Category Archives: gamificatoin

How Do We Measure Learning?

by now, it is beyond debate that success in the 21st century will go to those who have the greatest learning capacity. These folks will be the ones who stay “ahead of the curve” and will add the most value to society. And they will be rewarded for that.

So how do we measure learning capacity? It is a critical question. Despite this, we can only answer the question based on school performance – success in exams.

BTW, some challenge the idea that those who score highest in exams are the best prepared for life.

Let’s assume that they have a point So what is the best indicator of learning capacity? How do we test ourselves and measure our improvement?

Sadly, we can’t, except in given contexts. So we might learn how to play the piano, or how to fix a leaky pipe. But learning these things doesn’t tell us much about our “learning IQ”. Mastering those challenges, for example, will not necessarily help us learn ho w to be a better parent or teacher or boss or citizen.

I am inclined to agree with Sir Ken Robinson. We need to re-think what we mean by learning and measurements of learning in order to help more people succeed in 21st century life.

Will we do this?`Stay tuned!


Why Does Trump Play the Bad Boy?

Watching Donald Trump play politics is alarming for many. They worry about  the wild things that he says and fear that he may do something truly terrible.

Some think that he is just bonkers, and to a certain extent I think they are right. The Donald does have an ego problem. He needs to be the center of attention. And he can’t help saying and doing stuff to keep himself there — even if it gets him into hot water. In other words, his behavior is compulsive rather than methodical.

At the same time, there are some strategic concepts that can help us predict how Trump will act. Here they are

  • he knows that he can’t succeed without being the center of attention. So he picks fights over trivial issues and such nonsense solely to keep the cameras trained at him You might call this “GENERATING FOCUS“. This may appear to be foolish, but it has value to Trump as a testing tool. I elaborate a bit more on that below.
  • He believes that entertainment is everything. If he can entertain, he can sustain keeping your attention, which he needs to do. If he gets in trouble by being too outrageous, he will say “I was just joking”. You might call this “PLAYING THE CROWD“- Of course, he can always blame others for failures.
  • part of the entertainment is creating situations where you — and all other people that may be affected by what he says and does — don’t know what he will do next. He creates unknowns and that keeps people mesmerized by the spectacle. It matters less whether the uncertainty leads anywhere.. You might call this “USING THE MACGUFFIN
  • he uses the “mad man” gaming theory to create movement. That theory goes like this – suggest that you are considering doing something that scares the other side. You don’t have to actually do it. If the other side gets scared enough, they may offer you something not to do it. You might call this “PLAYING THE VILLAIN
  • he doesn’t really care what you think about him. He is much more interested in congratulating himself for how well he can manipulate people and getting the game to move so that he doesn’t get bored.You might call this “OBSESSIVE GAMING“.

Think of the above as a “conflict management” strategy. In conflict there is a certain amount of heat that makes people uncomfortable. That heat may be a direct threat or just the unknown. The more heat, the more the discomfort. The more discomfort, the more people take steps to reduce the discomfort.

Trump likes to turn up the heat to see how people will react. He shouts out “build the wall” or “ban Muslims! not so much to reflect any deeply held idea.  To Donald, it is just having some fun, and it is helpful to learn what motivates people. This is how he stumbled onto the idea that a significant segment of the voting population believe Washington is systemically corrupted (drain the swamp). He then played that theme to electoral victory. It mattered not that his own propensity for shady deals (like Trump University) would suggest he will be part of the problem, because he was the only one offering that extreme message.

Is this nasty? Yes. And part of the game is to desensitize folks to this nasty quality. To advance the proposition that being nasty is necessary in a dangerous world. Among the nastiest scenarios are those where Trump threatens to “destroy the thing you love“. So Trump is testing China this way on trade. He thinks “You, Chinese leaders are basking in your high export growth. What if I strangle it?” Putting this idea in play forces the Chinese to react. Trump hopes they will react with an offer for a deal. Trump’s controversial  telephone conversation with the president of Taivan is another aspect of the same game.

