Tom Chatfield recently posted this brilliant explanation in Prospect magazine of transforming engagement by learning through video games . It pulls together many of the current ideas that are circulating around why video games are so successful, such a big business and really something to be taken seriously.
This really is quite simple yet obvious, as all good things are. As Tom explains in the article human beings have evolved of millions of years to have certain triggers and motivations. Video games and virtual worlds have taped into many of those triggers, almost by accident.
The irony is that many of the things that make humans tick are often ignored in organisational evolution. They are also the things that mission statements of companies try to address yet in practice many enterprises and companies do not practice most of these. So, if video games have exposed and proved what makes humans operate and how they are motivated it would make sense to apply these straight away to any organisation that wants the best out of people. I have replicated Tom’s list and put those in context of what most organisations do to not quite address these in a timely fashion.
1. Using an experience system.
This refers to constant achievements, publicly shown and earned. For many organisations this may be an occasional award, a promotion review process. Seldom is it the actual Kudos that individuals and teams earn that is used officially.
2. Multiple long and short-term aims.
Organisations will have strategic and tactical objectives but most people in a job will be set a task. This stems from the industrial mechanisation where we became a simple cog in a machine.
3. You reward for effort.
Most organisations simply reward success. It is a subtle difference, but an important one to reward the dedication and effort put towards a cause.
4. Rapid, clear, frequent feedback.
Not knowing what people are achieving on a day to day basis (as in point 1), with the effort put in (as in point 3) leaves most organisations to work in a batch feedback way. When a team of people bond they support and nurture individual efforts, but that gets diluted in 6 or 12 month review cycles.
This is pleasant surprise. If you discuss uncertainty, or even the path to discovery and invention, in most organisations you will be met with fear. The biological payback for the buzz of finding something unexpected is lost.
6. Windows of enhanced attention.
The industrial approach of the 9-5 job will not take into account the rhythm of the brain and the body. The times when you mind is open to new ideas and times when it is just time to grind. In helping people understand their creative inventive side we often have to get their brain into the correct gear. Considering combinations of things in unusual combinations, picking random words from a bag and connecting them, discussing seemingly ludicrous extremes, all help the brain get ready to spark. You can’t stay in that state all the time, but creating rather than suppressing that state leads to an easier path to creativity.
7. Other people.
We thrive in groups, the affirmation of others. The rise of social media online has proved that even more. Not to replace the physical but to enhance it. When organisations seek to force this down or engineer it out they are really fighting the human spirit. When you consider the length of time the human spirit has had to evolve and compare it to the time we have had our current business structures you would not bet on the latter would you?
So when considering how to engage with customers, create products, apply government and so on these attributes need to be looked at, but they also need to be applied internally to the organisation creating these engagements. I wonder how many of the really good games design studios have fallen into the corporate trap and how many really live this.