The Huffington Post by Giovanna Mingarelli 8 September 2013
Albert Einstein was once asked by a journalist about his formula for success, and he said: “If A is success, I should say the formula is A = X + Y + Z, X being work, Y being play and Z is keeping your mouth shut.”
In her recent TEDTalk, “The Game That Can Give you 10 Extra Years of Life,” leading game designer Jane McGonical explores how playing games can not only improve the work we do, as Einstein realized in his own life, but can also be used as a key to greater longevity and overall personal happiness.
Across her body of literature, McGonical argues that all good gameplay is hard work. It’s hard work that we enjoy and choose for ourselves. And, based on the most recent scientific findings, when we do hard work that we love, we are priming our minds for happiness.
Satisfying work always starts with two things: a clear goal and actionable next steps toward achieving that goal. A great way to break down this work is by dividing our goal into bite-size, actionable items (these are also known as microtasks or microactions).
In fact, I know from first-hand experience that gamifying a process with microactions is not only fun and rewarding, but can also be incredibly useful.
In 2009, I was introduced to the fabulous Cindy Gallop, CEO and Founder of a radically simple web-meets-world online platform designed to transform intentions into action: IfWeRanTheWorld.
Madly in love with the concept from day one, I would become the number one “superhero” on the platform over the course of several years. I roped in my entire family, friends and personal contacts, and we used microactions to crowdsource everything from election campaigns to seeing beauty in everything.
Microacting, just as McGonical explains in her TEDTalk, makes me happy. Having a tool to use as an outlet to structure the activities I am already doing in my day-to-day life with the support of peers is great fun. It’s also incredibly versatile as there’s no limit to what you can do using microactions.
I remember sitting at my favorite coffee shop in Ottawa one morning and thinking: all I want to do is microact.
My Tweet that says it all from Sept. 10, 2010.
And so I did — participating in 25 action platforms (a series of microactions grouped together by a cause) of my own creation, 18 action platforms created by others, and doing literally hundreds of microactions.
My resolve was so strong that today, along with my international team of mystery, we’re set to roll-out yet another vehicle for microacting. Being piloted this Fall, MC2 is a crowdsourced mobile app designed to reward people with points and prizes for doing things they like or care about.
With all of this said, I know that just providing people with a tool to take action is not enough. Rather, in order to get people motivated to do something they need the right set of incentives.
Incentivizing Real-World Actions: Love, Money and Glory
McGonical has cited that in the gaming industry, there are two kinds of rewards: extrinsic and intrinsic.
Extrinsic rewards appear in the form of money, status and praise. When we win them, we feel good, but they don’t lead to ultimate happiness, as we are only briefly satisfied.
Intrinsic rewards are positive emotions, personal strengths and social connections that we build by engaging with the world around us — by simply doing things we love.
Both are powerful motivating factors, but which ones have the power to incentivize real-world action?
After mulling over it for a few years, the answer came to me one day while I was in Boston.
I was at the world’s first-ever multidisciplinary collective intelligence conference in May of 2012 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Two hundred academics and thought leaders from around the world came together for three days to discuss the reasons and ways in which humans, animals and insects engage in — what at least appears to be — activities underpinned by collectively intelligent behavior.
After three days of fascinating presentations there was one clear thread that linked all of the presentations: regardless of the activity, or where in the world an activity is taking place, people will take action or engage in a crowdsourced project for at least one of three reasons: love, money or glory.
Given the interesting coupling of intrinsic (love) and extrinsic (money and glory) rewards, I think these results form the basis of a really compelling set of incentives.
These incentives, for instance, could be used to digitally harness billions of microactions in the creation and execution of social activities that can help tackle issues ranging from health and fitness, to political participation and beyond.
The question is: who will take charge in providing people with the incentives they need to change the world? Will it be our governments? Our brands? Our startups? Or are intrinsic motivations enough to compel us to action, given the right tools?
Like McGonical, I believe that we’re now at a unique time in the evolution of our planet, where we have the opportunity, the means and the latent motivation to use microactions as the foundation for enriching our cultures and to build better societies. It’ll be hard work — but that’s ok, as long as we make life a game that we play along the way.
Einstein would certainly agree.