Equally nasty may be the way Trump deals with decision makers in great need of something. They may be rolled. So Trump knows that Mr. Putin needs sanctions lifted. While many speculate that Trump has been playing nice with Putin because he is in Putin’s pocket, it is also possible that Trump is seeing if he can play Putin – suggest great things can happen and see what Putin offers him to stop being a pain in world affairs  to claim victory for America. BTW, this second scenario does not rule out the first. Both games may be at work. Trump already floated the idea of lifting sanctions for a nuclear arms deal. He may come back to that idea or try something different. Meanwhile, this has the added advantage (in Trump’s mind) of frightening Europeans who might decide to contribute more to European defense.

These are “bargaining” tactics — Finding the leverage in a situation and using it. Will they work? Bargaining can get people to act and even can produce agreements in situations. But bargaining like this does not build relationships. Why not?`It destroys trust. Worse still, it risks creating conflict that may get out of control and may have long term negative consequences when trust is lost. The bottom line – one should not be fooled into thinking that Trump’s tactics are genius. He has some strategic ideas, but he is also playing with fire. If the fire gets out of control, we are the ones who get burned. He talks about the strategic value of “playing with other people’s money”. He is playing with other people’s futures. Again, nasty? Yes.

So that is Trump the strategist deconstructed. I predict that just about everything he does will fit into the above model.  Let’s see if I am right.  Meanwhile, keep in mind that he is an  actor on the stage. He knows as well as you do that this is all theater. It is not real. That is why those who call Trump a con man are 100% right.

Sp where will this likely come apart? It is too early in this game to tell. Opponents so far are focused on attacking Trump directly. This is understandable. At the same time, these folks should understand the limits of this strategy – it does not build their own credibility. Victims of cons often retain their emotional connection to the con man even after they learn what is really going on. You might say that they have “drunk the kool aid”.  That is what Trump hopes for here. If he can “spread the blame” for failures — which are certain to come  —  he may retain the affection of his core supporters.  Opponents would be wise not just to attack Trump’s credibility but also to help those folks see something better than Trump. Then the con will not look so attractive.

Folks watching from the outside might reflect as well that Trump’s gaming approach to politics might encourage local actors to mimic it. It would be a mistake to think that this an “America only” concern. These things do tend to snowball.

Innovation is about Peak Experiences

We say something is “innovative” when it adds value compared to what came before.  In other words, change needs to result in value added for the innovation to be worth the work of producing it.

So what is “value added”.? Economists  argue that we get more value when we get more of something, though the added value from each added  increment diminishes.  More is better. And it turns out that this si BS.

More might be better. For example, if I am hungry, one bit of  dinner is not as good as 2 bites, and that goes on until I am not able to eat anymore. Even then, more food is still better if I can trade it for other stuff that I may not have. Like trading some dinner that I don’t want fo my sister for washing the dishes.

But more is only better if it produces a reaction. If I do not notice or do not care, more is not better in that context. And psychologists have uncovered that a lot depends when we receive the benefit.  More peak experience at the end of an event will be better than more peak experience in the middle. or the beginning.

This tells us something about the value of change. We will value it more highly if it offers an amplified peak experience at the end. For example, Amazon’s store where you walk out without having to pay.

Track and Measure

Peter Drucker said that things that cannot be measured cannot be improved. And, as usual, he was right.

But to measure you need to (1) select what you should be measuring (the metric) (2) track data over time, and (3) assess the measurements. That three step process is at the heart of modern efficiency building and Fred Wilson is right to advocate for more applications of it.

Embrace the Suck?

Let’s gamify!

Hmmm … what am I talking about? We gamify when we embrace a process that intensifies our experiences. Games organize experiences in ways that give them meaning. For example, we call running back and forth with a stick chasing a ball around, tennis. When we raise the intensity of connection, some interesting things happen. First we have more fun. Second, we open the possibility of improving performance. In other words, learning how to gamify is a critical skill.

