Gamification and Serious Games

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A few weeks back  I attended the Useful Social Media conference in New York. It was refreshing to meet people face-to-face, to learn about the new and inventive ways companies are using social media, and to commiserate over the many challenges and roadblocks that still exist when it comes to corporate social media. In many ways social has seen a great evolution, but in other ways social is in its infancy. When it comes to gamification, 2012 shined a spotlight on gaming and game mechanics – the strenghts, the opportunities, and the room for growth.

In a pre-conference workshop, gamification platform provider, Bunchball summarized the game mechanics that motivate and engage. They talked about the importance of progress (levels in games, miles and points, progress bars), status (standings in leaderboards, likes and followers, communities, groups and teams), and rewards (access to exclusives and perks, early boarding/upgrades, recognition). More importantly, the key takeaway was that gamification works best when tied to a business case.

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The Benefits of an Arts Education

A few weeks ago a friend of mine, Gessica Silverman,  participated in the  Somerville Open Studios. I’ve known Gess for what seems like ages, although in reality it has only been 6 years. I still fondly recall the day she put her wish out there for the world to hear and told me she wanted to “make art.” The bravery it took to say her wish aloud and the work it took to bring it to life was inspiring. It has been many years since we colluded on ways to make art a reality. Now, Gess is doing what she loves best and sharing her talents with the world.

When we learned of Gess’ art show, my husband and I thought it would make a great family event. We packed the kids in the car and headed for Somerville. At the studio, Gess walked us through her pieces and explained how they were made, what they were made from, the concept behind the pieces, the parts of the art making process that gave her energy, and the parts of the process that proved to be challenging. Gess did a great job breaking the conversation down into kid friendly bits. However, while polite, the kids looked like they had some bottled up energy.

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How Doodling helps Facebook and Zappos Generate Ideas

Harvard Social Enterprise Conference 2012

A few weeks ago, I made myself a promise to do something every now and then that scared me. As luck would have it, a friend sent me an email asking if I knew any visual note takers who could help with an upcoming conference. She didn’t have a ton of money to hire an expert. Though my drawings only make sense to me (LOL!), I bit the bullet and offered myself up as a visual note taker in case she wasn’t able to find anyone. The thought of standing up in front of a crowd and visually expressing what was happening at the conference horrified me. It was then and there that I knew graphic facilitation could serve as my “one thing” that week.

After some back and forth, details of the conference changed and my skills, or at least attempt, was no longer needed. That same week I saw a Wall Street Journal article titled, “Doodling for Dollars.” If you’ve ever wondered about the benefits of doodling, read on. Well-known businesses like Facebook, Zappos, Microsoft and Citrix Systems are sending employees to graphic facilitation training and hiring consultants to sketch what is happening in meetings. These cartoon like drawings help to generate ideas, build collaboration, and simplify communications. And, from a learning standpoint, visualizing notes and ideas helps with retaining information.

In case you’re wondering what graphic facilitation or visual note taking is all about, take a look at these YouTube videos.


Scribing 101

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T-shirts, Dresses and Handbags that Power your Smartphones

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Once you own a smartphone, it soon becomes the center of your universe. I don’t know about you, but I feel lost when my phone is charging, or worse yet, when it is out of batteries. However, someday soon, smartphone deprivation may become a thing of the past. Take a look at these 3 fashions that can also charge your electronics.

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Designing for Kids has Adult Sales Appeal

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I’ve never been much of a parade person. Not that I have anything against parades, but they’ve just never held my interest. However, this year has been different. And, it had a lot to do with how the parade was designed. Our town, probably like many others, was experiencing a dwindling parade population. In thinking about how to solve the problem, parade organizers designed a creative parade experience with kid appeal.

First, they invited the town’s little leagues to march in the parade. Second, the little leaguers tossed candy into the crowds. While some little leaguers aimed candy towards their siblings, others were happy to throw the furthest, throw to the loudest fans, or throw to unsuspecting parade goers. What a great way to engage attendees and to workout to those future-baseball arms. Lastly, little league families were invited for a free ice cream social after the parade!

