The Gamification of Work
Imagine the value if you could transfer the excitement and focus found in great games to the office. What if employees could solve customer problems, design new software or configure better shipping routes working inside a game environment at work? This isn't just possible, it's inevitable as argued in Total Engagement: Using Games and Virtual Worlds to Change the Way People Work and Businesses Compete. As employee productivity and engagement become more critical, the user experiences provided by game technology offer tantalizing solutions for business. This is far more than a quaint metaphor or a twist on e-learning. A new gamer generation is entering the enterprise, expecting that their work experiences will be more like their playful ones. They’re looking for better and more engaging tools to help them collaborate, innovate and lead. Elements of sophisticated games (e.g., feedback, virtual economies, self representation, team play, transparent reputations, ranks and levels) can address a host of business problems with morale, communication, productivity, and alignment of personal and corporate goals. Examples of games at work can now be found in several business sectors including retail sales, customer relations, financial services, software development, energy, transportation and health care.
Media Are More Real Than You Think
No one worries when small children wave at someone on TV thinking that people on the screen can actually see them. We’re sure they’ll learn otherwise as they mature and gain experiences with the fantasy world of media. But that’s often wrong. People of all ages often respond to media as if the people, places and objects shown are absolutely real, even if they have no conscious awareness of their responses. Byron has done decades of research, first summarized in The Media Equation but much of it new, showing that media presentations are close enough to reality that the human brain processes the information as real experiences with little if any discount for the fact that words and pictures are mere symbols. His research has shown, for example, that people are polite to computers (in ways similar to real social interactions), people move their avatar back when approached too closely by another avatar (just as they would if approached by someone in real life), and people prepare their bodies for physical action in response to threats and movement on a screen (even though it’s just a picture). There are serious implications of these responses for worrying about media effects and for designing media that maximize engagement.
You Can’t Change What You Can’t Measure
Information about our lives is growing exponentially, allowing people to monitor themselves and their world in ways that may promote useful behavior change. Ubiquitous sensors measure moment-by-moment our location, our physical health, how much email we send, where we travel and how fast, how much electricity our homes consume, our levels of physiological excitement, and much more. It’s clear from research that when people are presented with sensor information about their behaviors, they will often change behaviors to their own and community advantages. What’s unclear is how to present sensor information to people so that they are engaged, and ultimately learn, remember and use the information. Intelligent design of interaction experiences is a critical consideration in making the new era of information sensors a benefit rather than a contribution to stifling information overload.