Finding Your Voice in CapsimInbox
By Brendan Langen, Director of Product Design & Development at Capsim
Over the past two years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with hundreds of experts who want to write their own microsimulation with CapsimInbox. This puts me in a unique position to see how people write. And that’s really interesting!
Three clear lessons have come from this:
Some writers are experts.
Some experts are not writers.
Writing without a framework is challenging.
Writing is seemingly one of the most simple things we do, yet the act provides a lifelong challenge. At an early age, we learn to put words together and form sentences. But writing “the strawberry is tasty” is not going to win a Pulitzer. The skills of being a good writer are not easy to come by; it takes years of practice and thousands of iterations to be revered. Shoot, it takes that time to even feel comfortable with your voice.
Writers come in all shapes and forms. Technical writers make things easier to understand. Exam writers create a clear challenge for test-takers. Writers of prose give us a chance to feel emotions with their words. At the root, writers turn words into understanding. The best writers can craft a story that moves us.
Which brings me full circle. CapsimInbox—at its core—is a writing tool. What you put in is what your users experience, and naturally, that has intimidated many people. But that doesn’t mean it should be scary.
As someone who has written several Inboxes, I can assure you that it’s not rocket science. You are an expert in your field, and you can write an expert Inbox. Both can be true!
Here are some quick tips on how to craft your masterpiece.
Know your audience.
Rule #1 of any presentation is to know your audience, so let’s start there. Who are you writing for?
In the corporate world, your employees or business people make up the audience. In the world of academia, it’s likely students or researchers. Part of your audience is likely required to take this. Don’t make them hate it.
In either group, you are writing to an audience that has options. Distractions abound on the web. Keep it simple, keep it fun, and you will keep your audience’s attention.
Focus from the start.
Start with the essential skill that you care about for the audience.
In a recent Inbox I wrote on Product Management, I had to choose what to focus on. In my case, that boiled down to prioritization. Other skills also make up the role, but because I highlighted a single skill to start, I can write the entire scenario around this. In other words, one question resides at the center of my Inbox: What should we choose to work on?
As a designer, I am a big fan of constraints to enable creativity. For instance, I chose to have no more than four emails per character, with each email having no more than four responses. This allowed me to create different branches – or options – depending on the participant’s response.
The benefits of this approach are twofold:
- It’s easier for me to write, and
- It’s easier for a participant to work through.
As authors, we’re not trying to fool anyone. You can even simplify a step further. Some of the best Inboxes I have seen stick to the rule of three.
Keep it open.
Sometimes there isn’t a single perfect answer. In that case, give the participant a chance to respond in their own words with an open-text response.
In the previously mentioned Product Management version, I wanted to identify my job candidates’ thought process. Thus, the most important thing I could do was allow the candidate room to explain themselves.
Of course, this applies in many situations. We want to hear the participant’s rationale. In Inbox, this means having a branch tied to an open-text response. We want to listen to their reasoning, as that will give us a better idea of how they think and work. In my case, I want to hear what methodologies they used to answer the question, why they feel that’s most important, and how they would communicate to the other stakeholders. This shows me how the candidate will react in a real situation.
Look to your experience.
To generate ideas for emails/scenarios, look to two to three “real-life” situations where the skill(s) are shown. Think about the steps needed to perform in that situation effectively and what it looks like when someone does a good job. Taking a look at your actual email inbox can be of great help here.
In contrast, it’s easy to remember the ‘disaster moment’. Call on that experience to illustrate how not to respond. Sometimes it can be even more useful to show your participants what not to do.
Adopt a voice.
When thinking about your Inbox’s cast of characters, try to embody different characters or personalities you have seen on TV or read in books. I like to do this to help me write in a unique voice for each character. Some of my favorites to tap into are travel + food TV show hosts. I owe special thanks to the late, great Anthony Bourdain.
On the off-chance you haven’t opened a book or turned on the TV in recent years, bravo on your mental clarity. I’m sure your imagination needs no influence.
Remember: this is a game!
Your tone should match the environment, and CapsimInbox is a game. Sure, we can call it a microsimulation, an assessment, a live case study, a selection tool, a training resource, and many other things. At the root, though, you’re crafting a game. It’s educational, but it can be fun. Remember that.
For the longest time, experts have been limited to communicating their ideas through text, voice, or video. Now there’s another way to share your ideas—through a game.
The CapsimInbox Authoring Platform is the future. Experts like you can reach millions of learners and generate revenue from your ideas and experience. Writing can be challenging, but writing an Inbox can be easy. Let us help you.