Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Games for Change

The Washington Post covered games for social change lately, which reminded me why I thought they were so cool when I first started seeing them in our sector. From the game inspired by the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic to Darfur is Dying, to the game where you get to experience what it's like to be a farmer in the developing world, I've thought this was an amazing way to transport people directly into different worlds. At GlobalGiving we tend to stick to First Life most of the time, but occasionally we get lucky. Here's a project to support a game created by HopeLab, which helps significantly decrease the remission rates in young cancer patients. It sets them up as heroes in a game visualizing fighting the cancer cells using the tools in their arsenals.

This might even work as another argument for procrastination. At least you'd be learning something useful in the process ...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Working within the box and out of the box

Dennis has just blogged about Tim Kane’s observation when he first visited Japan in the 1980s—where he encountered a humbly equipped man sweeping the tarmac at Narita airport as if his life depended on it. Kane linked it to the overwhelming ratio of perspiration v. genius that adds up to excellence.

There's something else there though. It’s symptomatic of how intensely Japanese individuals and organizations have come to focus on discovering value within their constraints. Toyota’s continuous reform (kaizen) program is justly famous for the way they look at change as a continuous stream, but a lot less is said about the implicit mindset that allows for what feeds that continuous stream. It’s the idea of working your framework so intensely and carefully and allowing the individual changes combine and “re” form the whole until you’ve eventually got a different box. But you didn’t start out insisting on getting out the box. In fact, it comes from a culturally mandated willingness to focus intensely on where you are and what you have. (The flip side of course, is that it can drive you mad to be so constrained, but more on that another time.)

What I was saying about the incredible Tokyo discipline to obey what can seem like a pettifogging rule of standing on the left is, I’m convinced, part of the same phenomenon—everyone is intent on getting the most out of every frigging commuting minute. It just wouldn’t happen that way otherwise. Same reason Japanese geeks are the most intense geeks anywhere. Or why Japanese classical concertgoers bring sheet music to performances. And why I am currently obsessed with us doing a better job facilitating the exchange when our project leaders can convey to donors the sense of incredible value and adventure that every project on our site represents. Here’s just a hint of what donors say when when the value gets uncovered. (It’s also why I try to wash and reuse our ziploc bags. It just seems un-Japanese not to.)