Four things we learned from Pokémon GO

We’re pretty good at getting behind serious trends, and humans seem to act like a combination of dominoes and sheep in that fashion. The Pokémon GO phenomena is just one example of the Tipping Point idea that Malcolm Gladwell raises in a book of the same title. This craze, however, requires those in business to reflect on the implications of this for work and organisation. What does it mean, and what can we learn? Through four key points, I discuss this further.

The game, for those who have been hiding under a sofa for the past couple of weeks, is a mobile application which incorporates augmented reality to provide a reasonably new experience for users. Essentially, combined with mapping software, users walk around their local area (and beyond) to see if there are Pokémon around to be caught. The goal is to collect them all, battle gyms, and level up. Aside from the fact the game is reasonably similar to its predecessor games combined with augmented reality, what makes it so special? That golden question is likely to aid business significantly if it can be determined.

Squirtle Pokemon GO

The ends can justify the means, if the end goal is great

I quite regularly hear or see my colleagues and friends moan about going to the gym, their waistlines not being perfect, or how sore their ankles are? The goal of getting fit does not seem to be a core motivator for many, with the obvious excuses coming to mind ‘it’s too hard’ and ‘I don’t have enough time’. What I have learnt from Pokémon GO is that we must have enough time, if we can fit in a little bit of evening walking to collect them all. Walking can be a drag for many people, but when it becomes the ‘means’ of our goal to find new and exotic Pokémon: the walk seems to be barely noticeable.

This has direct implications for structuring our organisational goals. In tertiary education, we align each of our units to the goals of their corresponding majors, which aligns to the goals of the corresponding degree. Therefore, incorporating and aligning goals to make them part of a bigger whole, is likely to yield better results and potentially fewer complaints.

The scorecard is important

In the workplace, every employee and manager works for a number of hours to receive their reward of wages. The monetary benefit associated with working has lost its role as a significant motivator. Money gets us in the door and completing required work; but for many, it fails to result in high performance and strong organisational commitment. The ability to be recognised with levels, new Pokémon, and new rewards is a lure for users to continue playing the game. Thus, recognition which builds on the initial wage is one mechanism that can be used to motivate and empower employees. Some really simple examples of this include a post-it note saying thank you, recognition in front of coworkers, bringing someone a coffee or bottle of wine, or even just saying thank you.

Everything is better in teams 

Down by the waterfront is where I find dozens of people huddled in the cold winter breeze at 8 pm, and standing around in local parks usually empty at that time of night. The masses are there for one main reason: to collect Pokémon. People could, by themselves, put down a lure (which attracts Pokémon) and wait for the Pokémon to come; but they don’t. Instead, they go for drives with a group of friends or take in turns using one of their lures in public spaces to share. Clearly it is far more efficient to work together, but it is also more enjoyable.

The second element which reinforced the importance of teams is the gym component of the game. Individuals pick one of the three teams: Instinct, Mystic, Valor. At the moment, there seems to be no tangible benefit from specific teams, but the advantage comes from having multiple friends with the same colour/team. This means that once the group have defeated a gym, and they claim it as their own: the weakest player can add their Pokémon to the Gym roster. The next person in the cycle defeats that Pokémon and adds their own to the second level. This can continue on until each of the players has added one Pokémon, or the team runs out of people who can defeat the entire gym roster with one Pokémon. Each layer of Pokémon added, increases the difficulty and therefore makes it harder for others to stage a hostile takeover. From this, the gym system shows that there is increased effectiveness available from playing strategically in a team.

Demographic barriers are not the problem

Added to collaboration, one of the significant outcomes of the app is the diversity of those playing it. These range from young teenagers, to ‘hardcore’ gamers, to full time managers, elderly people and even politicians like Jeremy Corbyn. The collation of people from all walks of life, making small talk over which of the illustrious creatures they have, demonstrates a real sense of community that our society has sometimes lacked. Just recently, I was walking on a Boardwalk with my phone in one hand, and a coffee in the other, and I saw a Pokémon I hadn’t seen in the game yet: Ponyta. I began to veer off the walking path to go and find it, and there was another couple of ladies chasing down the same pony. Despite having no idea who each of these strangers were, we helped track down the horse by splitting up and seeing if the distance icons reduced. After a few attempts, we all found and collected the horse and went on our way again. This to me exemplified the way that human beings can come together in meaningful ways for the collective good, without worrying about barriers of difference.

Another example, I was walking again in the evening and it had been raining a lot that day. I was very close to stepping straight into a reasonably deep puddle as I was evolving my Psyduck into a Golduck. A fellow hunter noticed, and said “watch out, there’s a puddle there”. It was a simple act of kindness from them which saved me ruining a perfectly nice evening. The person who said that was someone I would not have typically been associated with, but it just goes to show that demographic barriers can be broken down with the right mediator.

In closing

The rapid changes we see in the world around us, like the evolution of a growing community of millions playing the same game, presents an opportunity for us to better understand what conditions are required for humans to thrive. It’s great, and we should embrace change that helps us to flourish in new and exciting ways. Many of the key takeaway messages from social movements like the Pokémon phenomena are that we can understand ourselves and others better when we are engaging in the things we enjoy doing. Whether or not the Pokémon GO craze is long-lasting or a simple fad, it has stirred the pot and we should do our utmost to better understand why.

Image by Shannon.

One thought on “Four things we learned from Pokémon GO

Comments are closed.