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 funtheory.com (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 thefuntheory.com. 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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The Abundant Organization

As we are preparing to bring our solution to market, we've been searching for a characterization of just what kind of an organization is the "perfect" customer for what we offer. We've batted around the term Authentic Organizations up to this point as we like the dual meaning of "genuine" and "entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience," as we are focusing on using the best management science and research to help inform our approach. Authentic therefore combines some of the soft part of the mission with the hard science component.

We are engaged in this enterprise because we hope -- even in the smallest of ways -- to enable "Good Work" to occur more often than it does today. Those who are involved in doing "Good Work" will have better lives both at work and outside of work because of it. We spend an awful lot of time at work as a society, so we believe improving work lives can make a meaningful impact.

But using the term Authentic Organization left a little something to be desired. It was part of the characterization, but not the whole thing. Now I know why.

I've had the good fortune to pick up a copy of a book called The Why of Work, by Dave and Wendy Ulrich and they introduce an idea that is much more fulfilling. They call it the Abundant Organization.

Here's their synopsis:

"An abundant organization is a work setting in which individuals coordinate their aspirations and actions to create meaning for themselves, value for stakeholders, and hope for humanity at large. An abundant organization is one that has enough and to spare of the things that matter most: creativity, hope, resilience, determination, resourcefulness, and leadership.

Abundant organizations are profitable organizations, but rather than focusing only on assumptions of competition and scarcity, abundant organizations also focus on opportunity and synergy. Rather than accepting the fear-based breakdown of meaning in hard times, abundant organizations concentrate on bringing order, integrity, and purpose out of chaos and disintegration. Rather than restricting themselves to narrow, self-serving agendas, abundant organizations integrate a diversity of human needs, experiences and timetables.

In good times and in hard times, abundant organizations create meaning for both the employees who comprise them and the customers who keep them in business. Employees, customers, investors, and society benefit when employees find meaning at work and when companies give meaning to society. This logic applies to small and large organizations, to public agencies and private enterprises, to local storefronts and global conglomerates."

Abundant Organization it is, then. Thank you, Dave and Wendy Ulrich.



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