May 14, 2012


Recently, I've met with several internet startups, web thought leaders, and venture capitalists.

There's one word that's come up in every conversation and it's not Plastics .  It's Gamification 

Gamification, described by Wikipedia is applying gaming principles to non-gaming applications and processes,

"in order to encourage people to adopt them, or to influence how they are used. Gamification works by making technology more engaging, by encouraging users to engage in desired behaviors, by showing a path to mastery and autonomy, by helping to solve problems and not being a distraction, and by taking advantage of humans' psychological predisposition to engage in gaming."

Whenever technologists create a cool new application, they often focus on the innovation necessary to solve a hard engineering problem rather than the user experience or how to ensure the ongoing use of the software.

Many internet companies have tried and failed (such as Google Health) to create highly usable healthcare sites, but failed to engage customers over the long term.

Although the biology behind gamification is controversial, the claim is that the human brain inherently enjoys problem solving and the dopamine-mediated emotional rewards that come with it.   Sticky platforms like Facebook implement many gamification features to keep users coming back.   Group competitions, customer loyalty programs, and goal achievement are all examples of gamification strategies.

We're in the midst of a redesign of the BIDMC Personal Health Record, Patientsite.  Not only do we want to make it easier to use and more visually appealing, we want to ensure it adds value and becomes a destination that patients want to revisit.   We'll certainly keep Gamification principles in mind.

So next time you're faced with a software redesign, think about its use more than its engineering.  Replace Plastics with Gamification in your lexicon.   There's a great future in it.

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