make his own title. He’s the boss.
[1:15] The big kahuna at Damage Prevention Academy, Jay Stevens. Thanks for joining us today. How are you?
Jay Stevens: [1:23] I’m doing great guys up here in the great white North, doing great.
[1:31] James; If you don’t know Jay is one of our Canadian brothers up there in Alberto. We’re glad to have him on the show today. Jay and I met actually, Jim, at one of the last shows I went to. In fact, I was in the last show last year before the pandemic started, Jay and I met there, and then we’ve kept in touch since. He’s still rocking a hat. The best hat in the business.
Jay: [1:59] It is.
James: [2:00] All right.
Jim: [2:01] That’s awesome. I was excited and I was excited to do a little bit of my past 20 plus years of Minnesota living, because we were so close to the border, and a bit of my voice, but let’s get to business. Let’s get it real. Jay, would you bring us up to speed. A bit about yourself, your background, and give us a little insight into the Damage Prevention Academy and all the high‑level fun stuff that you guys do.
Jay: [2:30] I appreciate that first. I’ll start off by saying thanks to both of you for inviting me here today to chat with you. It’s a great honor. You guys are both amazing guys and put on a great show, and I enjoy it. So, a bit of intro on me. I’ll start by saying, I’ve had a long and storied history.
[2:51] I have a diverse background in a number of different areas including sales. Whether its corporate, or basically high level sales, construction. I could go on forever, basically everything. I’ve done almost every task in most businesses for a number of different reasons. I talk to my children about the sum of that equation of your life, brings you to where you are now, which is Damage Prevention, which is of a culmination of all my experience.
[3:25] That again, my background is very diverse and that’s what makes me good at what I do. I have that ability to interact a lot of people. Little history on Damage Prevention Academy and how it all came about. It was the oil and gas sector was saying here in Alberta, one of the many times in the past decade.
[3:42] At that time, I was in oil and gas safety. Safety at that time was like the first thing to chop. There’s lots of safety professionals and those guys seem to go first. I started looking at different opportunities. At that time, this is probably, I guess 2011ish. I was a what’s called the ground disturbance level 2 certified trainer here in Canada.
[4:11] Which is a certification put on by the Alberta Common Ground Alliance, supervisory level damage trench and ground disturbance program, which I then became instructing individuals all over western Canada. But, in the classroom, so you have 30 people in the classroom, became very expensive for not only the corporations to hire you but also for the students to take the class, which then led me to chase down damage prevention online. The rest is history.
[4:41] Started from there, took the concepts, started growing it into a business. Started in North Dakota with a company called Hess. We built some programs for the ground disturbance team out there with Charles Columbus. From there, we partnered up with Texas and again, the rest is history. A little bit of information people probably don’t know about me is that my mine is second generation damage mentioned professional.
Jim: [5:07] Really?
Jay: [5:08] Yeah.
James: [5:08] I actually told that to Jim the other day. I said I hope he tells the story about how you got involved in it and that you were second generation. I’m glad you brought that up because I thought I was crazy. I thought I’d imagine that and I was telling Jim. He said, “I don’t remember that”. It must have been one of those that we shared maybe somewhere else.
Jay: [5:28] Guaranteed.
Jim: [5:29] You guys like dream about that and get it through osmosis or something?
Jay: [5:34] It was sitting around a table and in a hotel having a couple of waters.
James: [5:44] Yeah, strong, strong waters.
Jay: [5:48] So, second generation being cool because my dad John Stephen senior, was a electrical engineer by trade. Worked his way up in to, at the time was called Calgary Power and then became this immense corporation called TransLT Utilities, which was a electrical power generation company. He was then, with all the damages and deaths that were happening at that time, he became an advocate for damage prevention, and then was on the board of directors, one of the original board of directors of Alberta One Call.
[6:20] I used to travel around a lot with him as a young man talking about damage prevention. Of course, I had no idea what he’s talking about. No clue. God rest his soul, but if he was still here today, he’d be very proud of me. What I’ve accomplished with this business and it would he have a great amount of pride and satisfaction knowing that I carried on that torch.
James: [6:42] That’s awesome. That’s great story. That’s exactly how I remember it. So, either it was a very vivid dream or it really did happen. I was thinking as you said that how disappointed my son’s going to be why I’m here. When I have to explain to him what I am doing right now. I can’t decide how he’s going to take it yet. Jim, what do you think?
Jim: [7:08] You mean like what we’re doing with the Coffee.
James: [7:09] Yeah, when I try explain it to him that this is his legacy, that he’ll have to follow the footsteps of. He might get excited, be like, “I’ve always wanted to be a YouTuber.”
