Networking is a complex field, and it’s ever-changing. So how do you bring the new team members up to speed, keep the current team sharp, and prepare for new technologies on your business road map when your training budget has been slashed? And if that’s not enough, how do you keep it fun, challenging, and interesting at the same time? Cisco has been developing games that will help you tackle this problem. Yes, I said, “Games!”

The first game I played, “Peter Packet,” was introduced a few years ago, and Cisco has continued to develop and improve this training platform with their newest game being “Cisco Mind Share,” which is purported to cover half of the CCENT curriculum. There are now 16 different games, most of which are free, that cover a variety of topics, technologies, and levels of expertise. There are games that cover different technology fields such as security and wireless; games that help to hone skills such as subnetting and binary conversion; and even platform-specific games for the Cisco ASR 1000 Series Router.

The Cisco Games Arcade has an overview of each game. Here are some suggestions for capitalizing on this free resource:

  • Shake up a boring department meeting every now and then by having your team play one of the games. I guarantee the meeting will be more interesting, and the team just might enjoy going to meetings again.
  • Work on team building by forming teams that compete against each other. I can just see it now, the Newbies beating the Top Guns, because they have gotten rusty on the details of the basics, or the Top Guns beating the Newbies so badly that they decide to spend more time studying on their own. Now, how bad could that be?
  • Incorporate the games into your overall training plan. Track and reward employee participation, accomplishments, and high scores.
  • If you want to be totally brutal, keep track of the scores and completed sections as part of employee reviews. Keep in mind, this may deter from the whole “make learning fun” goal though.
  • Have an interviewee play a game or some of a game as part of an interview. What is their level of technical expertise? How do they handle challenges? What is their temperament? Are they a good fit for your team?

In these financially challenging times, you can’t afford to rely solely on expensive formal training classes. While classes definitely have their place, there are alternatives that can be informative, challenging, and a much-needed break from the normal routine for the whole team. So go shake up the routine. Have some fun! And if you’re ready to brag, send us your scores!