Where do we start? The first experience in any game is to be bad at it – to suck. That is normal and it is frustrating for most of us. But to move up the ladder, we need to be able to get through this initial phase. Here is a nice tip on how to manage negative emotional reactions to sucking at something.

Do I dare Gamify?

Remember the “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock?” It starts like this (leaving out the excerpt from Dante’s Canto 27)

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

The poet, T.S. Eliot asks us  to join him. Should we go?`Maybe not! Maybe he will lead us astray! Maybe he will take us to a place where we cannot return from! But who could not read on? The next stanza is more reassuring

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

Women? There is an odd sexual implication as well as — perhaps — an association between sex and art.

We need not go through this poem line by line – you can have that pleasure on your own. But we jump here to the question

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

Indeed. But the ultimate question is what do we dare do in the interim — in those spaces of time where we are not doing what we think we should be doing? Here Eliot is doubtful one can find satisfaction. Later he would try to do so with religion — an intensely personal style of religion.

But why do I dwell on Prufrock? There is a reason. It is a simple reason. Eliot was troubled by a lack of meaning beyond the urges of the self. He found those urges to be tempting but ultimately superficial. And he was right to be troubled. He saw the self as a fixed thing — an aging man, who has lost his youthful attraction.  Seeing the self as a fixed thing, he could not help mourn its demise. And indeed, those fixed things are part of the self. But they are as large or small a part as you choose to make them.Eliot did not dare admit to this type of choice.

In other words, you can gamify the self. We can, and we should learn this. It is at the core of strategic thinking. Or we will be trapped along with Prufrock.

Practice Regime: A 3 Day Fast

Perhaps like you, I have allergies. I have had them as long as I can remember. In the old days, I didn’t think much a bout it. I thought that I just inherited them from my dad.  But more recently I have begun to learn more about the source of allergies  – my immune system.

You might be surprised to find out that no one really understands how the immune system works. We know what it does, but we do not understand the mechanism behind it. This is why so many immune system related illnesses are not curable, like Parkinson’s, arthritis, MS, and so on. And allergies. In certain cases, we can treat the symptoms. But we do not know how to cure the underlying immune system malfunction.

One way to do this may be to “re-start” the immune system. Flush out damaged white blood cells and allow the body to re-stock the system with new ones. Early testing of an immune system re-start has shown promising results in treating MS.

This is an extreme procedure where chemo essentially destroys the entire immune system. But what if you could do a “softer restart”? One that has a similar effect, but is less intrusive? It turns out that prolonged fasting may have this effect.  From the linked article.

Does a 3-day fast truly reset your immune system? Well, maybe not a total reset, but at least a mild refresh. The science suggests that, if you can do it, a prolonged fast for 2-3 days or longer may induce your body to clean out some old immune cells and switch on production of new ones.

Good.  So I will be going on a three day fast. I had breakfast this morning. That means my next meal will be breakfast on Thursday. I will track my progress here.

Wish me luck!

Getting Out of the Way of Success

We have been taking a walk through the strategy model to get a feel for how it works. The first posts were about cognition. You can think of these as tools to create mental space for ideas to flow. But it is just a first step.

When it comes to developing strategic ideas about the self, we bump into another problem. It is a cultural problem. In other words, we are not hindered here by the limits of our humanity. But we construct identities — our perceptions of who we are — based on learning from childhood.

How do we do it? We see ourselves as a person – a completed thing. I am! I exist! And as a thing in existence, I can claim rights and entitlements and property and so on. So far, no problem. But there is a catch. This thing that is me resists change. It is a core, unchanging conception.

No doubt we must believe this. But what is inside of that core? What is it that remains unchanged, no matter what happens outside of me? This is where things get a bit tricky. If we are not careful, we will pull things into the core that we like but that are not essential. And the more we pull in, the less we are capable of changing. The more we are stuck playing “defense” in life, protecting the core against outside influences.

For this reason, part of strategic thinking is to better prioritize what goes into our sense of self. And as we do that, we can gamify the self – seeing the process of becoming something as satisfying as the process of defending something. We can learn to get out of the way of success.