Jim: [7:19] Yeah, he’ll love that stuff.
James: [7:22] Jay, you guys are super into training. We’re super into training. We’re always looking for innovative ways to hit those retention marks and make sure people are retaining that information and being able to translate it, whatever type of learner they are. We hear terms like de‑gamification come up. I know you and I have talked about it. Will you share with our viewers what that means, and how that’s utilized and what you guys are doing with it over there?
Jay: [7:58] Yeah. I thank you for that. Yeah, you’re right, we have a lot of commonalities there. I appreciate you lumping us in with Energy Roll Map. Your guy are doing a phenomenal job out there. I appreciate that. The aim of liaison, you can sum it up is in a few clicks. You can turn your training to it addiction almost, like goal setting, goal reaching, powerhouse.
[8:24] That’s what gamification is, because people automatically think gaming, like playing something, but in reality it’s a number of different layers all interconnected than make that gamification in the learning environment. So again, I was going to share my screen but I don’t necessarily need to do that. We could talk about the various levels, but that’s up to you guys.
[8:49] We’ll just talk about those different levels and we’ll just go through. When you guys ask me questions, and because you guys probably do this on your end, as well. When it comes to say, points, you guys use points in gamification. Points are probably the starting point. The mightiest gamification element that’s out there. Customizing the number of points your learners earn through a fixed set of actions.
[9:13] Depending on the actions that you set within your learning management system, you can then reward those individuals based on their various interactions with those points. That’s probably the number one thing is point. By activating a point system, you’ll activate learning. I’ll start there. You guys have anything to add to the point side of the conversation?
James: [9:37] There’s a lot of people out there, scoreboard people, who whether they’re public facing or closet scoreboard people. As you can see behind me the high score is something that’s built in since we were little kids. We want to be up there. So, no, I think you nailed it.
Jay: [9:55] Yeah, you’re right, and one thing that scoreboard mentality, it’s does increase those actions, and those points increase user engagement, or one aspect of that user engagement. It’s critical, the points, it’s the first element. Two, is levels, much like that Golden Key game behind you. I think that’s a Turtles game, which you were telling me you guys built that one, right?
James: [10:18] Yeah.
Jay: [10:19] Both of them?
James: [10:19] That one’s got over there has about 500 games on it different systems, all kinds of stuff.
Jay: [10:27] When the restrictions are gone I’m coming down there, have my name on your leaderboard. I’ll be getting some points up on your system.
James: [10:35] Just for gamification research reasons, we’ll be expecting you.
Jay: [10:40] Just so we can circle back with another episode, so that we can have more verifiable, quantifiable data.
James: [10:46] Now we’re talking about.
Jay: [10:47] All right, perfect, love it. Next is level. I’ve got a few notes in front of me. I’ll just throw those notes out. By adding a layer of interest in functionality to your training and environment is the levels. These creative a dynamic learning environment and path for those users. As courses are accessible to those learners and will progress to the next level.
[11:11] If you think about sales training. Sales highly competitive and I don’t do sales training personally, but I’ve taken bunches of sales training, have done it for years. The competition amongst those people, sales are a little bit different, but that concept rings true through all business. Sales are hyper competitive, but people still like to feel like they’re achieving something in a work environment. Makes them feel good when they achieve more levels because they see it on that scoreboard. It’s not like they’re walking around super, maybe they are, I don’t know, throw it, really proud of that achievement.
[11:52] It’s something that people try to attain. It brings another layer to that gamification. This type of hidden content sparks the interest giving learners that much needed boost to interact with gamification, and then training software more often. Really what we’re trying to do. So if you have the points and the levels, it increases that engagement and potentially course completion, because that’s a whole other conversation all together. What do you guys think about levels?
James: [12:26] It’s a concept that we’re all familiar with, because for instance in our company you maybe have a level one, two, and three of a salesperson. Something that is a pattern that we’ve created in society and other things. That when we tie it back you want to shoot for that next level. It gives you a short‑term and a long‑term goal.
[12:51] However you’re wired, whether you want that instant gratification or you’re looking for that long term thing, that gives that learner both options. A bit more high or advanced compared to just the score. Another thing to shoot for.
Jay: [13:16] It depends on how your system is built. Like every learning management system has varying degrees of gamification. It’s not all going to look the same, but the idea, like you said James, is that, that score that you’re talking about, that scoreboard can be an accumulation of points and levels. The other one is badges. People love that badges or trophies.
James: [13:41] Yep. Love it.
