Playing Games with Collaboration

Bruce Henry | September 13, 2008

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Before I go to a conference I like to spend some time reading and listening to “big idea” stuff.  In preparation to go to the NY Web 2.0 Expo next week I was listened to both Malcom Gladwell and Jane McGonigal speaking at The New Yorker Conference 2008.

SM Anti SunsetWatching Jane McGonigal’s talk got me really fired up about the future of collaboration.  As disclaimer, I want to say that ever since I saw her talk at SXSW 2008 I have been a big fan of her thinking and speaking.

At LiquidPlanner we are designing a system for collaboration with a bunch of people. It is at once social software and very game-like in the way we think while designing it.

One of Jane’s best points, that games give clear mechanisms to make people feel happy about what they’re doing, weighs heavily on my mind when I’m thinking about our project management software. She points out that good games obey an “economy of engagement”. That they give you:

    1. satisfying work to do,
    2. the experience of being good at something,
    3. time spent with people we like, and
    4. the chance to be part of something bigger.

For too long project management has been a chore. Scutt work for the bean counters and their ilk. If we do our work right, we can transform it into playing the getting the project done game.  That would be pure awesome!

Clay Shirkey’s talk about Cognitive Surplus also got me thinking that our tools should enable people to work on things whenever we are “having good thoughts” about our work. Our tools should enable people to burn up some of their cognitive surplus in a useful, productive, and pleasing way.  They should yield anarchitecture of participation.

Having watched Clay’s talk I am going home and canceling my cable subscription.

Okay, that’s it for my “big ideas” for this afternoon.  Come see us at our booth at Web 2.0 Expo. I am sure you’ll be able to spot us. (More on that later.)