Mar 5, 2011

Playing increases productivity.

Last year I volunteered to translate David J. Anderson's book on Kanban into Spanish. Translating a book was a first for me and I had no idea what I've gotten myself into. Don't get me wrong, the book in itself is great and Kanban is an important part of my business. But translating a book is much  harder than I ever imagined.

Once the translation was finished the index needed to be created and that task was to be done by sometime else mainly because were couldn't find a tool able to easily generate it. Long story short getting the index done started longer than the translation itself because we couldn't find sometime to do it and it became clear that getting it done would end up being costly.

It occurred to me that maybe we could get a highly motivated student to do it well at a lower cost. I offered a high school student a third of the amount a professional would charge, which to him was to be the highest paying gig he had ever had, and I considered that to be enough of a motivator.

Taking advantage of a week- long school break we estimated the task would taking almost the entire week working full time. That became a turn off top the student who was looking forward to having some fun least pat of the time, but the money ease too good to pass. And so he began working on it at my office. I was keeping an eye on him and my main concern was the qualify of the work and likelihood of requiring longer time.

A couple of hours later I noticed  him doing things extremely quick. I went to his desk to check upon his progress and saw that not only everything was being done as expected but he was blasting away! I asked him how he was doing and he said "I am pretending this is one of my video games and figured out a strategy to do this with the minimum eye and keyboard movements." This was awesome! Although money was a good extrinsic motivator, he had found his own intrinsic motivator... to win the game.

He got done in just a day and a half. Upon reviewing the work done I noticed the need to do some time- consuming changes to improve the index and asked him to do a second pass, which he finished in less than one day. He was able to spend over half of the week having fun with his friends and having pocketed some good money, which he added to his savings to buy a semi- professional video camera.

Reading the Wired magazine this morning while enjoying a hot mocha I read an article about how the UK' s Guardian newspaper had the daunting task of analyzing 170,000 pages of bonus expenses and how reporters were, understandably, reluctant to do that. They then turned the task into a hammer and made it public. The result, over 2,000 people played it and the task got done in less than
four days.

One of the three core aspects of value innovation is to have an innovation fostering environment and the more work we do in the form of games is a great way to achieve that.