Designing the parade with kids in mind had great adult “sales” appeal as well. Some of my learning from this experience included:

  • When your kids are invited to march in the parade, your entire family is more likely to attend the parade
  • Giving the marchers an activity, like throwing candy, is fun and helps pass the time
  • Siblings enjoyed watching the parade go by, spotting family members, and catching candy
  • Happy kids = happy parents!

For me, this year’s parade experience has changed my perspective. Our town did a great job of changing my mind by changing how I feel. By incorporating my son into the parade and making the parade fun for his brother, it put a smile on my face. So, each year as the weather gets warmer, and the parades become more plentiful, I look forward to Memorial Day parades, July 4th parades, and so on…

And, if you think designing for kids just pertains to parades, think again. Look no further than the cereal aisle, toy store, or video games for the explosive potential in designing for kids. The next time you pass by a product geared towards kids, think about how marketers might be subliminally (or not so subliminally) talking to parents with packaging, advertising and emotional appeal.


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A Little Creativity and Chicken Parmesan Becomes a Summertime Favorite

Chicken Parmesan

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I came home from work the other night exhausted. Once I settled in, the kids began asking what was for dinner. Usually, each of the boys wants something different. I typically don’t give in, but every now and then, I can’t resist. This night was different though. I was making grilled steak and grilled chicken for the adults. I figured there must be some way to get the kids to eat chicken. So, I asked if they wanted chicken parmesan.

They both jumped for joy and yelled out a resounding, “Yes!” One hurdle down, both boys agreed on something.

The next hurdle was how to cook everything outdoors. I really didn’t want to bread and fry up the chicken. In addition to chicken parmesan being time consuming and messy to make, I wanted to create a healthier Read more of this post

Homework Wars: Why Limiting Homework is Not the Solution

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Ever since the invention of school, there have been debates over homework. Should we institute more homework or less homework? Or, should we ban homework all together?

In The New York Times article, New Recruit in the Homework Revolt: The Principal, parents, teachers and educational administrators sound off on the homework debate. After reading the article, one thing is clear. Limiting homework is not the solution. Why, you ask?

Parents, teachers and administrators are not aligned on the problem we are trying to solve by limiting homework. This misalignment only adds fuel to the fire.

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Creativity for a Cause: Nothing Can End Hunger

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An informal promise my cohort made when we began studying creativity was to always use creativity for good. As such, whenever I see interesting ways to tap into creativity for a cause, I take notice.

The other day I came across an interesting campaign for the Rhode Island Food Bank. The campaign moved me – I loved the creative problem solving that went into getting people to think about and take action on hunger. Unlike much of the cause marketing that we’re surrounded by, this campaign tugged at my heart strings without clubbing me over the head with gripping images of hunger. There was something both intellectually and emotionally appealing. Take a look for yourself…

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How an Arts Education Improves Academic Achievement

4-year-old boy starts painting Revell model of...

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One of the biggest differences between my oldest son’s preschool education and his elementary school education lies in the arts. When he was enrolled in preschool he brought home fantastic art projects. Every year our family looked forward to the art open house where we were invited to the gallery (i.e. transformed classroom) for a showing. Many of the students would dress up in formal attire to proudly walk their parents through the gallery. On the long awaited day, the teachers would hand out index cards with open-ended questions parents could ask to start a dialogue about their child’s work. And, at the end of the year, each grade would put on a play. One year my son was in the Wizard of Oz and the next year he was in The Sound of Music. I treasure these memories and proudly display my son’s artwork in my office.

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With Creativity, What’s Old is What’s New

In March, Steven Tyler, the lead singer for Aerosmith, set the fashion world ablaze by appearing on American Idol with feather extensions in his hair. Apparently, feathers are among the latest fashion trend and Stephen Tyler isn’t the only celebrity sporting them. Gwyneth Paltrow, Vanessa Hudgens, Kat Von D, Jessica Biel, and Hilary Duff have also been seen wearing feather earrings.

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