I really like this Ted talk. I think when you think about it everything is a game. In that the definition of a game is a set of tasks that someone has to complete.
A very poorly designed game is called ‘everyday work’. A game where the reward levels are set too steeply. The rewards themselves are poorly thought out, the variability is low and worst of all it never ends.
It reminds me of a passage from the book “the one minute manager” by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson.
“One night, for example, I was bowling, and I saw some of the ‘problem employees’ at work from my last organization. One of the real problem people, who I remembered all too well, took the bowling ball and approached the line and rolled the ball. Then he started to scream and yell and jump around. Why do you think he was so happy? Because he got a strike. He had knocked down all the pins.”
The rest of the book goes on to discuss that feedback is the difference between most work and the game. I think it is a little more complicated than that as the video above points out there are a few more reward mechanisms in place. But essentially the point is correct. Imagine if your job was as rewarding as a computer game or bowling? Everyday people would be happy to go in. This is how it should be, and it’s not a case of some people being lucky and some people being unlucky, it’s a case of job & reward design.
It’s interesting because I think some of the most compelling jobs are the ones where the design of the job is incremental and well thought out. Programming for example can be a very frustrating but reward experience for some people. The process of learning very small pieces and then being able to combine them to produce something much greater can be intensely rewarding. It’s very similar to a game we get small rewards for effort and then finally one large reward once enough time has been put in. The question with programming is where does your tolerance level lie? Some people have the patience to learn C++ without giving up at the more difficult hurdles like Malloc and pointers where as some don’t have that patience and are more adept at learning PHP.
Social jobs, for example counselling can also have a similar cycle but requires different skills, but essentially you see the same progression of small incremental rewards leading to a much larger reward.
My final great example of this is blogging, I wonder how many people would have a blog, if for example you didn’t have statpress to show you how many visitors you got per day?
So maybe tomorrow when you go into work, think about the design of your job and what you could do to knock down all the pins…