“Fall in Love with the Problem, Not the Solution”

/ 25 August 2020

Organisations must “fall in love with the problem, not the solution,” said Dr. Marigo Raftopoulos in our recent  ‘Drive Your Innovation Strategy with Gamification’ webinar with DesignSingapore. It was a great point, well made.

With a PhD in gamification and playful design in enterprise development, Dr. Marigo stressed the importance of rethinking problem solving in order to focus on creating positive experiences. She cited three examples of gamification in action, which have helped make people sit up and take note.

  1. Speed Camera Lottery 

City drivers regularly break the speed limit and Stockholm is no different. City officials realised that increased fines were doing little to ease the problem and so they decided to focus on the ‘problem’ and flip their approach.The solution? Turn keeping to the speed limit into a game so every time someone kept to the speed limit (recorded via numberplate recognition) they were entered into a lottery to win the proceeds from the speeding fines. The initiative proved to be hugely successful for the city with the number of drivers exceeding the speed limit decreasing significantly!

  1. ‘Re-Mission’

Children suffering from cancer often feel they have little control over their situation, leading to them disengage with the process and therefore struggle with treatment plans. So, researchers at Stanford University developed a game titled ‘Re-Mission’. The game allows players to control a character inside a body fighting cancer with weapons such as chemotherapy, antibiotics and the body’s natural defenses, echoing the child’s own personal battle and giving them a sense of control over the situation. The programme  showed that playing the game strongly activated the brain circuits involved in positive motivation. The shift in attitudes and emotions within the children who played helped change their attitude towards the situation and in turn their adherence to their cancer treatment.

  1. ‘Foldit’

Lab trials trying to predict the folding properties of protein enzymes – to combat diseases such as Alziemers and Parkinson’s – have been running for many years. However such proteins are extremely difficult and complex to study, which in turn leads to longer trials and the slow realisation of results. So, researchers at the University of Washington teamed up with a computer scientist to develop the now popular online ‘citizen-science’ game ‘Foldit’.  Running since 2008, players of the game are scored on the structure of proteins that they’ve folded and are rewarded for spotting patterns that are not consistent with known biochemical patterns. The results from Foldit have been included in a number of scientific publications and a number of major breakthroughs have been achieved, including deciphering the structure of a monkey virus that causes HIV/AIDS-like symptoms – a scientific problem that had been unsolved for 15 years – in just 10 days.

Dr. Marigo explained how these examples help prove the effectiveness of gamification and have encouraged similar mindsets to be adopted by big businesses in all kinds of areas, including Learning and Development (L&D). Further examples were provided, such as  ‘Plantville’ from Siemens, which simulates the experience of being a plant manager, ‘My Marriott Hotel!’, which helps prepare hotel kitchen managers, and McDonalds’ minigames that train staff on new menu items.

Michelle Koh of DesignSingapore also spoke on the webinar and reinforced the importance of ‘falling in love with the problem’, giving a powerful example in the healthcare industry involving Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machinery. 

It had become apparent that the experience could be distressing for children who needed MRI scans. After spending years redesigning the machine, the engineer visited a hospital to see it in action and was shocked to see how distressing the process was for everyone involved, with appointments often needing rescheduling or the child needing to be sedated. So they ‘fell in love with the problem’ and worked with medical professionals to turn the whole experience into a children’s adventure story that put the patient in the role of the hero.

The machine was given a pirate ship makeover, with hospital technicians greeting patients in the waiting room with a hearty “are you ready?!” before giving them a pirate hat and leading them to the scanner. 

Rather than being hit with the ‘hospital smell’ when they enter the room, the children smelt coconut from aromatherapy vaporizers with the visuals of the room reinforcing the pirate adventure theme. After completing their scan, with the challenge of being as ‘still as possible so the enemies don’t spot them’, patients received a ‘hero’s reward’.  The experience was so positive, some children even asked to come back and do it all over again! 

The costs associated with rescheduling appointments fell and the use of sedation dropped from 80% to 1%. What’s more, radiologists were able to get more accurate images as the children remained calm and cooperative throughout the process, making the procedure much quicker and enjoyable for everyone involved. By falling in love with the problem the team realised that it wasn’t the machine that needed to be the focus, it was the experience that surrounded it. By adjusting the approach to the problem and focusing on the experience from a child’s perspective, remarkable things were achieved. 

Psychologists and sociologists have long advocated the importance of human experience but functional, ‘efficient’ based design is still often the priority. As this continues to change and the results delivered by having an appreciation for human-centred experiences are further proven, great things are being achieved. Whether big or small, it is about embracing techniques that work with the grain of human psychology, rather than against it. 

Gregg Lewis, who hosted the event on behalf of 3radical, explained how 3radical’s Voco platform helps organisations ‘fast track’ their gamification efforts. The platform offers a library of game mechanics based on these very principles and that have helped organisations achieve all kinds of remarkable things. 

If you’re interested in learning more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! 

You can watch the full webinar here: Webinar: Drive Your Innovation Strategy With Gamification.

Our website uses cookies to help us to understand how you use it. By continuing to use our website you consent to our use of such cookies. For more information please read our privacy policy.