Advertisements
 

Summer Reading List: Books on Happiness, Neuroscience, Games and More

August 9, 2012

Introduction

I know just what you’re thinking: summer is just about over. The cross-country flight has been flown and the week at the beach is over. I hear ya.

But a long weekend is but a few weeks away (Labor Day) and it’s never too late to pick up some great books for the Fall (or for, gasp, the holidays).

What follows are recommendations for books I’ve read recently. I must warn you: the list contains neither the super-latest releases nor any current New York Times bestsellers. Without further ado, here’s my list of five:

1) Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

I read this book one year ago. I purchased the book expecting to hear about Tony Hsieh’s approach to delivering great customer service at Zappos. And while the book does include insights related to that, it’s scope is really much more.

Hsieh relates a compressed life story (his own) and how he sought to discover meaning and happiness. The book is filled with a series of entertaining personal anecdotes. Hsieh wraps things up by discussing the science of happiness and declares that the meaning of life is to discover it.

This is my favorite book of all time and has completely changed my outlook on life. For the better.

  1. Read my prior book review on Delivering Happiness.
  2. Check out the book at Amazon.

2) Brain Rules by John Medina

Earlier this year, Medina was the keynote presenter at a conference I attended. I couldn’t attend Medina’s session, but I knew from the related tweets that the audience found it interesting. Later, I’d bump into other attendees and Medina’s session was mentioned often.

I decided (then) to add “Brain Rules” to my reading list and it didn’t disappoint. Medina is a neuroscientist and the book helps us understand how the brain works. This understanding can help us design more effective meetings, classes, events and more.

  1. Read my prior post on how to use Brain Rules to make your next event more impactful.
  2. Check out the book at Amazon.

3) Reality Is Broken by Jane McGonigal

Coincidentally, Jane McGonigal also provided a keynote presentation at the same conference (as Medina). While I also missed McGonigal’s session, I had already read her book. McGonigal presents research from a number of scientists to explain “why games make us happy” and describes how games can be applied to solve problems at a global scale.

I liked this book so much, in fact, that I organized a digital book club in which we assembled via Google+ Hangouts to discuss portions of the book.

  1. Read my favorite quotes from the book.
  2. Check out the book at Amazon.

4) The Third Wave by Alison Thompson

Thompson’s book makes an impact right from the first page. She describes rollerblading down the street. They were the streets of New York City and she was headed south towards the World Trade Center. And it was September 11, 2001.

Thompson, who has training as a nurse, provided emergency response to victims (on the streets) and witnessed the collapse of the second tower. She volunteered day and night in the days immediately following 9/11 and returned there for weeks afterwards, lending a hand each and every day.

Thompson traveled to Sri Lanka to assist victims of a 2004 tsunami and provided relief efforts to earthquake victims in Haiti. “The Third Wave” is Thompson’s “volunteer story.”

It’s not just touching, it’s inspirational. Reading about Thompson’s selfless acts have inspired me to “do more” for the larger world around me.

  1. Check out the book at Amazon.

5) Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie

This book is the story of TOMS, a shoe company who matches “every pair of TOMS (shoes) purchased with a new pair given to a child in need.” (they now sell more than just shoes). Like “Delivering Happiness,” the book does more than just tell the story of a company’s growth.

Mycoskie provides prescriptive advice on how you (the reader) can start something that matters, yourself. With chapter headings such as “find your story,” “face your fears” and “be resourceful without resources,” Mycoskie made me think about jobs in my future – and how they ought to have a meaning larger than just “maximizing profits.”

  1. Check out the book at Amazon.

Conclusion

I hope you found my recommendations useful. If you end up reading any of these books, return here to leave a comment. I’d love to hear your feelings and reactions to reading them.

Advertisements

Favorite Book Quotes from “Reality Is Broken”

August 31, 2011

Note: Image courtesy of the book’s web site.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to the book’s listing on Amazon.com.

Introduction

I’m reading Jane McGonigal’s book “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.” The book has three parts:

  1. Why Games Make Us Happy
  2. Reinventing Reality
  3. How Very Big Games Can Change the World

As of August 31, 2011, I’m reading part one, which provides a fascinating look at the psychology behind games (i.e. the neurological factors behind why gamers engage in game play).

I’m continually finding great quotes in the book, so I thought I’d use this blog posting to keep a running collection of my favorites. Feel free to check back from time to time, as I add to the list!

