How Do You Turn Life Into A Game? Good Ideas Talks On Disruption

In the final set of Good Ideas talks at PSFK Conference NYC, we learned about the power of disruption from Peter Weijmarshausen, Grant McCracken, Avner Ronen and Naveen Selvadurai.

In the final set of Good Ideas talks at PSFK Conference NYC, we learned about the power of disruption.

Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO at Shapeways, discussed how his 3D printing company and community is changing the relationship between products, creators, and consumers.

Some highlights from his talk:

- Shapeways depends on both community and technology to encourage creativity. Shapeways offers several ways to get involved in the 3-D production process – either as a creator a co-creator, or buyer building upon one of the many available 3-D models created by other users. The Shapeways audience is an organically formed community brought together by the desire to make and support one-of-a-kind products – which are often the result of several users’ concepts, design, and hard work.

- 3-D printing is turning consumers = producers. The rise of 3-D printing is lowering the barrier between manufacturers and consumers, empowering nearly anyone with a creative vision to bring their idea to life. Shapeways is a user-friendly platform for bridging that narrowing gap between people who make things and the people who want them.

- The possibilities with 3-D printing are growing. Weijmarshausen showcased a wide range of items created through Shapeways’ 3-D printing service – from jewelry, to housewares, to games. But as the technology behind 3-D printing continues to improve and become more accessible to everyday consumers, the types of objects we’ll be able to produce with it (think: medical devices, furniture, electronics) will also continue to expand and diversify.

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Anthropologist Grant McCracken discussed the thinking behind his latest book, Chief Culture Officer, a clarion call for the integration of culture into corporate strategy.

Some highlights from his talk:

- “Culture is the mystery for capitalism” – and while there’s no failsafe formula for solving it, acknowledging the necessity for cultural acumen within a company is the first step. In his talk, McCracken made the compelling argument that corporations need to make room for a ‘Chief Culture Officer’ in the C-Suite – a ‘club’ in which creativity and disruptive thinking is not generally rampant or rewarded. Chief Culture Officers would be charged with anticipating and uncovering ways to harness cultural trends to make business decisions that resonate with their audiences, rather than alienate them.

- Being attuned to the zeitgeist can mean the difference between success and (sometimes irrevocable) failure. McCracken makes this point clear in the first line of his book: “Levi Strauss, the jeans and apparel maker, misses hip-hop. The penalty: $1 billion.” McCracken pointed out that beyond being in touch with one’s consumers and their worlds, elevating the importance of cultural perspicacity results in financial gain. Companies like Apple, Nike, and Starbucks have established themselves as categorical leaders in large part because of their ability to understand and create products that embrace emerging trends and shifts.

- Beware of ‘buzzword bingo.’ Losing oneself in “company culture” – and its own set of rules, habits, and vernacular (FTP/Bottom Line/ROI/etc) – is a danger many of us face, and can be a hindrance to a business’s growth and innovation. Being in touch with the dynamic cultural reality of the outside world not only fosters new ways of thinking, but ensures a better connection with the communities you’re trying to serve.

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Next, entertainment changemaker and Boxee founder Avner Ronen shared his predictions for the future of television.

Some highlights from his talk:

- “The internet rather than proprietary networks will be the backbone for video (tv is just one more connected screen).” Boxee is a great example of how this would be implemented. As a mutli-media browser that combines the “worlds of The Internet and television,” Boxee allows users to stream entertainment from across inputs, channels and platforms (i.e. LAN shares, DVD, and online services like BBC iPlayer, Last.fm, NPR, ABC, Blip.TV, CNN). Companies like Boxee that aggregrate rather than segregate, will be the entertainment operations of the future.

- “For the most successful shows, video will only be a piece of the offering (coming: gaming, social interactions, mobile.)” Ronen predicts the rise of transmedia and the fluid movement of entertainment across platforms and media (we’ve already started seeing this happen around cult shows like Lost, The Simpsons, and The Sopranos).

- “Discovery of entertainment will remain mostly passive” here, Ronen points out, is an opportunity for innovation. How we discover entertainment is still largely a top-down process – how can we create apps and technologies to change that dynamic – so that audiences are discovering shows they like in an active, seamless way?

- “Audience fragmentation will grow (platforms will become audience aggregators).” With access to new and diverse content constantly growing, niche markets are becoming stronger, larger, and more myriad. Platforms are evolving into audience aggregators – taking over the role that networks once held.

- “The future of TV – there won’t be TV.” A reality that won’t come to fruition for at least several years, says Ronen, but a truth entertainment and media companies must come to terms with if they want to survive.

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To close out this segment of Good Ideas in Disruption, Naveen Selvadurai, co-founder of Fourquare, discussed what he’s learned in growing his gamechanging location-based social application, and how he sees it improving the way we navigate our daily lives.

- “How do you turn life into a game?” Foursquare gives people a way of turning their day-to-day activities – going to the gym, meeting friends at the pub, spending a late night at work – into a sort of currency. Foursquare users ‘check-in’ to wherever they are through the mobile app and ‘compete’ against their friends to rack up points, badges and mayorships based on several factors: where they are, how frequently they check-in, where they’ve traveled, etc (i.e., 20 trips to the gym in a month earns you the Gym Rat badge). In this way, Foursquare is adding an element of play to our offline lives, through its online ‘game’. (…And the game is only primed to get bigger – Foursquare already claims more than 800k users and 22 million check-ins since it launched around a year ago.)

- Foursquare helps you learn and live better in your cities – ‘get better at living.’Beyond social gaming, Foursquare’s mission is to help you learn more about the places and people of your city. The app encourages its users to add ‘tips’ to locations they visit (i.e. “Don’t miss the lasagna at Sal’s”) which will then appear when friends in their network check-in nearby. These tips are meant to inspire Foursquare users to explore what’s around them and experiment with new places and things.

- Adding gaming mechanics to the way we work, play, and aspire to improve ourselves is helping us rethink our daily lives. Naveen shared examples of other apps and devices that employ elements of gaming/competition to encourage their users to live better and work harder (i.e. Nike+; LoseIt app; Track Your Happiness app). Foursquare gives its users the ability to track their activity over time (as well as their friends’ activity), a sort of snapshot of where they’ve been and who they’ve spent time with. Naveen pointed to these new means of keeping track and compiling analytics about our daily doings as a way for us to take better inventory of how we live, and how we might make it better.

- Checking in doesn’t have to happen at a place. Naveen and his team found that users were checking in at more than just venues. They were checking in “at” commutes, emotional states, their own bedrooms. Foursquare has become a way of tracking and celebrating the minutiae of our lives and our day’s little victories.

Photos by Dave Pinter

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