How cool game dynamics is ... until you realise you're hooked (#uoltech #edtech #elearning #officelabs # ribbonhero #clearcontext)

How cool game dynamics is … until you realise you’re hooked (#uoltech #edtech #elearning #officelabs # ribbonhero #clearcontext)

People do stuff. However, they’re not consistent. Their intrinsic motivation is not usually strong enough to make them good at the stuff they do in the shortest time possible, especially if the immediate sense of achievement is not exactly overwhelming. Working hard consistently for years to get to a specific milestone is getting more and more unrealistic nowadays when social media have influenced most of us to adopt a culture of instant gratification – how many times do I check the blog traffic stats after I post something new? Have a guess! 😉 (and btw, it’s no way near as many times as a while back – I am ready to leave “the instant gratification rehab clinic”. I am a reformed, more patient man!) Now that you’ve had a laugh on my account, how many times do you check your Twitter mentions and direct messages? Hm? Same here 😉

So what can you do to get some of the folks that would like to do stuff and see the point of doing it, to do it more often? Simple: appeal to the kid in everyone and turn everything into a game. I very much doubt that I’ll be giving a better intro to game dynamics than Seth Priebatsch at TED. So I’ll let him do his thing and I’m gonna do mine: talk about two things which have got me better at what I do, faster.


Now that you’ve seen Seth’s take on game dynamics in everyday life, here’s what’s happened to me:

1. Learning more about Microsoft Office

Last year I came across a pretty cool tool from Microsoft Office Labs: Ribbon Hero. It’s actually a plug-in for MS Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote which gives you points for everything you do in these programmes on a daily basis, as well as offers you challenges that you can take to earn more points and get better at using those four Microsoft Office components. What a brilliant idea! So what does it look like? Here you go: Ribbon Hero 1 into my PowerPoint (with Facebook integration so that you can brag to your mates – personally I’d have liked a Twitter integration because me and Facebook don’t currently have much in common… well, apart from the info I put on it in past moments of extreme boredom… anyway…):

My PowerPoint Ribbon Hero 1 score

My PowerPoint Ribbon Hero 1 score

Sounds cool? Wait to hear this then: back in April, the very cool dudes from Office Labs launched the second and improved version of this training tool (because that’s what it actually is, right? whatever you may say, folks, it is NOT a game. It is a clever ploy to make you a better user without sitting you down in a classroom or telling you it is a “training course”). What’s the first thing I noticed? That you can get more points in Ribbon Hero 2!!! Of course, there are lots more things about it: it’s more game-like, with different scenarios (not sure about the ancient Egipt and Middle Ages settings, but hey, why not?), lots more challenges, unlocked levels and … MORE POINTS!!! 🙂 (but you’ll have to have Office 2007 or later to run it…)

2. Being more productive with Microsoft Outlook

The second story now: a few months back I needed to create some quick mailing lists from all the contacts I had in e-mails I had filed religiously in a few Outlook folders. Although Outlook 2010 is a lot better than earlier versions, I still didn’t find out a quick way of doing that. However, I soon came across an application which I trialled and then bought almost immediately afterwards: ClearContext. I personally think this is a brill plug-in and I reckon it has saved me a lot of time filing my e-mails, keeping track of projects and conversations – and I still haven’t played with every single functionality (should it have a CC Hero button, too? I reckon it would definitely help!). This is what it looks like in Outlook and this is the button you must beware of: Email Stats.

ClearContext plug-in for MS Outlook

ClearContext plug-in for MS Outlook

I must say that every day I click on that darned thing to see how I have been doing. At a glance, it tells you how many e-mails you receive and send every day, what your response time is, how effective you are and what your workload is. So far nothing earth-shattering and those figures could be anything. However, what it does to manage to get me hooked is that it compares me to the world (presumably the part of the world that has ClearContext). So when I see that my response time is among the bottom 50% after one day off or a longer meeting, what do I do? You guessed it: I try and get to the top 20% where I like being.

How dangerous is this? Very! And if any managers are thinking about using it against their employees, they should promptly be slapped with a fish and made to sit down and think that, if employee enthusiasm and productivity is down, having a few motivational chats and shaking things up a little will be a lot better than using ClearContext to see who’s lazy and who’s not. Unless, of course, the whole point of the job is answering e-mails – but even in that case, researching a helpful reply rather than firing off whatever you have handy will help with customer retention, motivation, etc. So DON’T use it like that!


So what do I think about this stuff? Well, first of all, I like to keep my eyes peeled for the latest brain-based research, psychological theories, and general tricks that companies might try and use to hook me. When I do spot them in their campaigns, they make me smile, I feel clever, and I swan through life with grace (but *I* would think that, wouldn’t I?). Do I buy the products? Most of the time, not a chance: I prefer to give money to charity rather than buy stuff I don’t need. That makes me feel good. New stuff doesn’t.

On the other hand, I don’t mind admitting I am a kid and enjoying game-like, on-demand e-learning which I can get through the Ribbon Hero (for more e-learning related to other software, I have found to be excellent, so I’m saving up for that, too). Finally,  I do feel that I am in a bit of a race, and the stats fed back to me by ClearContext give me some sort of idea about where I stand (though I very much doubt that are actually real; but it would be so cool if they were… just out of curiosity and, more importantly, to maintain the point and momentum of the game…).

Will this be enough for me? Will I become a person who lives through their e-mail stats, e-bay ratings, blog traffic, and FourSquare mayorships? Nah, but nice try, you sly people out there 😉