The Psychology Behind Game Design

Game designers nowadays are trying to quantify what exactly it is that makes people want to play a game and what exactly keeps them interested. It turns out the answer is that most people want the same things out of games that they want out of their real lives. According to Ubisoft's designer Jason VandenBerghe who has spent a lot of time translating player motivation into game design decisions, "We tend to play for the same reasons we live."

Two of the most important principles to apply to game design are player engagement and motivation. Game designers and programmers are now starting to focus on the psychology behind what really captures and sustains the attention of players. Naughty Dog programmer, Kaitlyn Burnell, points out three psychological terms: Autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Autonomy allows players to feel like they're in control of their actions, competence ensures that they feel able to perform what the game asks of them, and relatedness makes them feel a connection to the game's characters or world.

Similarly, VandenBerghe points to psychology's Big 5 model, known via the acronym, "O.C.E.A.N." which refers to the five motivations for human behavior: Openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. While testing people against the Big 5, and examining the resulting data, he feels confident in concluding "play turns out to be a great way to satisfy motivations that you can't fulfill in your ordinary life."

Read more here and here

NASA Joins the [Games] Space Race!

One of the most prominent, intriguing and mysterious organizations in the world is joining the games space in order to boost public outreach. NASA has produced several games to teach the public about the latest in aeronautics technology and research, including a Facebook trivia game called Space Race Blastoff and an air traffic control simulator dubbed Sector 33. Interestingly, the organization is following the trend as games become the tool of choice for educating people in a fun and engaging fashion. In an organization where impossibilities are made possible and where the sky is literally not the limit, using video games to de-mystify the happenings inside NASA to the public is an effective way to renew peoples' interests.

Greg Condon, an aeronautics expert of Smart Skies says Sector 33 "uses the math that air traffic controllers really use—they have to do it all in their head. And it's really middle school math, so we didn't have to dumb anything down."

Brian Dunbar, manager of NASA.gov, says, "The nice thing is, you can sneak some real information into games. To take our new Facebook game as an example, no one—especially kids these days—wants to sit down to read a bunch of trivia. But when you put it in a game, with a competitive and a social element around it, you'll find that people will be more interested." By real information he means that these games are designed to strengthen and test the skills of the player by using real science used by NASA employees.

Read More

Consumer Engagement

Self Magazine has hosted an event named Self Workout in the Park for 19 years in New York and other cities, So it seems fitting that they're now taking the event online and adapting services to reach an even larger audience and engaging consumers for longer than they'd spend simply reading the magazine - with an online game.

The game's purpose is not only to engage but to educate and motivate players to do exactly what their magazine counterpart aspires to do—get people up and moving. While designing a game where a player sits in front of a computer to play may seem counterintuitive to that purpose, studies show just the opposite. "The game-playing experience is empowering," Laura McEwen, vice president and publisher of Self says. She also adds, "the mechanics of the game are psychologically motivating…looking at an avatar can impact your real-world behavior."

They're following trends recently set by companies such as AXA Equitable with their Pass It On! Game. With the ease of getting information on the internet, Self, along with other types of traditional media, is finding a loss of subscribers. The statistics may hopefully be changing though. All eyes are on Self Workout now to see if they can be successful as well.

Read More

Latest Game Theory: Mixing Work and Play

The Wall Street Journal apparently sent a reporter to the Gamification Summit a couple weeks back, because the paper of record surfaced an article about how "companies are trying to bring more play to the workday." That reads like the agenda for the conference.

Gamification is the process of using game thinking to solve problems and engage audiences. Much like the phrase "social media" in the recent past, the word "gamification" is being lobbed around in marketing circles as the next frontier in web and mobile. Just as nearly every application, website, brand and marketer now employs social media in some capacity, so too will game mechanics be used in the years ahead.

Striving to make everyday business tasks more engaging, a growing number of firms are incorporating elements of videogames into the workplace. This "gamification" of the workplace, or "enterprise gamification" in tech-industry parlance, is a fast-growing business. Companies have used digital games for a number of years to help market products to consumers and build brand loyalty. What’s emerging is using games to motivate their own employees.

AXA Equitable was a hit at the Gamification Summit, for using competitive game play in an avatar-based world to engage consumers and make life insurance relevant and fun. Consumers find the Pass It On! video game on the web or on their iPhone, chose an avatar and create a virtual family, and decide their financial future by saving gold, managing expenses and making decisions about life insurance. Please follow this link to play the game and check out the New York Times coverage. (as a consumer-facing example of gamification was not in the WSJ).

Tech-industry research firm Gartner estimates that by 2014, some 70% of large companies will use the techniques for at least one business process. Market researcher M2 Research estimates revenue from gamification software, consulting and marketing will reach $938 million by 2014 from less than $100 million this year.

So far, the tactic has proved effective. A study last year by University of Colorado Denver Business School found that employees trained on video games learned more factual information, attained a higher skill level and retained information longer than workers who learned in less interactive environments.

Read more at the WSJ

Accenture's Gamification

Lithium's Michael Wu, does a good job of explaining how gamification can influence behavior. There are three primary principles, he submits, in order to maximize gamification effectiveness: sufficient motivation, the ability to carry out the activity, and a well timed trigger. He continues by suggesting the most crucial aspect of these three factors is that they must all converge at the same time. Anything less, and the gamification impact is degraded.

You should play Pass It On! -- AXA Equitable new insurance game-of-life -- for a solid brand example.

Meanwhile, Accenture is using gamification to affect the social alchemy at Accenture. SharePoint forms the heart of Accenture's social networking capabilities. It serves as a content management system, a publishing platform and for internal communications. For Accenture, gaming dynamics are proving to be successful in augmenting their internal social business objectives.

Accenture realized that the key to higher adoption of SharePoint starts with user profiles, with a direct correlation between the number of customized user profiles, and the amount of internal collaboration, so they organized 'complete your profile' contests including the publishing of stats on the percentage of the company that actually did.

Accenture's employees earn badges for accomplishing various tasks or to specify how long they've worked at Accenture. Accenture extracts content from their employees by leveraging Wu's principles. They've created an environment where points and badges are the social currency that rewards and compels employees to contribute to SharePoint.

How Hottest Startups Got Their Names

I was naming a product today, a new game engine. My antennae always tingle when a naming assignment comes along -- hitting dictionaries and thesauri to cross reference wordplay and find the be-all name.

To highlight the also-ran... today's winner that wasn't selected for the game engine (in which one navigates an avatar step by step across a game board)

also car•a•col

intr.v. car•a•coled, car•a•col•ing, car•a•coles also car•a•cols
To perform a caracole

Best of all it has provenance: [French, from Spanish caracol, snail.]

Kinda matches my Fibonacci, no?

Even more exciting is what Caracole finds you in google. Try it dear reader...

#1 is "Pretentious Pontification Corner" which suits this post well. They pontificate about the Edmund White's 1986 novel Caracole and the meaning of the word "caracole": "caper" in English, "prance" in French, "snail" in Spanish. Caracole reads as a cunning dissection of the New York intellectual scene.

Ever wonder how today's Hottest Startups got their names?

Some of our favorite startups were sired by picking names out of hats, by throwing out odd proper nouns that might be cheap domain names and by haphazardly removing vowels.

Take a tour -- Great slideshow through a billion dollars in dart-throwing.

Codecademy Gamifies Coding

For anyone that has tried to learn coding and failed horribly, there is finally a solution. Its name is Codecademy. Via an interactive interface, users can simply start participating in free simple online lessons on Codecademy -- without any need to sign up or log in.

The startup launched just last week, having been in creation for a week and a half. It is the work of Ryan Bubinski and Zach Sims, a Columbia alumnus and Columbia junior year student respectively. Sims explains: "I thought about the best learning experience I've had, and realized it comes down to motivation and reward systems. The problem with learning things from books and videos is that you're just reading or watching them by yourself, and there's no reward when you've finished."

The interactive interface gives the user points for completing exercises and keeps them motivated." Codecademy's reward system comes in the form of badges, which successful pupils can triumphantly share across the web through Twitter and Facebook. The social aspect is important. Codecademy also has networking options to allow users to code with their friends, monitor each others' progress and keep those essential motivation levels high.

Read More

30 Years of MTV Taught Us Well

MTV first aired on Aug. 1, 1981, thirty years ago this week, transforming music into a visual and auditory experience with a vivid story -- a narrative -- that made the song (and story) more memorable.

Today, we, as entertainment consumers, no longer just watch and listen -- we control and create. With increasingly powerful personal computers and the ubiquity of the Internet, a great deal of our time is spent interacting with multimedia -- music on iTunes or videos on YouTube. The answer to any question is available immediately through Google. On-demand movies, music and games are available 24/7. Many of these items can now be downloaded, remixed and shared with others. Neuroscientists tell us that the more senses we engage, the easier it is to retain and apply information. MTV can take some credit for this rewiring of our brains.

Despite numerous advances in technology and the science of learning (and rock videos), the majority of our teaching remain lecture-based. Under the antiquated traditional lecture approach, learners must forgo their control over pace, content and context of the topic. They are not allowed to control what, when or why they are learning. So it is time for a change. We must adapt to our new roles as guides or facilitators rather than the end-all, be-all oracles spewing forth knowledge. If we fail to adapt, learners will revolt, leaving us obsolete.

Educational methods that embrace technological advances are needed to enhance the learning experience, and game-based learning is a powerful solution to these challenges.

With online games, users hear and see the virtual world around them but also directly control the narrative. They are able to see the outcome of their actions in real time.

If they make a mistake, they reflect on other approaches and try again. The reward center of the brain fires when they achieve the micro-goal, encouraging them to tackle the next challenge.

This cycle of trying, making mistakes, reflecting and trying again is central to learning. The best consumer games chain together micro-challenges into something that is neither so easy as to become boring nor so hard that the user gives up.

Gaming technology offers many other advantages over traditional methods, including the ability to compress time, augment reality, pace yourself, collaborate with others and obtain instant feedback. Because the environment is served from a computer, we can track every choice the individual makes, both correct and incorrect. Remediation is immediately available. Students today crave creation, collaboration and feedback in small, immediately accessible doses. They also have the greatest visual acuity of any generation, and rely on technology to improve their efficiency. It is the teachers who must adapt.

These changes have been slow in coming, but are necessary for the new breed of learners.

"I want my MTV" is followed culturally by "I want my "GBC"


The People Skills Test for Aspiring MDs

Doctors save lives, but they can sometimes be insufferable know-it-alls who bully nurses and do not listen to patients. Medical schools have traditionally done little to screen out such flawed applicants or to train them to behave better, but that is changing.

The nation's 134 medical schools have long relied almost entirely on college grades and the standardized Medical College Admission Test to sort through more than 42,000 applicants.

One-on-one interviews are offered but provide poor assessments of a candidate's social skills because they reflect only one person's view, often focusing on academic issues and elicit practiced responses to canned questions like “Why do you want to become a doctor?”

Now, at least eight medical schools in the United States are shifting to the admissions equivalent of speed-dating: nine brief interviews that force candidates to show they have the social skills to navigate a health care system in which good communication has become critical.

Sample questions include whether giving patients unproven alternative remedies is ethical, whether pediatricians should support parents who want to circumcise their baby boys and whether insurance co-pays for medical visits are appropriate.

The same approach to improving communications skills is helping nurses prepare for their first jobs in hospitals. An avatar-based simulation called "Your Future in Nursing" showcases the people skills scenarios a nurse will face when leaving nursing school and helps them hone skills and get oriented to hospital-based human interaction in a risk-free environment.


Gamification for Recruiting, Part 2

IBM's "Smarter Planet" campaign celebrates Big Blue's ambitious efforts to tackle some of the most vexing dilemmas of our era. But IBM is going to have to get a lot smarter if it's going to attract the next generation of smarter workers to work there.

After dumping $30 million to build the Watson computer that beat two former "Jeopardy!" champions earlier this year (and far more to promote it), the company lugged its machine to Carnegie Mellon University with the goal -- persuade some of those students to consider a career at IBM. The move was part of a new charm offensive by mature technology companies, including Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co., as they compete for engineering students against sexier start-ups, such as Facebook Inc. and Twitter.

Others are using game-based communications to drive engagement and start the brand conversation. Deloitte's "Virtual Team Challenge" is an employer branding and recruiting program that attracts talent to the accounting/audit career path. This first-ever use of multiplayer virtual worlds for talent. (see New York Times)

The strategy for talent "fit": Sims to differentiate SNI, and attract and engage candidates with greater efficiency and effectiveness. By telling the SNI employer brand story well, the Sim delivers 'self-selected' inspired candidates with a clear understanding of your culture. Through integrated assessment instruments you cast a wider net and prioritize who funnels out, with increasing insight into high-quality talent.

Microsoft holds tech confabs at which it demonstrates its newer technologies, such as the Microsoft Kinect motion sensor for gaming. See recent coverage in BusinessWeek and coverage in Forbes.


Gamification for Recruiting, Part 1

While it's not clear if "Farmville" ever did anything to inspire future farmers, Marriott International Inc. is hoping a hotel-themed online game could be a recruiting tool for the hotel industry. Unlike Zynga Inc.'s "Farmville," which was developed as a revenue-generating game, Marriott's title is part of an emerging trend of using computer games for recruiting. Nearly a decade ago the U.S. military introduced America's Army. "Virtual Team Challenge" is an employer branding and recruiting program that attracts talent to the accounting/audit career path through the first-ever use of multiplayer virtual worlds for talent. (See New York Times).

