Play at Work: How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking

Play at Work: How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking

by Adam L. Penenberg
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/04/2013
PandoDaily.com editor Penenberg (Viral Loop) sets out to help break the cycle of negativity in the work place, claiming that the integration of gaming into workflow can create a more productive, happy, and motivated workforce, and lead to higher profits. Here, he discusses some of the neuroscience behind the benefits of games, exploring why our brains respond so well to play, and providing examples of how it has responded well in the past. He cites the success of Weight Watchers and fantasy football as dependent on some integration of gamification. The book's highlights include sections explaining the social satisfaction of gaming, from life-simplifying inventions for "common, everyday struggles," to video games such as Angry Birds and World of Warcraft, and processes whereby Nintendo Wii has helped rehabilitate injuries, as well as an exploration of how even the simplest point systems can provide necessary motivation. Intense and dense, Penenberg's hat tip to Gabe Zimmerman ("Game mechanics cannot solve fundamental business problems") is a reminder that, though game mechanics is not the ultimate solution, it can help us all work better. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“Adam Penenberg’s excellent new book persuasively demonstrates the power of gaming to motivate work. Filled with great stories of companies who have made the leap into playful productivity, it should be useful and inspirational for anyone looking at how to leverage the spirit of competition.”
DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, AUTHOR OF PRESENT SHOCK

“In this great and often funny book Penenberg shows how everyone from entrepreneurs to scientists is using gamification to create the future today. Don’t be left behind. Read this book to learn how the rules of business and life are changing.”
GABE ZICHERMANN, CEO OF GAMIFICATION CO.

“It’s happening all around us, but if you’re not paying attention you may miss it. Adam Penenberg provides an insightful guide into how gamification is infiltrating the marketplace and, more important, how it can be leveraged to make experiences more immersive and addictive. Read it, and prepare to see your everyday experiences through new eyes.”
TODD HENRY, AUTHOR OF DIE EMPTY AND THE ACCIDENTAL CREATIVE

“From Tom Sawyer’s fence-painting scheme to Angry Birds, games have a unique knack for tapping the heart of engagement. Adam Penenberg takes you well beyond Zynga and through the countless, inventive ways games can be designed to bring out our best thinking. This is a fascinating and entertaining exploration of that most basic of human proclivities: play.”
DANIEL H. PINK, AUTHOR OF TO SELL IS HUMAN AND DRIVE

“Gamification is a hot topic but few truly understand it. Engaging and filled with incredible stories, Play at Work explains how games can make us more efficient and creative. Drawing on copious research and interviews with an array of game designers, scientists, mathematicians, entrepreneurs, inventors, and government officials, Penenberg offers a new perspective on how to make play work for you.”
ERIC RIES, AUTHOR OF THE LEAN STARTUP

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781591844792
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/03/2013
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.38(h) x 0.94(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Adam Penenberg’s excellent new book persuasively demonstrates the power of gaming to motivate work. Filled with great stories of companies who have made the leap into playful productivity, it should be useful and inspirational for anyone looking at how to leverage the spirit of competition.”
DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, AUTHOR OF PRESENT SHOCK

“In this great and often funny book Penenberg shows how everyone from entrepreneurs to scientists is using gamification to create the future today. Don’t be left behind. Read this book to learn how the rules of business and life are changing.”
GABE ZICHERMANN, CEO OF GAMIFICATION CO.

“It’s happening all around us, but if you’re not paying attention you may miss it. Adam Penenberg provides an insightful guide into how gamification is infiltrating the marketplace and, more important, how it can be leveraged to make experiences more immersive and addictive. Read it, and prepare to see your everyday experiences through new eyes.”
TODD HENRY, AUTHOR OF DIE EMPTY AND THE ACCIDENTAL CREATIVE

“From Tom Sawyer’s fence-painting scheme to Angry Birds, games have a unique knack for tapping the heart of engagement. Adam Penenberg takes you well beyond Zynga and through the countless, inventive ways games can be designed to bring out our best thinking. This is a fascinating and entertaining exploration of that most basic of human proclivities: play.”
DANIEL H. PINK, AUTHOR OF TO SELL IS HUMAN AND DRIVE

“Gamification is a hot topic but few truly understand it. Engaging and filled with incredible stories, Play at Work explains how games can make us more efficient and creative. Drawing on copious research and interviews with an array of game designers, scientists, mathematicians, entrepreneurs, inventors, and government officials, Penenberg offers a new perspective on how to make play work for you.”
ERIC RIES, AUTHOR OF THE LEAN STARTUP

Meet the Author

ADAM L. PENENBERG is the editor of PandoDaily, the site of record for Silicon Valley, and has written for the New York Times, Forbes, Fast Company, Slate, the Economist, the Washington Post, and Wired. He is the author of Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today’s Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves and a journalism professor at New York University. 
Visit penenberg.com; follow @Penenberg

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