Monday, December 3, 2012

"Like"ing your job

(I managed to do some damage to my eye Friday and subsequently spent too much time in the hospital. Here's a post that didn't make the cut earlier.  tl;dr: "Wouldn't it be cool if we could abuse hormones to make people enjoy work?")
I used to wish I could read people's minds.  Then I signed up for Facebook.
Facebook and other social media can be a huge problem for a business that isn't tech-savvy.  As a Facebook consumer who dislikes ads, I'm frustrated that even the powerful AdblockerPlus misses "sponsored stories" that are just a new way of putting ads in front of my face (you can disable them here).

I think that these businesses (who are paying $200 a pop to put this ad in my face) are missing a key factor of what the web 2.0 world has brought us.  "Likes" are not just another way to get consumers to advertise for you.  They're one of the reasons people consume so much time on these networks.

A brief psychology lesson for those of you who slept through Psychology 101 (like my roommate): dopamine is a brain chemical that makes you happy.  It's released during pleasurable activities such as sex and cocaine (and more benign activities such as eating a particularly good pizza).  In fact, the simple act of getting a "like" on one of your actions can release dopamine.

So this rush keeps people coming back to Facebook.  How can we use it to raise employee retention?  A simple note or side comment from the boss can work wonders.  Is it possible to incorporate this into a scalable system?

The most important part of like-ifying your job is to be subtle.  It's far too easy to create an external rewards system that destroys the intrinsic value of your job.  There shouldn't be a like leaderboard or any rewards tied to likes.  Too often, managers see gamification as an easy way to increase productivity without much effort and end up with a system that does exactly the opposite.  (Another great example has developers ranked by how many lines of code they've written, with more === better.  I'm sure we all know how how well that worked out.)

The simple suggestion would be to add a "like" button to whatever source control/bug tracking system you use.  I'm not aware of any systems that currently do this.  It'd be a nice first step but would take time to implement.  Perhaps GitHub could work out something like this.

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