Game Frame of Mind

GameFrame-BookCover I remember when they were building new apartments in our neighborhood. I grew up at the edge of my home town in Italy.

In that area where the fields were still owned and cultivated by farmers. Occasionally, they would chase us for picking their strawberries. They were irresistible.

One of our favorite games was to jump off the first story of buildings at construction sites onto the piles of sand left unattended on weekends.

We would probably find everything locked down now. I was doubly lucky — I'm alive today, and I gained a tremendous sense of coordination while I learned to master the skill of jumping right. You wanted to look good in front of the other kids, you know.

Back then, we came up with a point system for increasingly difficult jumps and slides down the piles. Then we'd add bonus points for inventing new moves. Eventually, we pooled toys to award Pollyanna-style. 

Time seemed to fly that summer. Although it was admittedly a dangerous proposition, those games engaged us and fired up our creativity.

If only there was a way to structure experiences so that they are compelling, keeping people engaged and in flow. And I'm not talking about jumping onto piles of sand, even though your day may feel that way too often. You can do that, feel more engaged, with game mechanics.

In Game Frame (Amazon affiliate link), Aaron Dignan describes how to create ways to be engaged at work by producing peak learning conditions and accelerating achievement. Games are a powerful way to influence and change behavior in any setting.

Dignan is a digital strategist and entrepreneur, CEO of Undercurrent. We met at Web 2.0 Expo while speaking on the same panel a couple of years back. I was glad to see the topic of his book. It's grounded in behavioral psychology and the neuroscience of human potential and development.

Our brain operates based on patterns — we explore and experiment our way into survival. Landing on those piles of sand without getting hurt made us figure out better ways to slide down once that level was accomplished. Games are about skills as well as information.

Applying the principles of game mechanics at work would mean having clear and compelling goals and knowing how you're doing at every step of the way. How many of you wish you had that. A game would challenge you, just enough to keep things interesting — and it would provide an opportunity to improve your skills.

Recognition would come with new things to do and explore, which are more engaging than money. In Dignan's own words — the future of work is play. His mission is to eradicate boredom at work.

Think about what happens when you call a service number, can you see in your mind what their expression looks like? Now imagine what your experience would be if your customer service rep were fully engaged.

Either the systems that surround us are constructed poorly, or we are at a loss at how to approach them. Resulting in boredom, lack of motivation, or follow-through after starting a new project. Getting started can be a challenge as well when a project feels too difficult and unwieldy.

Whether you feel there's nothing in it for you, or that you're not sufficiently prepared to do something, over the long haul not doing, or being inconsistent in what you do leaves you frustrated, distracted, and disconnected. Yet, poking you with a sharp stick is not going to produce the desired results.

Games keep us in a state of flow, thus increasing engagement. However, just putting a scoop of game-like rewards on top of existing systems is not the answer. Instead, says Dignan, we need to keep in mind the core experience of an activity.

I loved his references to the Montessori method of learning, especially since that is what my mother used with me. The book is structured in ten levels, each with its set of stories and ideas you can apply to make your work, and life, more engaging.

Get your copy today and start earning points towards more satisfying experiences.


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