Einstein’s Path to Productivity: Create a Culture Where it’s OK to Fail

Successful creative people—whether a designer, musician, marketing strategist, artist, inventor, film director or even Go Game producer—aren’t afraid to fail. It’s not that they like failing per se. It’s just that trying new things, which is de rigueur for innovative people, leads to frequent failure.

Case in point: Albert Einstein made a lot of mistakes. But clearly, missteps didn’t slow him down. He published roughly 300 journal articles and, holds the record as one of history’s most bad-ass geniuses of all time.

Einstein’s IQ of 160 didn’t hurt, but it’s his process that is also noteworthy. Dr. Benay Dara-Abrams grew up down the street from Einstein and, having no idea the physicist was famous at the time, did puzzles with him as a kid. In a piece titled “What I Learned from Einstein: The Importance of Culture,” published in The Huffington Post, Dara-Abrams writes:

We often tried approaches that didn’t work out, but that was fine with Einstein. He encouraged experimentation and wasn’t critical of wrong turns. In fact, he didn’t consider any of the paths we tried to be wrong. That was a major difference between my experience with Einstein and my experience with many other adults. There were no right or wrong answers, there were just experiments, with curiosity leading the way, and that was the way I learned at Einstein’s house.

The no-penalties-for-failure atmosphere at Einstein’s house enabled Dara-Abrams to experience complete absorption in his tasks, a mental state called the flow state or being in the zone. It’s a highly productive state of mind that can only happen in the right situations. And given Einstein’s great body of work, it’s not surprising he knew the secret to productivity: Create a culture where people are unafraid to fail.

Einsteinäó»s Path to Productivity: Create a Culture Where itäó»s OK to Fail

Successful creative peopleäóîwhether a designer, musician, marketing strategist, artist, inventor, film director or even Go Game produceräóîarenäó»t afraid to fail. Itäó»s not that they like failing per se. Itäó»s just that trying new things, which is de rigueur for innovative people, leads to frequent failure.

Case in point: Albert Einstein made a lot of mistakes. But clearly, missteps didnäó»t slow him down. He published roughly 300 journal articles and, holds the record as one of historyäó»s most bad-ass geniuses of all time.

Einsteinäó»s IQ of 160 didnäó»t hurt, but itäó»s his process that is also noteworthy. Dr. Benay Dara-Abrams grew up down the street from Einstein and, having no idea the physicist was famous at the time, did puzzles with him as a kid. In a piece titled äóìWhat I Learned from Einstein: The Importance of Culture,äó published in The Huffington Post, Dara-Abrams writes:

We often tried approaches that didnäó»t work out, but that was fine with Einstein. He encouraged experimentation and wasnäó»t critical of wrong turns. In fact, he didnäó»t consider any of the paths we tried to be wrong. That was a major difference between my experience with Einstein and my experience with many other adults. There were no right or wrong answers, there were just experiments, with curiosity leading the way, and that was the way I learned at Einsteinäó»s house.

The no-penalties-for-failure atmosphere at Einsteinäó»s house enabled Dara-Abrams to experience complete absorption in his tasks, a mental state called the flow state or being in the zone. Itäó»s a highly productive state of mind that can only happen in the right situations. And given Einsteinäó»s great body of work, itäó»s not surprising he knew the secret to productivity: Create a culture where people are unafraid to fail.

Case Study: Handshakes and Baby Kisses

In the spring of 2016, Christopher Knight, director of loss prevention at CVS in Phoenix, was in search of something different for the annual offsite meeting with his team. He was looking for an event that would complement his company’s values, which Chris defines with a few key words: collaboration, caring, integrity, accountability and innovation.

Not only that, he wanted an experience that would be more fun than what he could put together himself. “Let me put it simply,” says Chris. “I know my limitations. I can put together something and spend hours and hours working on it, or I can spend [some money] and have a great experience with experts who know how to do this.”