Like Flight Simulators for best practices, "Sims" and learning games can improve organizational performance and individual development. BusinessWeek cites it as a format that acknowledges the changed media needs of the next generation workforce that are more engaging than any other.

The strategy for talent acquisition: Sims tell the employer brand story and deliver 'self-selected' inspired candidates. Through integrated assessment instruments, companies can cast a wider net and prioritize who funnels out, helping identify rising stars and future leaders.

Marriott's game is designed to be purely marketing and does not attempt to evaluate and select employees. Marriott says "My Marriott" may help attract newcomers to around 50,000 h

otel positions this year, many in emerging markets such as India and China, which don't have strong hospitality-industry traditions. The first iteration includes a depiction of a Marriott kitchen. The player hires staff, choosing from a range of experiences and salaries, and buys stoves and kitchen utensils. The company says it will roll out games depicting other aspects of the hotel business and will introduce mobile-phone play next year.

FULL WSJ article

HSN and Gamification: Shop Till You Drop

With Gamification already driving page views and sales for USA Networks, HSN is now banking on gamification to draw, retain, and engage its shoppers.

This week, the TV-shopping network is adding videogames to its website in hopes of piggybacking on—and better competing with—the attraction of online games. The new feature, called HSN Arcade, will pair 25 games like Sodoku and Mahjongg with a live stream of HSN's main television channel.

The move highlights how retailers' aggressive push online is putting them in competition not only with established e-commerce outfits, but also with other demands on Internet users' time. Retailers have experimented with selling goods via Facebook Inc., for example, an acknowledgment of the draw of social media.

Earlier this year, USA Network launched the seven-mission online game based on its hit TV show, Burn Notice. The plot of the game ties in with the unfolding drama on the show and integrates the show's major advertiser, Hyundai. Players try to unravel a mystery related to the show's plot and travel through the same environments as the show. The games have plenty of live-action videos that use the actors from the show as well.

"These efforts show that games have become an integral part of the network's strategy for making money," said Jesse Redness, vice president of digital at USA Network in New York. "We're taking the Blockbuster shows with ratings and marrying them with what we call immersive games," he said. USA Network's Character Arcade portal has 50 games and 500,000 unique visitors a month, or about 20 percent of the traffic that comes to USA Network's web site. The games have drawn 17 million page views. USA Network, a division of NBC Universal, is the top free cable network and is available in 98.5 million U.S. homes.

While gamification goes back almost 15 years to advergaming in the pre-Internet era, it is how videogames are tying up an increasing share of Internet users' online minutesthat hasn't gone unnoticed by advertisers and has sparked acquisitions like Disney's purchase of Playdom Inc. last summer.

Both HSN and online games are popular with middle-aged women. HSN is hoping the games will keep customers on the site longer and expose them to more products. Users of the HSN Arcade will play a game on about two-thirds of the screen, with the remaining space dedicated to a high-definition live stream of the company's primary television channel, featuring items for sale. The site also prominently features links to the most recent products to appear on air.

The television channel has a sizable online audience already, with 2.4 million unique visitors last month, according to comScore. Last year, HSN sales increased 5% to top $2.1 billion, with one-third of that coming from online customers.

Hanging on to that audience in part means competing with the surge in casual online gaming. More than 93 million people in the U.S. played games online in April, about 43% of the total Internet audience, according to comScore. Roughly half of online gamers are women. Last month, women spent 128 minutes playing games, about 40 minutes longer than men did.

Only two of the games have direct tie-ins to HSN, but the company says it is looking to do more. It is exploring using some of its on-air celebrities, including tennis player Serena Williams, in future games.

The most direct product correlation is the Today's Special Puzzle, a jigsaw puzzle that pictures an item HSN will feature repeatedly for 24 hours. A new puzzle will go up online every night at midnight, when that day's item first appears on air. Users who complete the puzzle fastest will be eligible to receive prizes, including the item itself.

Most of the games award users with virtual tickets or badges that currently offer little more than bragging rights. HSN says it could eventually turn those prizes into promotional tools, for example making them redeemable for discounts or free shipping.

USA Network says the engagement by gamers is high, with average session times at 15 minutes. Compare that to the usual engagement time of a 30-second TV commercial.


Tablets, iPhones, Gamification, Big Pharma

Big pharmaceutical companies have found replacements for the army of sales representatives they've laid off in recent years: digital sales tools that seek to sell doctors on drugs without the intrusion of an office visit.

Tens of thousands of pharmaceutical sales reps have been eliminated in the U.S., creating a void that drug makers are now increasingly filling with websites, iPad apps and other digital tools to interact with doctors who prescribe their treatments.

Doctors can use the tools to ask questions about drugs, order free samples and find out which insurers cover certain treatments. Sometimes drug-company representatives will engage them in live chat or phone them back if they have more questions. 72% of U.S. doctors own a smartphone, and 95% of them use it to download medical applications. Interactive multimedia for doctors may be the new "virtual rep."

The changes are designed to cut costs and to reach doctors in ways other than the traditional office visit, which many busy physicians say they find intrusive and annoying. In 2009, one of every five doctors in the U.S. was what the industry calls a "no see," meaning the doctor wouldn't meet with reps.

About three-quarters of industry visits to U.S. doctors' offices fail to result in a face-to-face meeting. Most companies say they're using digital tools to supplement personal sales calls but widespread layoffs in the sector suggest that technology is replacing, not just supplementing, human reps.

AstraZeneca substantially ramped up its digital marketing group which is primarily focused on marketing to health-care providers as opposed to consumers. "AZ Touchpoints," Is a website doctors can use to ask questions, order free samples and ask about insurance coverage.

Touchpoints gives doctors a number to call if they want to speak to an AstraZeneca rep, or they can request a callback. Many of these calls are handled by third-party call-center providers. If those reps can't answer the doctor's questions, the call gets passed to an AstraZeneca staffer with more scientific training.

Many other drug giants are slashing their sales forces and experimenting with digital marketing. Sanofi-Aventis has www.ipractice.com, which offers services and information similar to AstraZeneca's Touchpoints, and Merck & Co. has www.merckservices.com.

Digital marketing isn't always as successful as the human variety. Boehringer Ingelheim put together a digital-marketing package to target doctors, including organizing webcasts for leading physicians to speak to other physicians about the drug, but the company found that sales calls to doctors' offices were still the most powerful tool for driving new prescriptions. Danish drug maker Novo Nordisk says it hasn't cut its U.S. sales force over the past five years but is still adding digital marketing tools. Late last year the company launched a website and iPad/iPhone application called Coags Uncomplicated, which offers tools to help doctors diagnose bleeding disorders.


