Game-ify This

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Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves. 

Albert Einstein

I've always loved this quote. Although, I would like to understand the context in which it was given. Perhaps it was uttered in the same vein as his quote about intelligence being the capability to hold two opposing ideas in one's mind at the same time...? Or, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar...I'd like to think he was being literal in this case.


Either way, I'm mulling over two things I've seen or read lately and a recurring theme in the industry that's been bothering me. So inevitably, I won't be giving any of them the attention they each deserve.

The two things that have interested me are some of the most recently published research on the neuroscience of leadership and organizational change (thanks to my friend Michael Buckstein) and the website (thanks to Dan Pink for this one). The other item is the annoying present theme of "gamification."

First the interesting.

In issue 43 of strategy + business, authors David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz summarize some of the latest findings in the neuroscience of leadership that would have been considered "counterintuitive or downright wrong only a few years ago:"



Change is pain. Organizational change is unexpectedly difficult because it provokes sensations of physiological discomfort.

Behaviourism doesn't work. Change efforts based on incentive and threat (the carrot and the stick) rarely succeed in the long run.

Humanism is overrated. In practice, the conventional approach of connection and persuasion doesn't sufficiently engage people.

Expectation shapes reality. People's preconceptions have a significant impact on what they perceive.

Attention density shapes identity. Repeated, purposeful and focused attention can lead to long-lasting personal evolution.

As usual, this excerpt doesn't do justice to the entire article.


After reading this article and mulling it over a few days, I got wind of the I love the idea...making behaviour change fun. The winner of the contest was a speeding lottery where the goal was to make obeying the speed limits fun. It's entertaining to review some of the submissions. But I have to wonder given the above, does any of this lead to long-term behaviour change? I know it's a theory (hence the name) and probably more of a marketing scheme than anything...but more data please.

Now, moving completely to the extreme end of the spectrum...gamification. It sounds suspiciously like technology in search of a problem again. Where's the evidence that this is effective in a workplace? I know, I'm channeling Grumpy Old Men again, but c'mon...if people have to be "gamed" at work to do things, shouldn't they be looking for alternate employment? 

Isn't this also another form of carrot and stick incentives which we know don't work in many scenarios? As usual, I have more questions than answers, but this one is giving me the itchy scratchy's right now...perhaps I'll be a born-again convert with the proper evidence.



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