Chris is responsible for guiding a team of 30 people with two roles: all of physical security (training, access, badges, alarms, video, etc.) and diversion mitigation (investigations, audits, compliance, etc.). His department, he adds, “focuses on the integrity part of the values at CVS. We deal with negative situations. It’s not like we’re shaking hands with senators or kissing babies all day.”

His team ranges in age from 22 to 63—a broad spectrum of people who could easily have difficulty feeling close-knit and enjoying two days together offsite. So in addition to finding the right team builders, Chris knew that a fun location was critical for success. He selected Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Arizona. The hotel has reinvented itself since opening in the 1950s, now showcasing its mid-century architecture with a playful, hip vibe. Chris likened the hotel’s modern adaptations to when CVS acquired Caremark in 2007, a game-changing move that combined retail with pharmacy and propelled CVS into the lead in the healthcare space.

It’s not like we’re shaking hands with senators or kissing babies all day.”

To help his team really connect, he decided upon The Classic Go Game. “Everyone and their brother has been on a scavenger hunt,” Chris says, “but not one that gets people to work together like this.” He especially liked the incorporation of technology and how it helped everyone think differently and collaboratively. “The leader was fantastic,” Chris says, applying the word “loud” in a seldom-heard complimentary way. “If I saw his face in 20 years, I’d know it.”

So did The Go Game help support his company’s values as he’d hoped it would? “Absolutely. It gave people an opportunity to collaborate. There was accountability. And people took it seriously, but they had a great time.” A high dose of fun was especially important for Chris’ team, so he appreciated that the good times carried over beyond the event: “People also enjoyed having access to the pictures and videos afterward.”

Success! Meanwhile, back at The Go Game HQ, we’re exploring the depths of game development to figure out if we can ramp up the fun factor by adding a few handshakes with senators or finding some babies to kiss. (We never knew people yearned for that.)

Play Outside: Free App from The Go Game

Happy 100th birthday to the National Park Service! Thanks to a little-known and completely inept explorer—a man named Truman Everts who got lost in the West for 37 days—America’s first national park was created in 1872. Following the establishment of Yellowstone, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service on August 25, 1916. To celebrate our national parks and the great outdoors in general, we produced a game geared toward, well, fun—as well as stepping outside.

According to The Outdoor Foundation a growing number of Americans use technology and mobile devices to get outside, and 35 percent of Americans enjoy sharing their experiences with others via mobile technology. Most every one has a phone (or a friend with a phone) these days, so grab an iphone or Android and search for The Go Game in the app store. Download our free game (using the super secret passcode: gix), call a few friends (or not—teams can range from one to five people, so configure it however you like) and head outside.

What’s the Game Like?
We have nine missions for you. You’ll find everything from a dance challenge (inspired by John Griffith, a crew supervisor in the California Conservation Corps) to manipulating perspective—all of which can be captured by video and photo on your digital device. Complete as many missions as you like during the month of September, and—here’s the best part—you could win sweet prizes! Additionally, for each photo or video you post on Twitter or Facebook, we’ll donate a buck to the National Park Foundation.

It doesn’t matter if you’re in Yosemite, your local park, camping in the wilderness or just wandering in an open field at the end of a cul de sac. As long as you’re outside, you’re ready to play our game. Let’s do this! We can’t wait to see how your missions unfold.

Check out John Griffith’s moves.

Play Outside

Below is a list of prizes you could win if you participate in our Play Outside game during the month of September. 

Trail Mavens Trip (single player)

Our dear friend & Go Game producer Sasha Cox started a company called Trail Mavens. Bringing together awesome women to explore, connect, and hone their adventuring skills in the great outdoors. 

Hip Camp gift certificate (single player or team)

The airbnb of camping, started by surfer/coder Alyssa Ravasio. 

Alite gift certificate (team)

A small independent outdoor company focused on making the outdoors simple and fun, founded by Alaska-born / SF-dwelling Tae Kim. 