Favorite Quotes

Added: 10/03/2011

Life is hard, and games make it better.” (page 349)

Added: 09/29/2011

We need to play games that stretch our collective commitment months, years or even decades ahead. We need to start playing with the future.” (page 295)

Added: 09/27/2011

Collaboration isn’t just about achieving a goal or joining forces; it’s about creating something together that would be impossible to create alone.” (page 268)

Added: 09/10/2011

Based on Clay Shirky’s estimate that all of Wikipedia took 100 million hours to create, the WoW community alone could conceivably create a new Wikipedia every three and a half days.” (page 231)

Added: 09/05/2011

Games are showing us exactly what we want out of life: more satisfying work, better hope of success, stronger social connectivity, and the chance to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.” (page 114)

Compared with games, reality is hard to get into. Games motivate us to participate more fully in whatever we’re doing.” (page 124)

Added: 09/04/2011

The single best way to add meaning to our lives is to connect our daily actions to something bigger than ourselves – and the bigger, the better.” (page 97)

Added: 08/31/2011

To develop foresight, you need to practice hindsight.” (page 5)

As for the future, your task is not to see it, but to enable it.” (page 13, attributed to Antoine de Saint Exupery)

Games, in the twenty-first century, will be a primary platform for enabling the future.” (page 13)

Computers were made to work for us, but video games have come to demand that we work for them.” (page 55)

The quote (above) is attributed to Nick Yee, “a leading researcher of MMOs and the first person to receive a PhD for studying WoW.”

Leave a Comment

Have you read the book? If so, let me know your take via the comments section below.

Related Resources

  1. Buy the Book: On Amazon.

Gamification Predictions for 2011

December 22, 2010

Introduction

At Mashable, Gabe Zichermann (@gzicherm) provided his 5 Predictions for Game Mechanics in 2011.  Gabe’s article inspired me to provide my own predictions.

A New Name in 2011

In the second half of 2010, the term “gamification” became bi-polar: you either loved it or hated it.  People on the “love” side see it as the future of engagement and marketing.  People on the “hate” side see it as a gimmick.

Gabe provides his thoughts in an article at Huffington Post.  While the term is effective in capturing the essence, it’s not perfect.  As a result, “gamification” will be used less and less in 2011.  In its place will be a set of new terms, based on its specific applications (e.g. game-based marketing, game-based social initiatives, etc.).

A Sub-Industry Develops


This is more an observation, rather than a prediction (since it’s already happening): an industry has developed around “gamification”.  When folks convene for a conference or summit, that’s my measuring stick to tell me that an industry is emerging.  In the virtual events space, that happened in 2009 with the Virtual Edge Summit (which, by the way, has its third annual conference, also in January 2011).

If you look at the sponsor and speaker lists for this event, you’ll see a number of start-ups who built their business around gamification.  In 2011, we’ll see some “bubble like” behavior (perhaps we’re already seeing it now), where entrepreneurs look to build the next great gamification companies.  In the second half of 2011, however, the bubble settles and the early winners emerge.

Related: Gamification gets its own conference (VentureBeat)

Game Mechanics for The Greater Good

Jane McGonigal of Palo Alto-based Institute for the Future once said, “Any time I consider a new project, I ask myself, is this pushing the state of gaming toward Nobel Prizes? If it’s not, then it’s not doing anything important enough to spend my time.” (source: Salon.com article from 2007).

In 2011, we’ll see game mechanics applied increasingly to the “greater good” – initiatives that can change the world.

Armchair Revolutionary is a great example – consider one of their slogans, “shape the future by playing a game”.  In 2011, lots of “revolutionaries” emerge to rally those who can, to provide help to those in need.

Game Mechanics Go Mainstream – But Consumers Don’t Know It

Game mechanics are going mainstream, but the typical user won’t know that they’re participating in them.  They simply know that they’re engaging in enjoyable activities (side note: there will be similar growth in Foursquare, Gowalla, etc., but users, of course, won’t know that they’re using “location based services”).

For example, Universal Studios announced successful sales of their “Despicable Me” DVD – their press release attributes some of the success to a “Minions Madness” promotion, “a points-based reward and social media program spotlighting the film’s beloved mischief-makers, the Minions.” This promotion was powered by Bunchball, a game mechanics start-up.

Bunchball (and related companies) has built a nice client list of broadcast networks, cable networks and film studios.  In 2011, additional media outlets come on board.  Game mechanics  go more and more mainstream, even though the typical mainstream user doesn’t know it.  Watch out in 2012, however, as consumer-based game mechanics suffer some fatigue (as consumers then see “much too much” of it).

Established Web Players Incorporate Game Mechanics

2011 sees established players incorporate game mechanics to increase engagement (e.g. “time on site”, clicks, e-commerce sales, etc.).

Google adopts game mechanics as a means for bridging their search business and social services (e.g. adding game mechanics to Google Me). Others who add game mechanics include Netflix, eBay and Groupon.  Of course, it’s natural to expect that more and more virtual event experiences will add game mechanics, too.

Conclusion

2010 has been an interesting year for gamification. 2011 will kick off with an industry event and where we go from there will be exciting to watch.  I’ll check back mid-year with a report card on these predictions. Here’s hoping I attain the “crystal ball badge”.


%d bloggers like this: