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Editor in Chief Amy Cosper on Gamification and the Importance of Play

October 14, 2013
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/227983

Amy C. Cosper

It is a pitiful moment in the life cycle of humans when playfulness comes to a screeching halt. No more jumping in leaf piles. No more prank calling. No more artistic, under-cover-of-darkness toilet-papering of other people's homes. Things suddenly get serious.

It's a transitional phase, this "mature responsibility," when one halts the aforementioned activities and heads to Banana Republic for a dark suit and white button-down, items that are somehow related to perceptions of what being a grown-up means.

Stop playing and start working. Get serious. This may or may not involve loafers and minivans, but it certainly does not include jumping in leaf piles or mooning people on Sunset Boulevard. Not that we've ever done that.

Playfulness, as most entrepreneurs will tell you, can help alleviate the anxiety and stress that go hand-in-hand with owning a business. It's also pivotal for developing employees who are engaged with their work and dedicated to their companies, and to fostering loyalty among customers. Just ask Red Bull. It works.

But play is more than just a good time. It's also a powerful marketing tool, one that's in the midst of a sophisticated and very grown-up renaissance in the form of gamification.

As far as words go, gamification is a real clunker. It's not pretty or elegant; spell check rejects it. Its origins harken back to the early 2000s, when people were making up stupid words for no good reason (misunderestimate, anyone?). But that's not important here. What is important is that gamification, in all its etymological glory, is changing the dynamic of the relationship between businesses and customers.

By leveraging the very human (but often overlooked in business contexts) need to play, compete and win, gamification presents ample opportunity to engage customers via an acceptably mature platform that lets them win free stuff.

For the business owner, the prize can be brand familiarity, repeat business and strong word-of-mouth. And the results can be impressive, as reported in Jason Ankeny's insightful story on gamification.

As far as clunky words go, this issue may be our best collection to date. In addition to gamification, we bring you a feature on intrapreneurship--an important subject, but a word we must all boycott. Like the term mompreneur, its time has come and gone. However, the concept of intrapreneurship--or corporate incubators, as we prefer to describe them--is powerful. Brands like Mondelēz International, Scion and Nike have embraced the concept of in-house accelerators and incubators not only to explore opportunities but to introduce "culture transfers," an attempt to bring a bit of that devil-may-care playfulness of entrepreneurs within the corporate realm. These days, it seems, everyone wants a bit of that entrepreneurial magic.

Amy C. Cosper
Amy C. Cosper,
Editor in chief
Follow me on Twitter, @EntMagazineAmy