Can a 3-D Avatar Make a Better Impression Than You Ever Could?

A new book, Infinite Reality, predicts that 3-D conferences with avatars are coming - big time - as consumer technology is suddenly catching up with the work taking place in virtual-reality laboratories in academia.

The authors point to three developments in the past year: the Microsoft Kinect system, the Nintendo 3DS gaming device, and the triumph on "Jeopardy!" of I.B.M.'s Watson computer.

"These three events have been paradigm-shifting for avatar conferences," says Dr. Jeremy Bailenson, the book's co-author and founding director of Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab. "Virtual reality scientists have been waiting for these events for decades - and the technology is finally ready for the living room and the cubicle."

The Kinect tracking device, sold for $150, shows that it's now practical for you to control your avatar simply by moving around the living room - no more need for special suits or elaborate sensors in a lab. Nor do you have to wear special glasses to see in 3-D, -- the new $250 Nintendo 3DS beams a three-dimensional image to the naked eye.

With these technologies - and a few tricks already been done in the lab - you can sit at a virtual conference table and exchange glances with the avatars of the other participants. Unlike the two-dimensional avatars that are already convening on Second Life and World of Warcraft, your avatar would appear to be three-dimensional, and you'd feel immersed in the scene as you looked around at the other participants from the eyes of your avatar.

The book predicts:

1) Without leaving your living room or office, you'll sit at three-dimensional virtual meetings and classes, looking around the table or the lecture hall at your colleagues' avatars.

2) Your avatar will be programmed to make a better impression than you could ever manage.

3) While your avatar sits there at the conference table gazing alertly and taking notes, you can do something more important: sleep.

Now that computers like Watson have gotten so good at emulating humans, avatars could be programmed to go on autopilot during a class or meeting, according to Dr. Blascovich and Dr. Bailenson. In "Infinite Reality," they imagine a slacker named Dave who sleeps in while his avatar attends an 8 a.m. corporate meeting.

"Dressed impeccably in a digital Italian suit, the avatar was programmed to be a perfect participant," they write. "It laughed at jokes (taking cues from voice inflection changes of the other avatars), nodded in all the right places, and dutifully recorded the details of the discussion."

To make a really good virtual impression, Dave could exploit a tactic that has been demonstrated in experiments involving politicians' faces. When researchers partially morph a person's face with a politician's, that person becomes more likely to approve of the politician - and has no clue why.

As long as the ratio of the politician's features remains below 40 percent, the person doesn't even realize the photograph was doctored.

Therefore, you could conceivably create an avatar with a face partially morphed with that of anyone in the room that you wanted to impress. In fact, you could customize it so that each person saw a face containing some of his or her own features. That would presumably make you more popular with your colleagues or clients - who, of course, might be using exactly the same strategy by displaying avatars morphed with your facial features.

There'd be a lot of love in the room, assuming that any of the avatars' owners were actually awake.

Read more at The New York Times.

Gamification is the New Web 2.0

BatesHook is my favorite name for a marketing firm. Ms. Bates and Mr. Hook are avid bloggers and well-respected marketing consultants, so this entry caught our eye:

"Gamification is the new Web 2.0"

Mr. Hook says "Try it out: Next time you talk about the future of marketing, add the words "Gamification" and "Game Mechanics." Suddenly you morph from marketing expert to marketing genius. You might be promoted on the spot. The world will be your oyster."

He goes on to half-ridicule, half-celebrate the power (and the hype) around game-based communications.

Hook's points:

Gamification will transform education and finally fix that darn Global Warming thing. Seriously, wouldn't you study that much harder if a class valedictorian was called "White Knight Paladin Level 20"? Of course you would. At least that's what Seth Priebatsch, the founder and Chief Ninja (You can't make that stuff up.) of SCVNGR told the world at his South by Southwest keynote in Austin. He referred to the education system as "one of the most perfect game ecosystems that's out there, "full of challenges, rewards, rules, allies, enemies, countdowns, and incentives, "all sorts of things that basically make school the best real-world implementation of a game that's out there. Priebatsch called education "a poorly designed game; it's kind of broken."

What is gamification? Gamification is the use of game place mechanics in order to encourage people to adopt applications and, ultimately, change behavior. Think about Foursquare: People are encouraged to check-in at physical locations in order to earn badges, mayorships and rewards (coupons, freebies, etc.). Gamification or Game Mechanics work because it makes technology more engaging/entertaining by encouraging desired behavior and taps into the human desire to play a game. It can help to perform tasks that are normally considered boring or arduous.

Gamification will gain in importance. There's a good case to be made that 'Pleasure' should be added to the 5 P's of marketing. Why shouldn't pleasure be an extension of a great customer experiences? Right now, customer experiences are mostly limited to well-working and easy to use. In the near future, a great customer experience has to add the fun factor. When you're being rewarded to do your timesheets, you'll them more timely. And it might be even a task you'll be looking forward to. You can create 'player journeys' to reward people with status, access and power – you create meaning inside of the mechanics. Loyalty programs can be expanded through leaderboards, each customer interaction can become an enjoyable experience.

But, please, don't overhype the hype. Gamification is an important tactic to help change human behavior. It can make life more entertaining and more pleasurable. It will make arduous tasks more enjoyable. It can be used to change bad habits and transform into more positive actions. But, let's stop the hype before it gets really started. Let's deliver on small promises before we promise the world.

And speaking of hype. What's the theme of this months (5th annual) Ad Age Digital Conference? "New Gaming Economy" with a keynote delivered by EA's CEO. With 700 attendees over its two day event and a goal to showcase the best and most interesting digital innovation, highlight how technology is changing consumer behavior, and highlight what's working for marketers...gamification should be giving Mr. Hook ample targets.

Read more at MediaBizBloggers.com

Gamification to Keep Employees Engaged

The power of games to drive response and change behavior is driving corporate interest in what is being call "gamification".

According to the Los Angeles Times, research firm M2 Research estimates in a recent report that spending on gamification projects will grow to as much as $2.8 billion by 2016 from $100 million this year. The story quotes M2 Research analyst Wanda Meloni:

"We know anecdotally that engagement increases substantially when game mechanics are applied. How that affects customer loyalty and translates in terms of increased revenue is still being worked out."

Among the story's examples of companies using gamification is NBC Universal, which increased page views and stickiness on the website for its "Psych" series when it added games that allowed fans to earn points. SAP is also exploring the idea of using gamification to get users more engaged with its enterprise software. It's a worthy goal, given the way many people feel about the software they use at work.

