LinkedIn: The New Online Video Game for Businesspeople???
I've been reading Steven Johnson's new book, Everything Bad Is Good For You, and I must admit, I'm very impressed. The back cover says, "...Johnson argues that the pop culture we soak in every day [including video games, and television shows, such as '24' and Desperate Housewives], has been growing more sophisticated with each passing year, posing new cognitive challenges that are actually making our minds measurably sharper".
In Part I of his book, he goes into "Games", online games such as Everquest, Ultima, SimCity and the like and for 30 pages describes the very things I do on LinkedIn every day. Johnson's last book, an excellent expose of the brain and its functions called Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life, certainly qualifies him as more of an expert on grey matter than anyone *I* know.
He says in "Everything Bad",
"Where our brain wiring is concerned, the craving instinct triggers a desire to explore. The [brain's dopamine] system says, in effect: "Can't find the reward you were promised? Perhaps if you just look a little harder you'll be in luck---it's got to be around here somewhere." He says, "Most of the crucial work in game interface design revolves around keeping players notified of potential rewards available to them, and how much those rewards are currently needed." "Seeking" is the perfect word for the drive these designs instill in their players. "When you are hooked on a game, what draws you in is an elemental form of desire: the desire to see the next thing".
"In the video game world, you learn by playing. This is one reason video games can be frustrating to the non-initiated. You sit down at the computer and say, "What am I supposed to do?" The regular gamers in the room have to explain, "You're supposed to figure out what you're supposed to do." You have to probe the depths of the game's logic to make sense of it, and like most probing expeditions, you get results by trial and error, by stumbling across things, by following hunches."
"Early PacMan players found that the monsters roamed the maze in predictable ways, and if you followed a certain course---literally called a "pattern"---you'd complete the level without losing a man every time you played. Patterns weren't built into the official rules of the game; they were a legacy effect of the limited computational power of the arcade machine. To detect those limitation, you had to probe the PacMan game by playing it hundreds of times, experimenting with different strategies until one sequence revealed itself. Video games force you to speculate about what's going on under the hood. You have to probe [the physics of the game] to progress."
Okay, so I admit it, I am hooked on LinkedIn, it is *my* video game. I probe the physics of it at every turn. I really do want to know what LinkedIn's forwarding algorithm is! I want to connect directly with others to shorten the distance between me and others who might be able to help me (my "guild" or "clan", oh no, I'm starting to sound like my teenager!). My connections and I chat on Yahoo IM just like my teenage son does with his "guildmates". And in the end, this is a bona fide business activity, one in which many deep and valuable relationships are being developed every day.
Because the dynamics of my network is different than anyone else's it actually exhibits properties of emergence, which Johnson has also written about. Although my LinkedIn world is a different world than yours, as we probe the physics of this together and share our experiences, [MLPF is a great resource for that], we can discover the world together, and hopefully, change it for the better.
In search of a dopamine reward, perhaps, I check my LinkedIn home page a few times every day looking for new "Invitations to Connect" or "Requests to Forward". I search (probe) all different ways to find out who is who in my industry, my city, or my position.
And in the end, I still have people ask me, "So what do you get out of this, is it worth the time you put into it?".
I don't know, let me go and see how many people I can reach now!