Practical Gaming

I was a fan of the idea of using games for practical purposes, long before I heard Jane McGonigle’s classic TED talk on the subject, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recommend strongly that you watch it. I have long believed that “all other things being equal, people respond as well or better when they’re having fun than when they aren’t” and fun and games (and humor) tend to go together.

Think back, way back and you might share one of my earliest memories of this toy scale, that was widely used to teach addition and subtraction. What is one of your first memories of using games and toys to learn something practical? Even the E-Z Bake Oven fits the description, I would argue.

But as I said, a few years pre-Jane, I had already begun experimenting with the use of online games to deliver counseling services in a fun and practical (particularly in rural areas) ways. Other multiplayer gaming-based purposes include pain management systems, training simulations, and many more.

Gamification, or the introduction of elements that are common to game play – things like competition, point tallies, trophies, badges or other recognition isn’t a new concept either. Anyone who has ever been in a sales position – be it automobiles, appliances, or insurance – is familiar with sales scoreboards and “win a weekend trip” promotions. But things are much more sophisticated and interesting now.

Introducing game elements, especially fun ones, can help businesses in a variety of areas, like recruiting great talent, corporate wellness programs, and nonprofit fundraising. Even the Harvard Business Review agrees that strategy games can be used to help solve real world business dilemmas. And you don’t have to be a large concern to utilize gamification strategies, they work for small business too!

I’m not sure where along the way we decided that “Work” is the opposite of “Play” but I am sure that the distinction is not nearly so obvious as it once might have been. Have fun!

You’re STILL Not Listening to Podcasts?

For the truly unaware, let me explain that a podcast is so named because it is a form of broadcasting that was designed and packaged to be playable on portable devices like the Apple iPod. You can read for yourself the history of podcasting, but suffice it to say that from humble and technically restrictive origins, the podcast has come a very long way. Today, there are multiple ways to listen to podcasts and you can do so using almost any device (phone, laptop, desktop, tablet) and even synchronize you listening so you can start an episode on one device and finish it on another.

Now, I love me some music, and I’m not likely to give up my Sirius XM subscription soon (or Pandora, or Spotify) but more often these days, I’ll listen to a podcast instead of E Street Radio, especially when I’m driving, and especially when the trip is going to take longer than just a few minutes. Podcasts are also great in other situations where watching a screen is difficult or impossible, like during a workout, or on a sunny day at the beach.

Podcast listening is extremely common – over 42 million Americans listen to a podcast each week – and the audience grows year in and year out at a rate of about 10% per year. (see more statistics, if you’re interested), The number of podcasts available is also growing and may well top 200,000 as of this writing.

Using popular apps (I like Pocket Casts) probably represents the best way to find an access point to large libraries of podcasts, but it’s also possible to stream a podcast direct from the originator’s web site. For example, a lot of NPR radio broadcasts (like Fresh Air) are available as podcasts right from the program site. Finding podcasts you want to listen to may take some trial and error, although Top Podcasts of the Year Lists are prevalent, including this group of 50 from The Atlantic. You can also find podcast listings for specific interests, like History (I’m happy to see they included a favorite, “The Dollop”), Business, or creative folks. We’ll explore some of these areas further in future editions of TNT.

Oh, and when you find a podcast you really enjoy, be sure to look into the options for subscribing, which will give you the opportunity to know when new episodes are made available and often access to archives as well. Happy listening!

Here’s to Success in the New Year!

No matter how you ended up your year, one thing is for sure. You can improve in 2018. If you’re coming off a good year, next year can be even better. If things didn’t go so well, you can change direction and strive for success. For many, the improvement will only come with change. Change a habit or two, change some behaviors, and you can change the outcomes.

Of course, we’re quite familiar with the coincidence of the beginning of the year with “resolutions” for change, often in the areas of health, fitness, and diet. But what if you are looking to make changes in your life that will affect your business success?

Fortunately, if there is one thing the internet is famous for, that would be information on the habits of successful people, winners, good bosses, killer entrepreneurs or just about any category you can think of.

Here are a selection of suggestions I’ve found – and they’re all good!

You might want to start by looking at an area that we don’t always think of as productive – sleep. It might seem that it’s hard to succeed while you’re snoozing, but examining the sleep habits of successful people, it’s pretty easy to see that getting 5 – 8 hours of sleep, and waking between 5 AM and 7 AM is characteristic of success.

If you think Mark Twain was a smart guy, and you should, take his advice and tackle your toughest task first thing in your work day. He referred to it as “eating a frog” but we get the meaning. The eating the frog concept is reprised in this list of 11 Ways Successful People Start Their Mornings, along with some other good day-starters, like keeping and reviewing a “to-don’t” list, and kissing your partner goodbye.

Apparently, wealthy people agree that watching TV (especially reality TV shows!) is a bad idea. And they like to read, although they tend to focus on self-improvement rather than reading for entertainment. And among the challenges successful folks learn to overcome (or ignore) are age, fear and other peoples’ opinions! Watch your mouth (!) could certainly be an anthem for success, as there are lots of opinions about what successful people never say (example: no gossiping).

If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you’ll gain the habits of focus, perseverance and leaning when to cut your losses. Other entrepreneurial tricks – warning some of these are radical – include going for a hike, getting rid of your smartphone, and “thinking binary”.

The lists are nearly endless (including this last gem) and the nine references I’ve provided today include dozens of things you can put into practice (or strive to avoid). The best advice I can give you is to choose two or three that you know deep inside would help you the most, and get started.

Have a great year!

It May Be Time for a Change

Amazingly (to me anyway), I have been publishing TNT – These Nine Things, the newsletter I use to share interesting items I come across online, for almost 4 years, at least as of this writing at the end of 2017. Many of you have been subscribers for the entire stretch, some have come along more recently. I love the opportunity to find things that others may have overlooked and pass them on. As frequent readers know, I try to mix practical advice and information with fun, wonder and whimsy – and sometimes things that defy description.

My plans are to continue dropping into your in-box three times a week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday morning, but a recent review of the feedback I get from my email program has gotten me to think about mixing things up a bit. I can look at data like open rates and click through rates for every TNT I’ve ever sent, and one statistic has popped out that seems consistent enough to remark upon and to cause me to try to do something new.

My Wednesday TNT has always been an “intensive”, meaning that all nine of the links I share relate to the same topic. A sampling of the topics going back to early 2014 includes Alternatives to PowerPoint, Chilling Out Online, The Future of Texting, Emotional Intelligence, Millennials, Exposing Fake News, Understanding Blockchain, and Net Neutrality. By the way, if anyone would like a copy of all of the Wednesday Intensive Topics can get the full list. Just email me ( and put “Send Weds Intensive List” in the subject line and I’ll pass it right along! If you see something you missed, I’ll be happy to send you a copy of the links for that edition.

I like digging deeper into a single subject every week, but the reader response rates for the Wednesday Intensive TNT is typically lower than for the other two days of the week. When you see consistent data – particularly data that you don’t like to see – it’s a good idea to respond and consider changing things up.

Rather than scrap the idea of a weekly deep dive into a subject, I’m going to try something new to see if it makes a difference. For the next several weeks the Wednesday edition of TNT will be presented in a more narrative fashion, rather than the list you are accustomed to getting. I’ll still work nine things into the narrative, but will also try to include more context and analysis as I do. So, you will be getting more of an article than just an accounting of resources. (An article which could also be a blog post, btw – I love multi-purposing). I’m going to see if that format changes the open rate for the positive. If it does, I’ll continue. If it fails, I may decide to ditch the intensive format altogether.

Of course, feel free to send any feedback on this idea to the email I already listed above. In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy and respond to the change!

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