InformationWeek describes an SAP product demo that incorporated game elements, and sent a member of its technical team to the recent Gamification Summit in San Francisco. Assurant is also experimenting with business training games to help get employees in line with corporate strategy during a business transformation. The first module, covering corporate strategy, featured a challenge in which the company president, in avatar form, hangs from a parachute. With each wrong answer, the parachute lost a string. It was a hit when demonstrated for employees at an all-company meeting. Successive games allowed employees to spend a virtual "day in the life” of coworkers and learn all of the myriad and sometimes complicated ways Assurant earns money.

Meanwhile, as disparate elements from the serious games and loyalty industries coalesce around the banner of Gamification, there is debate as to whether it is the right flag to unfurl. At GDC 2011 on Tuesday, a panel debated over the term "Gamification."

Having a provocative term such as "gamification" has put a spotlight on a category very closely related to "serious games." "Gamification," after only about year of existing, already has 552,000 Google references, while the at least decade-old term "serious games" has 770,000.

Full Story

Re-Emergence of Apple

Blackberry has been a staple of the financial sector for ten years but JP Morgan's decision to provide iPads to their associates is an alarming sign for its manufacturer, RIM.

"Apple represents a clear and present danger for RIM going forward," explained Brian Marshall, an analyst at Gleacher & Co.

This Apple movement is not just exclusive to JP Morgan. Employees of Citigroup and Bank of America soon may have the chance to dump their Blackberrys for iPhones and iPads.

History shows that dominance in the ever-changing technology field is hard to maintain.

  • In what seems like ages ago, Atari ruled the videogame market. After many poor business decisions Atari left the videogame console business in disappointing fashion. (though the Atari brand lives on as a game developer)
  • Netscape led the browsing industry until releasing widely unpopular Navigator 4 just as Microsoft roared with "Internet Explorer." The rest is history, just like Netscape.
  • A tech company that fizzled but was able to make a remarkable comeback is Apple. Apple was an afterthought in the "Windows' world and co-founder Steve Jobs was ousted from 1985-1996. With the return of iMac and iPod along with Jobs' have propelled Apple back into the spotlight.

Apple shouldn't count RIM out. For every Atari and Netscape, you can find a comeback story... like Apple.

Engage Invitation: Be an Avatar!

Dear Friends,

As a reader you’ve seen Engage cover learning innovations.

You may know that BrandGames creates avatar-based 3D worlds for learning and engagement.

Would you like to jump in and try one out....be an avatar....and demo a world?

The ground-breaking 3D virtual world program "Virtual Team Challenge" is live right now -- currently being played by thousands of students across the country. The program runs twice a year, and it's live from now until Thanksgiving.

We are inviting a select few colleagues to take a virtual tour of the virtual world -- so you can get a first-hand look at a live 3D avatar experience.

If you are interested, email us back. We'll be hosting 2 sessions to dive in on two dates next week (11/22, midday), or the following day (11/23 midday).

We’ll register you for a session when you reply. (In order to view the program, you'll need to download the application. Instructions to follow.)

Here’s a link to a short video overview of VTC.

About VTC (Virtual Team Challenge)

BrandGames created this first-of-its-kind multiplayer simulation program which challenges students to apply business skills to help clean up a devastating oil spill. The team objective in the simulation is to stage the most efficient disaster recovery effort by selecting the most effective vendors, based on in-game research, and hiring them at the best possible price.

Piloting avatars through the streets, halls and offices of New City, participants are challenged by content focused on teamwork, professionalism, business sense and responsibility – and take part in ‘challenges’ on subjects including business, the environment, ethics, math and decision-making.

This New York Times article profiles a New Jersey school that participated last spring.

Have you visited the Engage Blog? Click for more stories and the chance to share your ideas and opinions. Also, you can now follow Engage on Twitter!

Decoding Generational Differences

A recommendation is in order: we at Engage want to alert you to an interesting and important read.

As you address generational shifts in the workplace, what are you doing to change your mindset... without losing your mind?

Decoding Generational Differences is your roadmap to figuring it out. Today's multi-generational workplace is an unsolved mystery to most of us. The old ways don't work so well anymore and we may not like the direction things are going. It's as if we somehow need to break a secret code to unravel this mystery.

This book does just that. It decodes generational differences, especially those where the differences are starkest... between baby boomers and gen y. It is written in a highly readable, straight forward style to become your guide book and coach.

Gen Y readers will learn more about themselves and the origin of the conflicts between them and older colleagues, bosses, and parents. Everyone else will learn why a changed mindset is necessary on your part.

Written by Stan Smith, an innovator, next generation theorist and highly successful manager of programs and people. Check out his site, consider his blog and tweets and consider a deep dive into his new book.

Stan recently retired from Deloitte LLP where he was a principal in Human Resources and after 36+ years in the business world. He continues his research, writing and speaking on the topic of generational differences.

Also, wanted to alert our Engage readership that BrandGames' own Jim Wexler joins the speaker roster at the sixth Influx Insights conference to be held this year on December 3 at the Milk Studios in New York.

This year Influx is focusing on the creators: People who make things, from books and bikes to games and applications. Jim will share his perspective on making games…and how games and Sims are shaping humankind!

Don't miss what is sure to be an exciting and thought provoking day, featuring nine different speakers.

Giving Avatars Emote Control

The current technology for creating computerized avatars for human interactions is relatively primitive. Judith Donath of MIT's Media Lab argues that this situation is likely to be temporary. She suggests that as programmers respond to the demand for more realistic human behavior in avatars, they will necessarily create the technology to manipulate human trust via the results.

Right now, even the most sophisticated avatars accomplish only a small subset of these behavioral collections. That's beginning to change, at least within the research community, where entire suites of behavior can be controlled by a single command. For example, an avatar commanded to end a conversation can nod its head, wave, and break eye contact. Users of such systems found them natural and more engaging, and they found their conversation partners to be more expressive.

In one experiment, researchers blended the face of a viewer with that of a presidential candidate. The blend was subtle enough that the viewer did not detect it, yet the new resemblance to the candidate was effective: candidates thus transformed were perceived to be more familiar-and therefore more desirable-than candidates who were not altered.

In another, an avatar that had been programmed to maintain constant eye gaze spoke with the subject. Such persistent scrutiny is almost unheard-of in the real world– we typically look at the person we’re talking to only about 40% of the time,or 70% of the time when we are listening. The intense gaze discomfited the subjects, but was at the same time, persuasive.

Other factors play into an avatar's trustworthiness and credibility. For example, simply making an avatar appear more human (including providing it with a clear gender) caused them to be rated more trustworthy.

