The Idea Dude


Sunday, October 24, 2010

if you recalibrate your perspective in life, it's amazing what you can see.

I mentioned the buzz about gamification to someone at lunch the other day. He replied that his father was a teacher many years ago and he took the unorthodox approach of making every lesson into a game. Not just give points for good behavior but literally created a game in such a way kids never thought of it as learning.

This conversation was interesting because the current hype of gamification has it's own set of critics, from "this is not a new thing" to "another case of the Emperor's new clothes". However, this man's father did things the same way I ran many of my development groups in the past. I figured that if people bought into a cause and felt an affinity to each other in the group, 90% of my battle was won. People would work beyond the call of duty and people would volunteer to help each other for the great cause. In the end, we all climbed the same mountain.

So I would agree that the folks from the gaming world wasn't privy to some hidden secret in the virtual world that was lost to the rest of us in real world. What they did do was figure out what were the important things to keep people buying games and playing them. In the gaming world (unless it is gambling), there is rarely a financial reward so game designers had to figure other ways to attract and keep players and get them to spread the word. Out of necessity, they figured many of the keys to successful user engagement.

It's an art that has been lost in the real world. It's either have fun or work hard. Indeed we were brought up that way. Remember the "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" saying. We were taught hard work was the oxygen of survival and we should not have fun doing it. So life (usually at the onset of adulthood) became work, chores and maybe a bit of fun. Sure there were others, like my friend's father who believed otherwise. So did the creators behind Lego's Serious Play. But they were among the few, like lost prophets in the desert.

So my point is that play like work is a fundamental part of our lives since the beginning of time. Society at some point decided they were two different things. The rise of social networks like Facebook and online casual gaming has help blur the line once more. So there is much we can learn from the gaming world, the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, why we play, what engages us. There is also much that the gamification folks need to learn about the real world, i.e. they need to undo decades of prejudice, perception and cultural bias. Take a poll of any top 500 business CEO's and I'm sure that they will tell you jobs are to achieve a purpose not to have fun.

So I spend my days now looking at my life and work in a totally different way. So much so, I am about to start another venture with a few like minded friends. If something looks like a chore or is unpleasant, I step back and think about what this context should like as a game. All of a sudden, I'm in control. I'll plan a couple of strategies and predict the outcomes. I'm constantly reevaluating, like the monk constantly regaining his balance in a fight (that's another post). Each failure, is only a setback not an indictment on me or my team. I focus on the prize, the epic event. Yet at the same time, I don't lose sight of the fact, the journey should be as pleasurable as the moment of reaching the end.

If you recalibrate your perspective in life, it's amazing what you can see and accomplish.


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