The craze of the new hot app, Pokémon Go, has taken the world by storm as people meander aimlessly trying to catch little creatures to their hearts content. As users continue to increase and we gain a better understanding of the fanfare this game has adopted an interesting parallel is developing which isn’t necessarily what the game is about at all, yet it’s a great learning opportunity for anyone in a leadership role.
Before we get into that, let’s start off with what the heck is this game anyways?
What is Pokémon Go?
It's a free-to-play, location-based, augmented reality, multiplayer online mobile game. It’s a rebirth of a game that came out originally in the early 90’s which allows you to search for critters, catch them, train them and battle with them. The game that was launched on July 6th uses your phone's GPS to track where you are while making use of a stylized Google map as the primary game board. Your character moves in the game as you walk around in real life, and events and objects – known as PokéStops – are associated with specific locations in the physical world. You can look at the game world through your phone's display which serves as a viewfinder that mixes reality with game objects.
What has Pokémon Go accomplished?
It took a mere 3 hours to hit #1 on the iPhone app sales charts and a total of 13 hours for the game to hit the top of the US sales charts, bringing in $2M a day in revenue. If that wasn’t impressive enough, its daily user penetration rate (% of people who download the app per day) is 10.81% whereas other blockbuster apps prior were only around 1.67% and 0.84%. The average amount of time a user spends on the app each day is upwards of 45 minutes and the games retention rates are double the industry norm. Lastly, this single app managed to raise Nintendo’s (creater of the app) market share by more than $7 billion, or 25%. Basically it’s minting money left and right for the gamer maker.
Why are so many people across such a large age range totally immersed in this app and what could we learn from it to implement in the workplace? After reading that some of you might be thinking “why do we need to learn anything from it? It’s a game, not work.” That’s a valid point and you would be justified in saying that however I think there’s a great learning opportunity for any business owner or person in leadership to take note.
People like Pokémon Go because it’s an experience!
As leaders in business if we took anything away from what this app has accomplished it should be that the majority of people out there respond positively to things which elicit an interactive, creative and fun experience. Is it then possible to harness the Pokémon Go experience and create that in a business setting? You bet your backside it is, it’ll just take a little creative licensing to make it work.
Before we get into the 'how' let’s quickly explore why we would want to do this in the first place?
It’s a simple fact that happy employees produce successful companies. When employees are cared for, respected and engaged successfully their productivity levels and general happiness soar in the workplace. When people are happy they take less sick days, require less vacation and go above and beyond on the regular. They don’t need to be told to go above and beyond as they do so naturally. It’s not a utopian day dream to think that this is possible for every company out there because it is indeed possible. It just requires someone to recognize the need for positive change and actually do something about it.
Now we’ll take what we’ve learned from the Pokémon Go experience and translate that into the workplace.
To create an experience that people will gravitate towards in the workplace we first have to listen and give people what they want, not what you (the leader) wants. Once we know what our people desire we need to deliver on it by creating a work environment and culture that people are drawn too. As Pokémon Go shows us people are willing to adopt things very quickly when it meets their needs and interests. Creating a culture and environment that supports collaboration, appreciation and respect, along with having fun, are good starting points.
We also need to keep in mind that over complicating things at work doesn’t necessarily make it a better experience. In fact, the simpler something is the better. Pokémon Go does this perfectly by using something we already know (our phone GPS) and integrates it with our personal space and creative expression. As a result we, the user, are put in the drivers’ seat to create an experience that is catered to our unique interests. What that looks like at work is giving people the autonomy to make decisions and do their job effectively.
There’s an added bonus for us in the workplace!
We can create an experience that is stimulating and rewarding without the worry of being hit by a car, running into light poles or literally falling on our faces, which have been some wonderful experiences to come as a result of using Pokémon Go.
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.