Messages are more persuasive when they are delivered by an avatar with a subtle resemblance to the listener's own face. Teams of people paid greater attention to an avatar that was created with a "team face," one that combined features from the members of the team.

For more on avatars and human interactivity, please click here to read more.

Mad Men, Mark Hurd, Harassment

Don Draper forgot his keys. The same week, H-P CEO Mark Hurd resigned on the heels of harassment charges.

Have attitudes and life style changed - or just the ramifications of getting caught? Technology and societal attitudes are driving new thoughts about what constitutes harassment and new approaches to making sure ethical behavior is enforced in the workplace.

In Mad Men,the ad men drink at work and cavort with their secretaries. Women are disrespected. These were the days of openly coercive sexual exploits at work and racial discrimination. That was part of American culture and those days are not so long ago.

The Atlantic points out that Mad Men bombards us with how bad it was back then while allowing some viewers to gloss over theaspects that are still with us in the workplace and beyond:

To people who actually lived through the 1960s, the sexism of their culture didn't seem dramatic; the men who objectified and infantilized women probably bore no specific malice, and the vast majority of the women who found their lives constrained by those men didn't imagine that things could be different. Their oppression was invisible, because it was normal. In other words, they were like us. Sexism is still around, and in the vast majority of instances it doesn't present itself as some portentous, shocking occurrence. It's just the fabric of daily life, a little ugliness that we take for granted.

Calling out that ugliness, piece by piece, and separating it from what we consider standard operating behavior is the first step.

These days, harassment is (usually) not about the stuff you see on Mad Men, and it's not chasing the secretary around the desk.

Much of the problem is that newer technology - e-mail, IM, texting or posting on social-networking sites - makes it much easier for comments to be misconstrued on many levels. If you admire an employee's new haircut while she is in your office, she can read your tone and body language; and you can read hers. However, a late-night textmessage admiring your employee's new haircut can take on a lascivious tone, even if that is not the intention.

H-P's investigation found that CEO Hurd violated HP's "Standards of Business Conduct". Hurd was entangled in a personal relationshipwith a hired contractor- an affair he tried to obfuscate with some fudgedexpense reports. We still don't have thefull story of his relationship with actress / reality show contestant / Congressionalstaffer / marketing consultant / real estate executive Jodie Fisher. The 50-year-old Fisher has appeared on areality TV show, and in a string of movies that place her on the fringes of Hollywood fame. Her acting resume includes such films as "Intimate Obsession" (1992), "Body of Influence 2" (1996), "SheerPassion" (1998) and a bunch of other movies that might be hard to explain toyour spouse if they popped up on the pay-per-view cable bill.

$10 billion in share value evaporated as the news broke. Hurd's contract makes it clear that he is an "at-will" employee who can be terminated at any time. There is nothing to prevent the board from sending Hurd a letter telling him he has been fired and then stopping payment on all those severance checks.

Is Hurd accountable? Should he receive his $50 million severance package?

Post Recession Talent Strategies

The weakness of the economic recovery has real implications for the workforce -- and for HR executives charged with maximizing worker engagement and productivity. Do the typical initiatives to increase employee engagement work in this environment?

Aggressive head count reductions have interrupted talent strategies at many top companies. As smart employers strengthen the value proposition and focus on engagement (anything to increase engagement is a good thing), others are losing valuable contributors and dropping the ball on important training and staff-development programs.

There is a better way:
  • Beware the scourge of overwork. The average "job footprint" has increased by 1/3 in the recession, with the reward being frozen pay and shrinking perks. While so far workers have felt lucky to keep their jobs, workers who claim to be "disengaged" has doubled to 20% -- "engagement" as a vital source of innovation and creativity is evaporating.
  • Address emotional as well as economic needs. In The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations that Win, Dave and Wendy Ulrich focus on a notion of "abundance" and suggest a list of seven questions for leaders to ask:
    • Who am I?
    • Where am I going?
    • Whom do I travel with?
    • How do I build a positive work environment?
    • What challenges interest me?
    • How do I change, learn and grow?
    • What delights me?
While these questions seem unrelated to the bottom line, the answers can provide a powerful catalyst to engagement - and customer satisfaction and profitability. Broad-based employment gains from entry-level positions to senior management are coming... are you ready?

Read the full story from HRE Online.

Study: Millennials ARE Slackers!

You know the stereotypes about Gen Y workers. Their work ethic is underdeveloped. Their sense of entitlement is outsized. They're slackers. Is that, like, totally unfair?

New research has yielded actual data to back up these notions.

In a series of studies using surveys that measure psychological entitlement and narcissism, University of New Hampshire management professor Paul Harvey found that Gen Y respondents scored 25 percent higher than respondents ages 40 to 60 and a whopping 50 percent higher than those over 61.

As a group, Harvey says, Gen Yers are characterized by a "very inflated sense of self" that leads to "unrealistic expectations" and, ultimately, "chronic disappointment." And if you think the Gen Yers in your workplace are oversensitive as well as entitled, Harvey's findings back that up, too. Today's 20-somethings have an "automatic, knee-jerk reaction to criticism," he says, and tend to dismiss it. "Even if they fail miserably at a job, they still think they're great at it."

What about the other big stereotype -- that Gen Yers are committed and idealistic, and determined to do work they believe in. Not true, according to another study, to be published in the Journal of Management in September, which reveals that when it comes to work, the two things Gen Yers care most about are a) high salaries, and b) lots of leisure time off the job.

The study found that while both Gen Y (21 - 30 years old) and Gen X (31 - 44 years old) want sizable salaries, Gen X workers show greater awareness that a hefty paycheck comes with a hefty workload. Professor Harvey believes that this sense of entitlement "gets ingrained in the formative years. It stems from the self-esteem movement, telling kids, 'You're great, you're special,'" he says.

Given the current recession, should business leaders assume that these employees will be happy just to have a job? Can they ignore the next generation's changing needs and demands? Not according to Stan Smith, workforce attitude trends expert and author of Decoding Generational Differences: Fact, Fiction…or Should We Just Get Back to Work? His research shows that these things "won't be changing" and represent serious problems for those who choose to ignore them.

Gen Yers and their employers will eventually have to deal with this as Gen Y increases its presence in the workplace. We could have a group of disappointed and disgruntled employees, where Gen Y says, 'I want everything,' and the company says, 'You're not getting anything.'

Click for the full story.

Does Human Capital Management Predict Stock Prices?

Human capital management is fast emerging as an essential core competency (possibly the essential core competency) for organizations.

Firms that invest significantly in training and developing their employees generally outperform the market. Investment managers would be well-served to pay attention to broad measures of human capital management as a factor in portfolio selection. Engagement = Revenue.

