Linking learning & labour

I’m a huge Asimov fan, and am constantly amazed at how he was able to have a perspective of the future on multiple fronts. I was reminded of two of those recently thanks to their application (of sorts) in contemporary scenarios.

First, Hari Seldon‘s (pretty much the foundation of Asimov’s Foundation series) psychohistory, which was able to make general predictions on the future behaviour of large populations using history, sociology and statistics. The easy contemporary connection is big data and predictive analytics.

Second, a short story written by him called ‘Profession‘, (do read) in which every person’s profession is based on an analysis of his/her brain, and no choice is given to the person in this matter! In India, we seem to be already there even without the analysis!

Collectively, these two made me think of employment, and on a related note, education. The thought was that with so much of data available on education and employment, we should be able to create ‘tests’ to compute the interest and aptitude of individuals at a very early age. What this would aim to do is to eliminate the herd education that currently exists. Instead, children would learn things that help them in a profession for which they have the intent and interest, using say, a combination of traditional classrooms and MOOCs. Also, this would no longer be one part of a life cycle, but a continuous process – helping the individual thrive in a dynamic environment.

If you remember, LinkedIn was my representative for ‘L’ in the ‘change imperative‘ deck. That was because I felt that it had the data and the vision to be the catalyst for this kind of a change. I was very happy when it underscored this faith with the fantastic ‘future self‘ experiment, in which they identified the future professional self (5 year time frame) of LinkedIn user Kurt Wagner – another user Mussarat Bata – using various data points!

LinkedIn hasn’t really built this as a public tool, but just imagine the possibilities! A platform that shows people the possibilities which take them closer to their ‘purpose’. (remember ‘The Evolution of Work and the Workplace‘?) I sincerely hope to see this in my lifetime. :)

until next time, live and learn



Sometime back, there was a debate on Samadooram, a talk show on Mazhavil Manorama. The topic was the changing nature of colleges in Kerala, specifically the waning influence of arts and creativity in general. Panelists included a student politician, a regular student, a college professor, a socio-cultural commentator, a literary figure, among others. Among the various sub-topics discussed were the rapid increase in number of colleges, the pressure on students, the internet revolution, the effects of changing societal and familial conditions, with several aggressive comments on how the earlier generation should give way to the new, rebutted well by the older panelists. All the panelists, and many in the audience gave varying perspectives on the subject and it became a very interesting albeit noisy debate, which brought out several moments of generational difference.

When the Roadies spoof became a rage and a discussion topic, I remembered tuning out after Season 1 because I just couldn’t understand the entire exercise. I also understood that for some reason, it meant a lot for a section of the 18-25 audience, and that it was a big deal.

It made me think of what has changed, beyond the passage of time  and why. I realised that the entire ‘intent’ of various phases in our lives had changed. The innocence of childhood, the new found freedom and the process of evolving a world view during college have all given way to a single point agenda for the child from the time it is born. The intent is to mould a creature that can survive the peer competition and whatever else the world can throw at it. The changes in education and the college atmosphere are IMO, by-products of this.

The paradox is that thanks to the internet, this is probably the best time for an individual to explore and make the most of his interests in life. It gives you the freedom and the tools to be the person you want to be. Unfortunately, it is quite possible that at a young age, they don’t have the confidence (or even the clarity of thought) to choose a path. They are guided by society’s norms, norms which have a benchmark of ‘success’ that rarely accommodates the individuality perspective. The ones who break these shackles get to live a life.

until next time, grown down

Gamification – Level 1

Yes, it is quite the shiny new object in the marketing/enterprise conversations around the web. One of the positives is that there are always new and updated resources in addition to some well thought out perspectives from advocates as well as naysayers on its applications on the consumer facing side, as well as the business side. For starters, I quite liked this ‘Gamification and its discontents’ deck (via Tom Fishburne’s post on gamification) that is meant to serve as a primer before marketers set out to apply ‘gamification’.

But though it’s very early days in terms of a structured approach to the concept of gamification, I’m quite upbeat on it. One of the primary reasons for that is its inherent application that has been happening throughout my life so far. The education system’s ranks and grades (performing x task well earns you y points) not only decide entry into schools, colleges, universities and the progression there abut also gets to dictate a lot of ‘real’ social experiences within (standing among peers, popularity) as well as without. (the varying reactions to the answers to ‘Where/what do you study’? in a social gathering) Many systems have even learned how to factor in different kinds of activities – say, sports and academics, as well as types of pedagogy. A constantly evolving ‘rank’ is built over time and the badges earned and the places they’ve been earned at also have a hand in the work stage that happens immediately after education.

From landing the first job to designations that happen later, we continue living in a world of points and badges. In fact, I had tweeted some time ago that gamification already existed in the enterprise in the form of designations. The badges also continue to affect real life through the other reward -the salary we get, which is a function of what we have done so far as well as what we are doing. Other acquisitions from that (car, house, vacations, contacts in the phonebook) decide social standing and open further ‘game’ opportunities. I can visualise life as one gigantic gameplay with said and unsaid rules. The badges and rewards were a system unto itself, until our own evolution made us rethink this. The result has been a linkage to a larger life purpose for many of us. Some of us do this within the existing structures, while others make their own niche/walled structures and rules. But that’s a different post. Meanwhile, unlike most other games, there’s only one life, and that’s what probably makes it more exciting. :)

When social networks came into our lives, we first had fun connecting with friends and potential friends, and then immediately sought to apply gamification by comparing number of friends and followers, #ff, recommendations, lists, circles and so on. Also arrived continually evolving systems to measure our activities – as a factor of presence, reach and credibility across networks – Klout, PeerIndex and Kred, for example. Increasingly, they will impact and even integrate with our ‘real’ game. My point is that we seem to inherently understand gamification and more often than not accept this. Hence, my belief that well thought out applications – consumer or enterprise, have a good chance of succeeding.

I just realised that the ‘introduction’ itself has been a long drawn one. So I’ll wait till next week to share my thoughts on application.

until next time, game on