Jim: [13:44] I like how it’s all being tied into, and I’m being very serious, our next generations. My grandchild can get on a tablet or a game, and do things that I could never do. Their hand‑eye coordination, their ability to navigate, I’m amazed. Tying it this way, for the potential third generation in your family to be in the safety business. It’s teening up for that.
James: [14:16] Jim, it’s funny that you say that because I was going to ask Jay what his perception was. This will lead in well, Jay, to our last section about VR. When we rolled out VR to our industry, we had a lot of people scratching their heads. They’re like, “I don’t play those games,” or, “My grandson has that,” or whatever it might be.
[14:43] I would have to level set people and say, “Check this out, though. I know what you’re thinking but the minute you put this headset on and look around you’ll understand what I’m trying to do to get across. Your idea of this will change. Right now you’re thinking it’s a video game and immediately it’s going to help out those young generations coming in.”
[15:07] Jay, what is your feeling and what have you seen in the industry, especially damage prevention, as a whole? How do you think people, are they receptive to gamification or is that for the kids type of deal. You know what I’m saying?
Jay: [15:24] Well, what’s interesting is, because the name itself, you nailed it, is that they automatically think, “I don’t want to be playing a game. This is serious. I’m trying to learn how to dig within a tolerance zone load, severing a fiber optic line,” whatever. They get that your battle that you’re having is a common dollar. It’s that you have to educate folks.
James: [15:57] You’re not going to be shooting villains. You’re still doing the same thing. You’re taking a report from the backend, adding it up and making some things happen.
Jay: [16:13] Exactly.
James: [16:14] I just wondered if you guys had ran into some. Once we get past that hurdle it’s funny how receptive everyone is though. We had the same way, Jim, you had to don that helmet for the first time, when it was VR, let’s take it to the VR room. You donned it for the first time. You a vision in your head of what this thing was, then you put it on and everything changed.
[16:39] Your mind races with possibilities of, we can put people in dangerous situations. We can really go after ALC’s in an aggressive fashion for the first time. They have the freedom to fail. These things immediately start happening in the mind. Gamification, we got to get people there. Jay, it might have been the misnomers of we call it gamification. They just called it like budgets.
James: [17:11] You know something boring. Somebody would have been like, man, stop.
Jay: [17:14] Yeah, why not check this out, so budget sales, super interesting.
James: [17:19] No offence to all the budget people.
Jay: [17:22] Yes, sorry.
James: [17:23] Accounting, we love you.
Jim: [17:25] We do, passionately. But, seriously my generation, that to us was foreign and until we try it and then all of a sudden we understand it and see the value, and that freedom to fail. For an actual senior vice president for a major utility that has over 13,000 employees and he was in charge of safety, and he brought that. We were talking one day and he’s like, “Gives them freedom to fail, if they mess here. Once he understood, I’d rather him fail in a virtual world than before they go out there as mentioned something bad could happen.”
[17:59] I have to say, that’s my generation because we’re not used to it, where other generations, they have cell phones at five, they have tablets at three. They’re doing all the stuff. To them it’s second nature. Why wouldn’t we do it? We’re getting there. If I can do it, anybody can do it.
Jay: [18:17] Exactly, great point. and don’t do yourself a disservice there, Jim. You’re a very knowledgeable man, but you’re right, you nailed it. As some people have the aversion or the belief that it’s going to be difficult, or challenging, or something hard to learn. Obviously, it’s our jobs as organizations to train these people in a way that they understand how to use it right out of the gate in an efficient manner. But, yeah, you nailed it. It’s about saying, “Check this out, interact with this and you’ll find that it’s not as challenging as you think.”
Jim: [18:56] It’s fun and it’s learning, the whole thing. James, can I ask a favor of you today? Would it be possible for myself to ask a very important one of the final questions.
James: [19:08] Yeah, let me jump in on this one. Let me ask one more thing to Jay. Let’s move into VR since we’re jumped right in. Jay, I am a pro at this and that was my goal just to transition out of that into the next, been doing this a long time, for six months. Hang with me. We talked about VR a little bit, Jay, and how it’s changing the ways we think about training. We’ve been big advocates. We are in that realm as well. We’re working with a lot of folks on that.
[19:49] In the damage prevention world there’s a lot of opportunity there with VR. We’re nearing if we’re not over the hump with the folks that we’re fighting to help educate on how vital this could be to putting people in and proper safe situation. Do you want to talk about what you guys are doing, what you’re saying, what your thoughts are on VR just as a whole in the damage prevention world, specifically and beyond.
Jay: [20:23] I’ll start by saying that we solely focus on damage prevention. We’re damage prevention experts here, we say damage prevention is, it’s just utilities, but in reality damage and prevention are two words. Definitions of such could include all elements of safety, but we focus on damage prevention. The reason why I add that drawback to the story of trying to provide that, give something back to the industry that we serve because it’s a unique dynamic.