With very few exceptions, an organization's greatest assets do indeed "walk out the door" at the end of each business day. For those who are eager to measure human capital more accurately, who then wish to create a much greater return on investments in human resources for their organization, The ROI of Human Capital is a must read on this subject. This book is an absolutely indispensable resource for helping to achieve these objectives.

For most human resource professionals, measurement remains a critical area of weakness. To allow their organizations to tap the full potential of human capital as a source of competitive advantage, HR strategists need to engage the emerging field of human capital analytics. This would make it possible for organizations to develop and execute human capital strategies that are grounded in actionable business intelligence - rather than relying on the old standbys (intuition, one-size-fits all benchmarking, or accepted measurement myths within the HR profession).

Only then will organizations truly reap the benefits of unleashing their employees’ full capabilities.

For more see the White Paper.

Embedded in the Front Lines

Higher pay is still the top reason employees leave companies. In an era of limited pay raises and doing more with less - what else can an employer do to make top people stay?

A recent study takes a look at the psychology behind how employees make the difficult 'Stay or Go' decisions. This paper develops two theories in the field of job turnover. The first, the "unfolding model," explains why employees quit. The second, "job embeddedness," tells why workers stay. Understanding both of these theories could help employers keep their best employees.

Faced with 'unfolding' circumstances such as a fight with one's boss or an unanticipated job offer, an employee is forced to decide to stay or leave. Turnover decisions are influenced by comparisons between the investments made in their job or organization, the rewards they receive, the quality of alternatives and the costs associated with working for a particular organization -- and all of these comparisons change over time.

Job embeddeddness describes forces that cause one to feel he or she would not leave a job, which includes the extent to which people are linked with other people or to activities, the extent to which their jobs and communities fit with other aspects of their lives, and the ease with which their respective links can be broken, or what they would sacrifice if they left. If employees feel congruence between their values and goals and those of the organization, they will be more embedded in the organization.

Organizational leaders should understand that why employees quit often has nothing to do with being unhappy about the job and that helping build a sense of community among its employees can prevent them from quitting, the researchers say.

If you can't rely on increased compensation for retention, offer your employees the next best thing - a heavy dose of Corporate Culture.

Videogames Make You a Better Person

Two new studies suggest that playing videogames can make you a better person and have a profound impact on prosocial behavior.

The first, published in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in June, was conducted at Iowa State University's media research laboratory. A group of students played one of six games for 20 minutes. When their games were over, the participants were asked to choose easy, medium, or hard puzzles for a partner to complete and were told that their partner would receive a $10 gift voucher if he/she complete them. Those who had played a prosocial game were significantly more likely to help their partner by selecting easy puzzles. The opposite was true for those that played the violent game.

A second controlled experiment, conducted at the University of Sussex, in England, confirms the Iowa study's conclusions. In this piece of research, Students were asked to play Lemmings, which challenges students to protect animals from danger, and Tetris, which is a building block puzzle game. When the games were over, the students were asked to say what happens next in three incomplete stories. Those who played Lemmings suggested endings in which the characters in the stories exhibited significantly fewer aggressive thoughts, responses and actions than the ones suggested by the Tetris players.

The upshot for both studies is that videogames are a powerful medium with the ability to shape behaviors. Imagine having employees play 'helping' games at the start of each shift, molding their behavior towards better service and support and at the same time boosting employee and customer morale.

Is Accenture out of the Woods?

Accenture has dumped Tiger Woods. It is peeling his image off airport billboards and train platforms as fast as possible. It would appear that Mr. Woods is not the poster child of 'high performance' and 'excellence' that Accenture promoted.

A cynical ad agency exec we know says "They got their money's worth for years". For him, what Tiger Woods did or did not do isn't the point as much as the measurable value of the sponsorship. Is he right? What is Accenture's vulnerability to the allegations and the recent behavior of Tiger Woods? They built their brand on his shoulders. What does that say about their judgment? Did they vet him appropriately? Worse -- did they know he was the scoundrel he appears to be - perhaps condone it and align with him anyway? Will their clients continue to associate his face as the face of Accenture now that his mask has come off?

Either way, Accenture made four tactical errors in their use of Mr. Woods in their decade-long relationship with him.

1) Accenture made the brand building of Tiger Woods an equal part of their own brand building. When one of these two ships starts sinking, it could take the other down with it. Can Accenture sell 'high performance' solutions as its own brand and not as a jointly branded effort?

2) Accenture tied their brand to a living, young celebrity/personality. There's a reason that some firms use long-deceased icons like Abraham Lincoln or George Washington as brand identifiers. Other firms use animals like geckos or lions as brand identifiers for similar reasons.

3) Accenture failed to see how over-extended Tiger's brand is, endorsing products for Nike, Gatorade, Gillette, Buick, Titleist, American Express, Rolex, General Mills, etc. If Accenture and Mr. Woods really are high performance players, would an Accenture staffer who wore Nike shoes and a Rolex watch be an even higher performance systems integrator?

4) Accenture has overstayed its joint branding with Tiger by a few years. Had anyone asked "How long should this partnership last?" "When does the risk (and cost) start to outweigh the benefit of continuing this relationship?"

Tying a company's brand to a celebrity is always risky. Celebrities are human and they suffer the same foibles that you and I do. They get addicted to sex, gambling, food, drugs, etc. They can have bad parents, bad parenting skills, bad kids, etc. They get photographed in unflattering poses, places, etc. Some know no end to the depths of their human condition and get private, intimate movies of themselves sold on the Internet. Psychology Today succinctly opines on Tiger's actions as being relatively natural. Celebrity endorsements are ripe for trouble and few celebrity endorsements can last a long time.

When you sell soda pop it can be damaging. When you sell acumen and judgment its far worse. Accenture must learn to market and promote itself without the crutch of a celebrity. Accenture needs to make its solutions and abilities (not the golfing industry) sexy and exciting. In his blog, Brian Sommer (ex-Accenture) probes this topic in-depth. High performance is something that potentially exists in all of us. Maybe Accenture can focus more on how they draw that out and bring it to bear on client projects.

FarmVille: All the Rage on Facebook

FarmVille has quickly become the most popular application in the history of Facebook. At high schools and colleges across the country, students are hard at work, tilling land and harvesting their virtual vegetables.

More than 62 million people have signed up to play the farming simulation since June. 22 million log on at least once a day.

FarmVille is the latest incarnation of Occupational Simulations that allow model business data to deliver engaging, fun learning experiences. These include fantasy "careers" like Urban Planner (Sim City), Waitress (Diner Dash), and Amusement Park Tycoon, and real careers like Soldier, Accountant and Investment Banker.

What's new is the integration directly into Facebook social networking. There are implications for both the game industry and for branded game outreach from corporate recruiters.

