Author: Michael Hugos
Audience: General and niche
Reviewer: Sue Gee
At the beginning of this book Michael Hugos suggests "maybe we let play and games enter work". His idea is to use games, which he defines as processes that involve goals, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation, not just to improve worker engagement but more as a way to improve business workflow and to approach problems that are intractable due to their sheer scale..
Many people may find the idea preposterous - but by the end of the book I was fully convinced.
An example of the type of game Michael Hugos has in mind -and which many of us would not classify as such is introduced in Chapter 2, which is on the importance of feedback. Called, "The Red Cup system" it takes an approach to the problem of matching inventory supply to demand that is collaborative and provides feedback and realtime transparency.
Chapter 3 expands on the idea that feedback in the context of a game can improve business performance. Again the emphasis is on collaboration and co-ordination. Collaboration is a prominent idea in this book while competition, which you might expect to be equally important, isn't.
In Chapter4: New Paradigms and Operating Systems we consider the use of social media to create business networks. One of the fundamental ideas of this book is also introduced here in a section "All the World's a Game" which is the start of a case study into introducing game mechanisms into sales operations.
You might pick this book up expecting it to be about "gamification". And, yes, it would be incomplete without covering this topic, which is the subject of Chapter 5. This provides a review of definitions of this term and gives a summary of the common techniques of points, leaderboards and badges. It then considers examples, starting with the well-known one of foursquare. Three more examples are briefly outlined: Playboy, Samsung Electronics and Salesforce.com.
After this comes the argument, from external authorities, that "gamification is marketing bullshit". The author's intention is to establish the idea that there is a transformative future for games in business, but that it needs to employ game mechanics that go beyond points, badges and leaderboards.
The chapter concludes with two examples. CityOne by IBM is a game where players address problems in city operation with help from IBM consultants who introduce them to IBM products and services. Siemens’ Plantville is a Facebook games in which players take on the role of a plant manager who has to improve productivity.
The title of Chapter 6 is "A Continuum of Functionality: From Simulations to Serious Games. It goes from simulation modelers such as spreadsheets and Flight Simulator as a game, to simulation software used to train pilots, army personnel and surgeons. Here even the most sceptical reader will appreciate the valuable role of "game playing".
Chapter 7 looks at multiplayer "serious games". After discussing the popular massively multiplayer online (MMO), Eve Online, there is a discussion of game ingredients and game building blocks. The chapter concludes by pointing out how close a MMO supply chain game is the real world scenario.
The next chapter returns to the "Great Game of Sales" introduced earlier and looks in detail at Michael Hugos' experience of designing a sales system that incorporates feedback in a game-like interface.
Chapter 9, Game Mechanics in Products, Service and User Interfaces has a example in which SAP introduced a gamified accounts payable system. Another of its real-world examples is that of "hypermiling" - using feedback to improve fuel consumption. Another case-study is provided in C10. It describes Proctor and Gamble's Business Spheres as "Environments of Decision"
The use of technology and techniques to help visualize big data is discussed in Chapter 11. It opens with reference to Edwin Abbott's Flatland, which despite being a C19th book turns out to be helpful.
The final three chapters are the ones I found most encouraging. Chapter 12,which has the title, "Game Layer on Top of the World" looks at how the spread of connectivity provides the opportunity to introduce a game layer along the lines of the social infrastructure layer already in place with Facebook, Twitter, You Tube etc. The early part of the chapter looks at the ideas of Seth Priebatsch whose start-up SCVNGR is introducing alternate reality games and later in the chapter Microsoft's Xbox Live is considered as a potential platform for MMOs.
Chapter 13:Games for Change first looks at Jane McGonigal's game Evoke. This award-winning collaborative game, commissioned by the World Bank Institute aims to teach young people how to respond to the crises that countries will face in future decades. Next we are introduced to Games for Change, whose mission is to "Leverage entertainment and engagement for social good" before considering the idea of Serious Alternate Reality Games - which combines the ideas of crowdsourcing with co-operation and co-ordination between players to produce a World Game to tackle global problems.
The final chapter, The Future of Work suggest that networks will become increasingly important for business success. It also suggests: If we can't find full-time jobs, let's try games instead". The idea here is for people to earn a living through MMOs and not just a way of occupying their time. Moreover this is more than just a nebulous vision. Michael Hugos has been using the MMO style of working with his hiring company oDesk which takes on contractors and has put together a team of developers and system administrators in the United States, India, Pakistan and Indonesia.
This book is an excellent example of the way in which a programmer approaches a problem that is usually thought to be outside of his domain. In this case it demonstrates that logical algorithmic thought can get you from a problem to a solution, even when there is no computer and no programming language to be seen.