[20:58] That said, the greatest challenges that we face in damage prevention from a one‑call operations standpoint is user engagement. It is not a regulated course. It is not a mandatory course. Of course, there’s laws in every state, like Texas, or Seattle, it all changes. You get different tolerance zones, you’ve got difference reporting requirements, but it’s dry material. You guys might have a different opinion, but it’s dry material.
[21:31] The challenge is to it educate the intended learner, like the excavators primarily, third‑party excavator, but also utility operators and their locators. But, how do we go to the next level? You said earlier E‑learning or online learning is nothing new. There’s been new things added to the mix like gamification, instructor led training, or bi LT, or micro learning or all these acronyms get thrown in the mix. Virtual reality or, VR, AR, or XR is now, it’s not becoming, it’s not like a year from now or two years from now. It’s actually happening out across all Industries.
[22:15] We are past the hump of like people going, “Whoa, what’s going on?” One, because of cost. The technology has advanced so far the costs have come way down, now it’s accessible. You can pick up an Oculus, what is it, the Oculus Quest 2 for like 256. It’s nothing.
James: [22:37] Now, Jay, I think too, that we’ve finally reached a point where we’re seeing Enterprise models too, that are reliable. That we’re bringing new big batching and setups and not have to have such a manual process everywhere. Were you about to say that. I just stole your thunder.
Jay: [22:57] No, you didn’t.
James: [22:59] Welcome to the show, bro. Welcome to the show. This is what we do.
Jay: [23:03] Yeah, we got to do this more often. This is a lot of fun, but you’re right. We’re experiencing the same thing, if those costs come down so do some of those barriers of those large corporations. They look at that, Jim, like you said, the utility operator, 13,000 employees, talking virtual reality that I got, he’s probably like, whoa. All he sees is this massive potential price tag of previously. Now, you can actually deploy it effectively, not the are issue.
[23:32] With VR there’s a number of different ways to handle PR, but we’re trying to find an economical route to get into the damage prevention area with this technology, so that the people can use it just at a basic level. There’s VR with a headset and then there’s VR on a mobile device. Our goal is to say, OK, it’s a VR, it’s got gamification, but the reality is that you want to do is transport that learner, that worker, into the scenario.
[24:09] Because, you train a guy online with images, and stock images, and videos, and animations, that guy is not seeing the actual work site. Take that guy to the work site where he’s going to be working on where there’s overhead power lines, excavations, hazards, vehicular stuff going on, that is real and becomes easier to train that person. Then the retention level was way up, way up, and the engagement goes way up. So, then it’s a victory essentially for all across the board, the trainer’s, the company, and the employees.
Jim: [24:43] That aspect though, I keep going back whenever we talk about cost and safety in the same breath, it may seem, I don’t know what the right word I’m looking for, but when you think about somebody’s safety, whether they can prevent themselves from cutting their hand, or a vehicular, a backup, anything you think about. Start to add up all that lost time, medical expenses, all those things for an organization, let’s just say an organization that has 10,000 people in it. That’s cat.
[25:15] That’s a lot of time and money that could be potentially saved by having a very proactive safety culture and safety program. This gamification, guys. I got to tell you it’s drawn me in. I want to play it. I mean I want to get to level. I want to get to level 24 or whatever the level is. It’s, I’m not going to say competitive, but it’s a challenge and it’s a fun challenge.
Jay: [25:44] Especially in big teams, Jim, you have big teams. It’s competitive. Maybe they’re not all commission based, but they’re still performance based. They’re still pay raises, bonuses, things that people get for working harder, for educating themselves, but it’s also a Individual thing. As companies we have to remember these folks that work for us are also human beings that have visions, and dreams, and goals, and it’s not just ours. We’re not just trying to funnel them up through our channel to get us where we want to go.
[26:18] They also want to be educated, learn, grow, earn more, spend more time with their families. That gamification element leads back to them bettering themselves for their futures and the companies themselves.
James: [26:35] I’m just going to add one cherry on top of that. We went to Fimsa’s training center in Oklahoma City a couple of years back. We bought VR to a bunch of their trainers, inspectors. We were reviewing and we had a roomful of probably 15 people or so. We had a video of it we show up when we talk about VR because I think it personifies it.
[27:00] We had about 15, 16 people in a room. They were all running through it. They were cheering for each other and high‑fiving and I said, “When was the last time you were in an ILT, or a CBT, or you fill in the blank where somebody was cheering or high‑fiving?” You’re more worried about keeping everybody awake.
