Ada Lovelace Day 2011 – Inspiration from Jane McGonigal

I missed writing about someone on Ada Lovelace Day this year because I was actually teaching my MBA class about a great technology heroine – Jane McGonigal.

I love the concept behind Ada Lovelace Day. In order to encourage more women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the day is used to discuss women from these fields that have had an impact on your life. It’s named after Ada Lovelace, who was the world’s first computer programmer and an expert on Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine.

I talk about Lovelace in all of my classes too. But yesterday on Ada Lovelace Day, I played this video for my class:

When we discussed it in class, there were a few good innovation points that came up:

  • McGonigal is innovating the business model for gaming by adding a key ingredient – purpose. If we look at the conclusions from Dan Pink’s drive, there are three factors that lead to satisfying work: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Video games currently provide players with the first two – autonomy and mastery. That’s why they’re so addictive. But the games that McGonigal designs also have a purpose – to save the world. That’s revolutionary.
  • If you’re going to innovate something, you might as well innovate something that matters. There are plenty of people writing new video games. But writing games that are specifically designed to enable positive changes in the way people live is more rare. In her book Reality is Broken, McGonigal is saying that the games we play should be designed to have an impact in the world. In other words, we need more opportunities to feel what gamers feel, but that we should be achieving this in contexts that pertain to the real world. That’s why I love Evoke – it’s a game, but the real world outcomes are substantial (the website for Evoke is worth some of your time – it’s fascinating). There’s a nice review of RiB by Joe MacCarthy here.

That’s why Jane McGonigal is one of my technology heroes. She is fantastically creative, and she is using her skills and talents to try to create meaningful change. That makes her a great heroine on Ada Lovelace Day.

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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