FarmVille starts off simply: You are given land and seeds that can be planted, harvested and sold for online coins. As you accrue currency, you can buy things, from basics like rice and pumpkin seeds to the truly superfluous, like elephants and hot-air balloons. Impatient players can use credit cards or a PayPal account to buy more money, although purists tend to frown on the practice. Crops must be harvested in a timely fashion, cows must be milked, and social obligations - like exchanging gifts and fertilizing your neighbor's pumpkins - must be met.

The game seems to have mesmerized people from all walks of life. Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, said he had seen the craze firsthand among his students.

"Just like Guitar Hero lets you feel a little like being a rock star - you get to pose and dance a little while you're doing it - with FarmVille there is a real sense that you're actually doing something that has a cause and effect," he said. "The method of dragging food out of the ground and getting something for it is really satisfying."

Could you land Flight 1549?

Recent interviews with Capt. Chesley Sullenberger underscore the role that experience and training played in the miraculous river landing.

Capt. Sullenberger said he had his work cut out for him.

"I needed to touch down with the wings exactly level," he said. "I needed to touch down with the nose slightly up. I needed to touch down at...a descent rate that was survivable. And I needed to touch down just above our minimum flying speed but not below it. And I needed to make all these things happen simultaneously."

Not only did he bring 29 years of experience to the moment, but like all pilots he'd benefited from hundreds of hours of Flight Simulator training before ever touching a fighter plane or a commercial jet.

Try the landing yourself. See if your success increases with practice.

It's a tangible affirmation of the theory on performance excellence put forth in the Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers. The idea - that excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice - surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. Researchers have uncovered a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.

Endless practice has elevated Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald's "predictive control." to track the ball's flight pattern - to the point where he can catch it with his eyes closed.

The lessons for businesses? Training works. Practice makes perfect. Now, some companies are using develop "Flight Simulators" for their own workforces through game-based technology. A step by step "Sim" immerses employees in key scenarios, to experience culture, mission, values concepts and skills. The strategy: give them the confidence to man the controls - and be able do their jobs with their eyes closed before even touching the customer.

Engagement at the Top

Employee engagement is falling faster among top executives than any other group.

Only 13% of senior executives (VP-level or higher) say they are "willing to go above and beyond what is expected of them" - a decline from 29% two years ago. In a December survey of 79,000 members of the Corporate Executive Board, 20% of all respondents said they were disengaged vs. 10% two years ago.

Companies tend to think that in the downturn, senior leaders are grateful just to have a job. In fact, valued players are increasingly likely to be looking around. Among high-potential employees, one out of four plans on quitting in the next 12 months.

"Executive engagement has been under pressure from ever-increasing demand and activism from shareholders, negative attention on executive pay and pay differentiation, and the pace of change, both within companies as well as the industries and geographies in which they operate," says Ray Baumruk of Hewitt Associates.

"As with employees at other levels, key drivers of engagement for executives are opportunities within the organization, the work they do, quality of life, total rewards and the people they work with," Baumruk says. "For upper-level employees however, factors such as status, the ability to influence decisions and outcomes, alignment of personal and company values, and staff support are additional drivers of engagement"

In a contrasting view, the CEB study reported that compensation-based incentives are three times as likely to improve engagement among senior executives as among the workforce as a whole.

Either way, companies that ignore critical concerns and dismiss fear and disengagement among their ranks are not going to be in a position to maximize and retain valuable human capital as business improves and hiring expands.

Companies that have done their best to keep senior management engaged during the downturn will be the quickest to prosper and retain these valued employees when the tide turns.

Experiential Learning: Just What the Doctor Ordered

Two recent New York Times features highlight the importance that experiential learning plays in the medical community.

The first is a Short Video that looks at how medical interns learn how to deliver bad news through role-playing. First-year physicians practice giving diagnoses to actors with live observation with direct feedback as well as videotaping with playback and feedback. According to the report "the use of standardized patients and faculty observation of people doing actual clinical work is part of a growing movement in medical teaching." One of the greatest benefits of this type of teaching is the opportunity for instant feedback on communication skills from observing faculty members.

The second feature is an article about a program that is run by the University of New England called Learning By Living. The program offers medical students who are interested in geriatric medicine the opportunity to spend a two-week period experiencing life as a nursing home patient. Students are given a "diagnosis" of an ailment and expected to live as someone with the condition does. They keep a daily journal chronicling their experiences and, in most cases, debunking their preconceived notions about the patients and the professionals who care for them. The program goes beyond just an experiment, it also provides the student with a realistic job preview that can play a vital role in attracting the right types of people to the field of geriatric care and allow candidates to make informed decisions about their career goals.

For learning needs where a live experience is too difficult or expensive to coordinate, schools and corporations have been utilizing virtual simulated experiential learning programs. A recent Johnson & Johnson program teaches new nurses soft skills via a 3D virtual hospital environment. The nurses pilot an avatar through the halls and rooms of the hospital where they encounter characters that challenge them with real-time decision-making questions in areas such as conflict resolution, legal compliance, and agitated patients. The program allows new nurses to acquaint themselves with common issues that arise in the hospital in a risk-free environment.

The use of experiential learning for medical soft-skills training is a logical step for education. Experiential learning focuses on the learning and discovery process for the individual. For example, going to the zoo and learning through observation of and interaction with the animals allows a learner to make discoveries and experiments with knowledge firsthand, as opposed to reading about others' experiences in a book. For the adult learner especially, experience becomes a "living textbook" to which they can refer. As Aristotle once said, "For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them."

Malcolm Gladwell Emphasizes Training: "Practice makes perfect"

Malcolm Gladwell's new book may make CEOs blink twice before slashing training budgets. Gladwell writes that in the midst of financial challenges it is more important than ever to focus on retaining and developing top talent. Talent should be "thought about as something a company develops, rather than something that is 'acquired'.

Yes, the human trait we commonly call "talent" or "ability" is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers - whether in memory or surgery, ballet, sales or computer programming - are nearly always made, not born.

Ability, according to Gladwell, is just one factor in success. He points to research that suggests that once you have enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. What's more, the people at the very top don't just work much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.

Practice does make perfect. The greatest athletes, entrepreneurs, musicians and scientists emerge only after spending at least three hours a day for a decade mastering their chosen field. This idea - that excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice - surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.

Fortune magazine's review of Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success highlights the importance of investing in communicating company mission, culture and skills. "Look around Wall Street, or what's left of it today," he says, "and you'll see lots and lots and lots of people from Goldman Sachs. That's not a coincidence. It's because they took their mission to invest in people seriously."

Gladwell argues that the state of today's economy is the perfect time to invest in talent development. "When it's easy to make money, you have no incentive to think about development of talent. Now, you're forced to."