Play at Work: How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking

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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study into the mix. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found when they scanned the brains of fiction readers they reacted to what they read as if they were actually living the events in the story. In addition to the vividness that on- and offline relationships bring to our lives, they also provide another key ingredient. In 2011 the Pew Foundation released a report that found the Internet, in particular social networks, engender trust, and the more time you spend on them the

make economic decisions, Zak wants to figure out why we do what we do. Around the Claremont campus Zak is known as “Dr. Love,” as much for his interest in “the cuddle hormone”—his vanity license plate reads OXYTOSIN—as his habit of hugging practically everyone he meets. It releases (you guessed it) oxytocin. But I didn’t come to L.A. for a hug. I came bearing my own questions, wondering if Zak’s research could be applied to social media, an area I’d been exploring in my own work: What

information. Eight hours and fifty-two minutes into the competition, DARPA declared MIT’s Red Balloon Challenge team the winner. Falling one balloon shy was the Georgia Tech Research Institute team. Both Hotz and Red Balloon Race spotted eight balloons. i-Neighbor reported five balloons. The team from Harvard Business School found none. As Luis von Ahn had discovered with games that mobilized massive numbers of users, Dugan validated her hunch that there was indeed great power in the

serving bowl and tongs, and a tape dispenser to attach to bulk rolls. Another invention involves a Post-it Note inserted into a pen. A third is a foldable stool that can collapse completely. The wackiest idea is a facsimile of a military tank that shoots water into your garden. Perhaps the worst: a single-use combustible charcoal chimney for picnics and tailgating that entailed lighting a bag of charcoal on fire. It prompts one Quirky designer to ponder potential lawsuits. “I don’t like this,” he

involves delivering emergency supplies by air and truck in rebel-held crisis zones. Students in Europe and the United States can assume the responsibilities of a prime minister or president when they play Democracy in school, introducing policies that affect the economy and foreign policy, and confronting crises in crime and homelessness while trying to satisfy competing political factions. All of these are examples of simulations, which are roughly defined as the imitation of real-world

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