The Wisdom of Mary Poppins


by Monica Cornetti
February 5, 2016

At work, our brows are furrowed all day long, focused on efficiency and productivity. We often lament the loss of playfulness, laughter, and good old fun. But who said that work and fun have to be mutually exclusive? I prefer the wisdom of Mary Poppins: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and ‘snap’, the job’s a game.”

Play is not the opposite of work. When I do my daily treadmill run (I don’t really like running, but I do it), I make it fun with a stadium-size fantasy of fitness, fame, and fortune. Instead of J.Lo, Beyonce, or Shakira on stage wowing the crowd, it’s me, with my awesome voice, incredibly toned physique, and extraordinary dance moves. Sometimes I’m enjoying it so much I start to sing along, out loud (much to the chagrin of my fellow treadmill runners).

Or when I’m working on a project and about to abandon it because either I’m not getting anywhere or I'm just plain bored, I start playing the “Just Five More…” game. I say to myself: “I will stick with it for just five more minutes and then I will give up or take a break.”

At the very worst, I get five minutes more work done; at the very best, I become focused and may just reach that breakthrough I’ve been trying for. Plus, I’m choosing to do it. No one is making me do it, which puts me in control.

We respond strongly to game elements, such as competition, gaining status, goal achievement and play, and "just five more" can motivate you, encourage you, and make a boring task just a little more fun.

Games are great practice for real life. Specifically, they're a good training environment in organizations where collaborative problem solving is an essential element in how work gets done. The world of games, which looks like a ridiculous waste of time to many in the Baby Boomer generation, may actually be a valuable boot camp for the future of business. Research shows that it's tougher than ever for businesses of all shapes and sizes to engage and get results from their employees. Gallup's long-running studies on employee engagement reveal that on a global scale, only 13 percent of employees are engaged. In other words, 87 percent are not engaged or are actively disengaged, going even as far as sabotaging the company.

What if there were a tool for fusing play with work to help organizations teach, persuade, motivate, and develop meaningful relationships with both employees and customers? The good news is, there is! Gamification is proving to be very successful in engaging people and motivating them to change behaviors, develop skills, and solve problems—even if the name sounds like child’s play.

Have you ever played your favorite game for hours? The feelings that you experience in that lost in time experience are precisely the things that make up a model employee: an urgently optimistic, idealistic team worker who is blissfully happy to create, innovate, and work away all day and all night.

The rule that says that work has to be serious is actually counterproductive. The workplace should be fun. If you could find ways to make work and your work environment more relaxed and fun, wouldn't you also have happy employees who look forward to coming to work each day?

It's easier than ever to make the mundane a bit more magical. Combining the elements of games and the principles of play can make the medicine go down in a most delightful way. Game on!


A gamification speaker and designer, Monica Cornetti is the world’s number-one Gamification Guru according to UK-based Leaderboarded. She’s the author of the book Totally Awesome Training: Put Gamification to Work for You, writes The Gamification Report blog, and hosts the weekly Gamification Talk Radio Program. Monica received her MA in economic development and entrepreneurship from the University of Houston – Victoria and her BA in psychology from Seton Hill University. Follow her on Twitter @MonicaCornetti.


Tag(s): gamification, hdi conference, people, practices and processes

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