Jay: [27:20] Yeah, exactly, just serve them with the coffee through the IV drip.
James: [27:25] No doubt. Jimmy, why don’t you do the honors today.
Jim: [27:29] You OK with me doing it today, James? It’s a little bit.
James: [27:32] So, all of this, go for it.
Jim: [27:35] It is the holidays.
James: [27:36] When will this air? When this airs this will be our Christmas week.
Jay: [27:39] I had an ugly Christmas where Santa had a pretty boy sleigh but my wife told me to take it off.
James: [27:49] You should have wished for something better.
Jim: [27:53] Jay, this last question is riveting. It’s going to take you a while to think about it, so prepare yourself mentally and emotionally.
James: [28:02] Jim, I think you should do it in your best Minnesotan accent.
Jay: [28:08] I agree.
Jim: [28:08] Oh, yeah. Yeah. Sure Dario fo don’t you know, yeah. Yeah, we’re gonna have a little lutefisk. I’m ready there. Yah. Yah. Sure. It’s cold. That’s enough Berta Clipper coming in and assist one screamer. Oh boy. We gotta get to a thousand. Let’s go.
Jay: [28:24] Love it.
Jim: [28:25] OK, Jay. It’s gonna be a hard question there, don’t you know, so do you love what you do, you love what you do?
Jay: [28:37] Wow.
Jim: [28:38] If I have to translate that I was asking you, Jay, do you love what you do?
Jay: [28:42] Well, that’s a tough one. I don’t know how to answer. Of course, it’s funny. I absolutely love what I do and maybe it shows in this meeting or this call.
Jim: [28:52] It does.
Jay: [28:53] If you talk to anybody that I deal with it’s I have a huge passion for it. Even right down to the granular stuff like customer service inside of our system, or support. I’m jumping in all the time, because I love the people that we serve, I love to train people. At the end of the day it’s not about the money. Money is just a byproduct of the services that you provide in the value you provide.
[29:20] I feel good about what I do when I know, if I don’t know for a fact, but if I have a small impact on somebody that doesn’t get injured, or get in an accident, or were causing environmental contamination, or God forbid, death. If I could prevent that, that gives me the drive to just keep churning and burning, just keep going.
Jim: [29:46] That was a great answer and and it games you agree with me. He was bleeding out passionate all though.
Jay: [29:54] Awesome.
James: [29:55] That’s why he’s on, we picked a good one.
Jay: [29:58] I got to go back to something guys, I got something back. I want to hear this because it was on your agenda. There was a huge discussion around our kitchen table last night with our kids and my wife, and we were all laughing our faces off trying to take this curve. We figured out a trip. I want you to see Irish wristwatch three times.
Jim: [30:23] Irish wristwatch, Irish wristwatch, Irish wristwatch. Audience, we have a little flow sheet and somebody taught us that, James. I can’t remember who.
James: [30:41] It was the UPS GO guys from DFL
Jim: [30:42] Yeah, it might have been the UPS GO guys. Anyway it’s supposed to coordinate your brain and your mouth so you can say words, articulate. We forgot to do it today. But yes, it’s a good little trick.
Jay: [30:53] It was a tongue twister, my 8‑year‑old, 9‑year‑old, my 15‑year‑old, my wife, we’re all laughing trying to say this thing. I figured out finally that if I said it angrily, like I was angry, I could say it fast, but I won’t do that today for this call.
Jim: [31:10] Come on, give it to us.
Jay: [31:13] Irish wristwatch, Irish wristwatch, Irish wristwatch.
James: [31:18] Like a Viking.
Jay: [31:20] My neighbors must have wondered, “What’s going on with Jay next door. He’s been yelling for like 30 minutes about his wrist watch.”
James: [31:26] I love it. It was a good time Jay, we’re glad you were on today. Jimmy, I’ll let you take it on.
Jim: [31:35] Absolutely. On behalf of James and I, thank you Jay, for joining us. You’re a great friend and a great comrade, great colleague. We appreciate everything you’re doing in the industry to keep all of us safe or safer. We thank you. Linkedin Community please connect with Jay. Hit the connect button with him.
[31:51] Follow the Damage Prevention Academy. Get involved, ask questions, do anything you can do. Jay said it best, if he can help one person, do one thing safer it’s all worth while. We want everybody to be safe. That’s the goal. Ultimately everything that we do.
[32:10] On behalf of all of us today we thank you. We will see you next time on Coffee with Jim and James. If you want to be a guest, hit us up, we would love to have a conversation about that. Until next time, thank you.
Jay: [32:24] Appreciate it.
James: [32:25] Thank you.