Play at Work: How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking

Adam L. Penenberg

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 1591844797

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Do games hold the secret to better productivity? 

If you’ve ever found yourself engrossed in Angry Birds, Call of Duty, or a plain old crossword puzzle when you should have been doing something more productive, you know how easily games hold our attention. Hardcore gamers have spent the equivalent of 5.93 million years playing World of Warcraft while the world collectively devotes about 5 million hours per day to Angry Birds. A colossal waste of time? Perhaps. But what if we could tap into all the energy, engagement, and brainpower that people are already expending and use it for more creative and valuable pursuits?

Harnessing the power of games sounds like a New-Age fantasy, or at least a fad that’s only for hip start-ups run by millennials in Silicon Valley. But according to Adam L. Penenberg, the use of smart game design in the workplace and beyond is taking hold in every sector of the economy, and the companies that apply it are witnessing unprecedented results. “Gamification” isn’t just for consumers

chasing reward points anymore. It’s transforming, well, just about everything.

Penenberg explores how, by understanding the way successful games are designed, we can apply them to become more efficient, come up with new ideas, and achieve even the most daunting goals. He shows how game mechanics are being applied to make employees happier and more motivated, improve worker safety, create better products, and improve customer service.

For example, Microsoft has transformed an essential but mind-numbing task—debugging software—into a game by having employees compete and collaborate to find more glitches in less time. Meanwhile, Local Motors, an independent automaker based in Arizona, crowdsources designs from car enthusiasts all over the world by having them compete for money and recognition within the community. As a result, the company was able to bring a cutting-edge vehicle to market in less time and at far less cost than the Big Three automakers.

These are just two examples of companies that have tapped the characteristics that make games so addictive and satisfying. Penenberg also takes us inside organizations that have introduced play at work to train surgeons, aid in physical therapy, translate the Internet, solve vexing scientific riddles, and digitize books from the nineteenth century. Drawing on the latest brain science as well as his firsthand reporting from these cutting-edge companies, Penenberg offers a powerful solution for businesses and organizations of all stripes and sizes.

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Any solutions showing promise would be synthesized in the lab, going from the realm of two-dimensional shapes on a screen to reality. It has to be done in a lab because proteins can fold amazingly fast. Some can do it in a millionth of a second. But the process is so complex that it can take quite awhile for the computer to simulate it. Fifty nanoseconds (50/1,000,000,000 of a second) can take a computer a full day to simulate. On May 8, 2008, Baker’s lab released its massively multiplayer competition in speed origami.

But it was canceled. Another time he devised a concept for a new toy, built a model, tested it, and readied himself for a meeting at Fisher-Price, only to learn the product already existed. Because ideas are easy to steal, he won’t describe them. All he’ll say is being a professional inventor is hard, and he faces constant rejection. Convincing a toy company to create a product is at best a long shot. Inventing one that becomes a hit is as likely as winning the lottery. But Broom Groomer wasn’t a toy, and Ward wasn’t sure what to do with it.

They were just like, ‘Uh, I don’t want to continue doing this. ’ And then their attention rate was really plummeting. Because in a sense, if you think about it, this is kind of like a game of attention, right? ” The team looked at various studies that found that the magic number for maximum attention is roughly seven minutes. In Duolingo, players’ performance deteriorated at or around seven minutes, when they would finish then click away to somewhere else. The problem was they would then stop using the site.

A Google press representative said the company couldn’t share specific numbers for Image Labeler. ) Now a tenured Carnegie Mellon computer science professor who drives a Porsche, von Ahn is but one of legions of computer scientists, educators, entrepreneurs, game designers, marketers, media organizations, start-ups, corporations, and city governments that have been pushing game mechanics beyond simple entertainment and layering them into all aspects of our lives. And von Ahn is on to perhaps his most grandiose project, which started with a simple question he posed to one of his graduate students: “How can we get 100 million people to translate the Internet into every major language for free?

Talk to corporate recruiters and you’ll hear many grouse about members of “Gen Whine”: “They want to be CEO tomorrow,” is one common refrain. But Smith also knew that today’s underlings are tomorrow’s bosses and eventually this generation would be running the show. To understand millennials it’s important to understand the environment from which they sprang, and while broad generalizations can be counterproductive there’s consensus on several Gen Y characteristics. For one, they seem to have inherited their parents’ quest for a work identity but without their parents’ blind adherence to the job.

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