The topic of gamification is pretty hot right now. Google seems to return 62,100 results at this moment, so that is as hot as you can define hot to be.
Byron starts off the session with some stories about real people.
- The first person is Nick, 23 years old, BS in computer science and instead of doing training signs up at rangefinders and starts off by creating an avatar to play a game. This is pretty awesome for Nick, because he needs to identify suspects at the underground station and as he does this, he learns, picks up points and advances in the game. In fact, Nick's boss tells him that he can stop playing when he reaches Level 17 and that's when he's done with his training. The catch is that Level 17 is a real live video feed from the station - real bad guys to cope up with. This throws away the manual completely and helps individuals build real competence.
- Byron now shows an IBM virtual world where there are 9 people sitting in a virtual world, meeting in their avatars and discussing the future of the company. They are actually doing work in the context of the gaming/ virtual world that we just saw.
- 19000 Cisco people met for a virtual conference in a virtual world, complete with games, saving $90 million. While people may not have liked the games as much as going to Vegas, it's still $90 million saved. Leaderboards, game interfaces and what not complete the entire experience.
- Microsoft has to do language reviews for their software. They just made this into a game, where the act of getting some work done got people up on a leaderboard in an alternate reality.
- Agile software development - there's already a lot of wisdom about using virtual worlds in that space.
- Byron is now showing us a Stanford game called Power House - a game to learn about energy saving. It helps people see their actual home energy use with Google Powermeter and use the real savings resulting from that knowledge to move their scores up!
- At Target the checkout clerk plays a game where if the clerk can scan an item quickly they get points on this game. Based on their scores, they compete for prizes and the fantasy league that's running at the back makes people sometimes work even longer than they usually do.
Byron brings up a story about a fictional character called Ted. Ted is looking for purpose and engagement, but is in repetitive and dull work. He needs to collaborate and cooperate on multiple teams in a decentralised organisation. He's trying to do his work in a slow, legacy bound environment which is risk averse, and crowded with information. The tools he gets to work are UGLY.
On the other hand another person finds engagement in sophisticated play. He's getting constant feedback in what he's doing with a role on a team. He collaborates with diverse teammates across the world - "I don't win unless we win." This person (maybe playing World of Warcraft) plays in environments with speed, risk tolerance, transparency, analytics, fair competition, and a meritocracy.
Some of the most interesting software we see these days is in the gamification space.
7 Reasons Why this will Work
The key for us to find a way to justify these reasons to ourselves and to our businesses:
1. Games are big: Farmville is a huge example of that. This is stuff that we can make fairly quickly and at relatively low costs and this has huge impacts. 12M people in WOW, several in Farmville, this is a huge user base. The average age of people doing this is 33 years, who are working full time. 25% have kids. $85k is the average household income -- that's middle class. So this isn't the teenager in the basement. People are playing about 25 hours a week and the oldest play the most about 40+ hours a big.
2. A new gamer generation is emerging: Byron and his team asked IBM and their people about their gaming habits. A lot of the leaders of some gaming guilds responded to this survey. 50% say that games have improved their leadership in the real world. 75% say that MMOs should be applied to enhance leadership for global companies. This is consistent with what Sherry Jin said at ThoughtWorks. The generation believes:
- competition is fun
- failure doesn't hurt
- risk is part of the game
- feedback is best when it's immediate
- trial and error is the best plan
- bosses and rules are less important
- group action is common
4. A new science of fun: Byron is showing us two green dots on the screen where there are just two dots on the screen where you need to follow another dot as closely as possible. When people feel they're playing with a person, it activates the part of the brain for self-other connectedness. As against this when people feel they're playing a computer, this activates only the visual part of the brain. When we play another human being, our heart beats 10 times faster than usual. This is primitive engagement that actually makes us human and helps us keep building our ability to collaborate and engage socially with people.
5. Gamers are used to working: This notion of an exact distinction between work and life, serious and not and personal and professional is wrong. We have to get to an age of convergence. Byron shows us an incredibly complex medical game where doctors pay $15 a month to improve their diagnosis skills through gaming. This is work but it's fun too.
6. Changing ideas about play: Play is really important and it's not the opposite of work as some people may think. Byron tells us about Mark who wants to review notes from his sophomore calculus class. Mark wanted to find a way to do something really cool with a subject that he struggled with. He had an absolute blast playing with this bit of knowledge that he wasn't really good at. This is not the opposite of work. Playful contests are the essence of culture. Play allows us to rehearsse and learn; it determines social identity and facilitates our imagination.
7. Engagement matters: Byron's visited several companies that are thinking about what's hard about work today. Workers aren't engaged enough and if you really care about retaining the most passionate people you hire then you need to find ways to engage them. He shows us an example of workers in a healthcare context. A game called Puzzle Pirates which is an MMORPG where people have to solve tetris like puzzles in a group. Byron's idea was to take this game to the healthcare context by just swap out the puzzles and replace this with real work. 50-70% of these people leave every year. It's a very stressful job and that is not very engaging. The cost of that churn is huge, and there's a cost of doing nothing. OTOH if the organisation can bring in the values of collaboration, teamwork and fun into the workplace to engage their workforce through a game based workplace, they can actually reduce that churn and focus more on business results. Engagement is good business and it affects turnover, accuracy, efficiency, absenteeism, health, self efficacy, leadership, collaboration, innovation and what not. It's the kind of thing that can make a CEO do cartwheels in the hallway.
Dangers of the Approach
There are pitfalls we need to be aware of. Powerful also means dangerous:
- avatar mistakes
- anti-social narratives
- repetitive streess
- employment and HR issues
- mistakes that alter people's reputations
- abridgement of privacy
This has been an awesome keynote and I'm so sorry that I'm having to run out just because my session's up next. Thank you Byron and thanks Brent for getting us such a fabulous keynote speaker. I have no opportunity to listen to questions and ask some of my own. It's a shame!