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A reminder from legendary Pokémon boss raids

Posted on: February 27, 2018

I am rewarding myself with a short break after intensive week of evaluating assignments.

But even as I relax by playing Pokémon Go (PoGo), I observe behaviours that remind me why implementing change is so difficult. People keep old habits because they see only what is around them.

Niantic, the company behind PoGo, recently re-released past legendaries Kyogre and Groudon alongside the current Rayquaza in an attempt to spice things up. What players collectively catch more of determines what normal but rare (or rare-ish) Pokémon hatch from eggs.

There is currently 85K people in a Facebook group of PoGo players in Singapore. A group poll showed that an overwhelming majority favoured the catching the current legendary, Rayquaza. The experience is fresher (it was just released) and the consequences are better (the rarest normal Pokémon will hatch from eggs).

That said, a poll and an online community does not necessarily represent what happens on the ground.

If you find a gym with a five-star rating (legendary boss), you have a one in three chance of battling Rayquaza, and a two in three chance of battling the other two.

If the poll held true, you would expect most people to invest time, effort, and their free or paid passes into the Rayquaza raids. Very few walk away from non-Rayquaza raids even though they said they would.

A few who stay might not actually be raiding. They might just be there for a friend or are clearing up their game inventory. But even a cursory glance will reveal the telltale tap-tap-tap battling motion of the players that remain.

What people say is not what people always do.

Likewise, when there is change, it is easy for people to buy-in to rationale, but it is not as easy to take ownership of action. I have shared before how buy-in is a state of mind while ownership is a state of being.

Buy-in is a state of mind. Ownership is a state of being.

So why is it difficult for people to take ownership and create change?

While there might be shared purpose, there might not be shared plans or strategies. In PoGo, there might not be a social signal to abandon a futile raid, so people keep raiding even though it is short-sighted. In schooling, there might not be a signature pedagogy, so teachers keep doing what they have always done.

An edublogger I respect once wrote that is it important to not just look up and beyond, but also look down and at what is immediate when implementing change. I agree, but only to a point.

Only the skilled and wise know how to balance the actions of keeping their eyes on the prize while dealing with the daily grind. Ignore one or the other and you lose your way. The PoGo players see only what is immediate — people around them raiding and using up a daily pass — so they do not change tactics. Teachers see what the majority of their peers are doing — buying in but not taking ownership — and they do the same.

PoGo is a game with consequences that are relatively short-term and do not have much of an impact outside the game. However, teaching indifferently has consequences that are long-term and go far deeper. Both benefit from shared strategies and looking beyond the immediate.

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