So, succumbing to the hype, I rushed out the other day and bought myself one of those new Nike FuelBands.
I first saw one on the wrist of my colleague Gareth, who pronounced it the deus ex machina of exercise and weight loss reduction.
I saw it and imagined myself tipping into a mid life crisis.
I didn’t want to be one of those getting-on guys who wear all those charity bands, surround themselves by young music-festival goers, and buy cars which are far, far too young and sporty for them whilst smothering themselves in slightly-too-late moisturiser.
I certainly wasn’t going to be one of them, and it seemed this stylish little black band was, well, the first tenuous step in that direction.
For those unfamiliar with the actual gadget, it is a rubberised band with accelerometers in it that tracks how much you move. It has all these lights and fireworks that happen whenever you reach certain goals, and syncs up with an iPhone if you have one so you can have more lights and fireworks on your device as well.
So, in other words, it’s a pedometer. And a pricey one at that.
But here’s the thing.
Fuelband is much less about measuring than it is about turning exercise into a game. A social game at that, one in which you compete with your friends.
So, every day, you have to reach this goal (fireworks, if you do), and you compare your progress to those of your other mid-life crisis friends who have also succumbed to FuelBand.
For the record, Gareth and every other person on my leaderboard are some years away from a mid-life crisis. But I digress.
The leaderboard is a surprisingly powerful motivator and I push the little button on FuelBand about 10 times an hour just so that last stair climb to the office is recorded and broadcast to everyone.
I am competitive, you see, so I like to be at the top of the leaderboard. I can imagine myself walking out of a meeting and running around the block if any of my fuel-band colleagues started to get close to my daily score.
So, obviously, this little game has got me to be much more active than I was before.
Let me come, now, to the point of this post.
I often go into meetings- especially when we’re trying to sell our innovation software (and therefore, every statement you make is somewhat suspect because you’re trying to sell something) – and find myself having to justify that making things fun at work is a good attribute in systems.
This has lately become such an issue that I’ve given up using the words “gamification” and “game dynamics” in favour of “psychological dynamics” which seems a much less confronting way of saying the same thing.
But I find myself having a déjà vu moment, because these were the types of discussions I was having a year or so ago about design.
You’d get all these people saying “design is much less important than function”. They’d argue that the disgustingness of, say, the SAP user interface was perfectly acceptable in the light of all the very complicated things the software could achieve.
Everyone has pretty much gotten over that now, even if the current argument is that systems which are nice to look and do lots of things well is a justification for boring.
As innovators, this is the next great frontier in my mind: addressing the boring.
Getting rid of the boring is going to be table-stakes in system acquisition by year end. I suspect this will be the case as I think my experience with exercise and FuelBand are not that dissimilar to those of other nearly-having-mid-life-crisis people that make systems decisions.
Because even though we may be getting around to be the old people in the office, we still like a bit of fun in our lives, and will cheekily sneak it into things if we can get away with it.
I’d like a bit of fun in my next accounting system, thanks.