More info: www.thegogame.com/playoutside // jenny@thegogame.com

Happy Employees are More Creative Employees

Maybe you missed the big news back in 2013, but the whole left brain/right brain theory isn’t as simple as we were led to believe. Sure, one side does some heavy lifting when, for example, counting out loud (that’s the left), but neuroscientists now say that the two hemispheres mostly work together.

Well, sort of. Actually, scientists think that the hemispheres work semi-independently to solve problems, each side of the brain taking a different approach. In this fashion, we use both sides of our brain almost all of the time in an interactive cognitive process. So if creative thinking doesn’t come from the right side of the brain, where does it happen and why do we care?

Let’s answer the second question first: Because creative thinking is highly valuable in most workplaces—at least the creative cultures that require more than funky furniture and a laid-back dress code. And, it turns out, that happy employees just might be your most creative employees.

Now back to the first question: One recent study, done in an fMRI scanner with jazz musicians improvising together, found the first item of interest: Playing free-form improv slowed down activity in their brains’ dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), which is the mothering part of the brain that plans and self-censors. (Makes sense. Right?)

The DLPFC is involved in risk, moral and cost-and-benefit decision making. It’s also a section of the brain that takes ridiculously long to develop, which explains the questionable judgment of teenagers.

In another recent study, also done with fMRI and jazz musicians, neuroscientists showed musicians photos of “an actress representing a positive, negative or ambiguous emotion” before they began playing music.

What these researchers discovered is that emotion has an impact on the actual way our brains act when being creative. The sad photo stimulated connectivity between the insula, the spot that manages visceral awareness, and the substantia nigra, an area that oversees pleasure and reward (which explains the prevalence of break-up songs in society). And the positive emotion deactivated the DLPFC the most, meaning that happiness set the scene for a deeper state of creative flow by shutting down the brain’s mothering tendencies.

To extrapolate from these studies and transfer the findings to the workplace, it would make sense that happy employees, surrounded by positivity, are likely to be the most creative because they’ll be able to deactivate more of the DLPFC. The moral? Hire happy people. And keep them that way—unless you’re in the music industry.

10 Tips for Team-Building Success

Professional golfer Arnold Palmer once said, “Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated.” And golf isn’t even a team sport. Add a few more humans into the mix and so many factors—poor communication, clashing personalities, lack of trust, misunderstood goals—can lead to utter chaos. Studies show that these problems, and others, can undermine almost any team—whether it’s made up of powerful executives or other co-workers.

Like romance, there’s no way to force the magic. But we’ve been in the team-building business long enough to know how to tilt the odds in your favor.  

1. Identify the Goal
What’s the objective? Is it to amplify a sense of teamwork throughout the organization, or is this an opportunity for an existing team to learn to work together better? There’s a difference and different ways to approach it.

2. Training Versus Team Building
Training and teambuilding are both important, but they’re different beasts. Overt instruction in transferable work skills is training. Situations that foster interaction by working toward shared goals and incorporating fun are the essence of good team building.

3. It’s a Business Expense
Team building isn’t a gift to employees or a special extravagance. Tally it as part of doing business. Employee retention, company culture, and engaged and productive teams are worth an investment.

4. Go Offsite
Memorable events rarely have anything to do with another day at the office.

5. Seek Experiences
Experiences are the key to happiness. And research shows that happy employees work more effectively, creatively and collaboratively.

6. But Not Just Any Experiences
Going to comedy clubs, attending baseball games or concerts and listening to poetry readings are spectator events. They’re easy to participate in without much interaction. Instead, look for interactive experiences that level the playing field for everyone. Ideally, seek situations where everyone is stretched a little beyond the comfort zone.

7. Once a Year Isn’t Enough
Why do so many couples in long-term relationships schedule regular date nights? Hmmmm…

8. Hire the Experts
Outsource to get the most innovative, fun and powerful experience possible. As we mentioned earlier, it’s a business expense.

9. If it Ain’t Broke
If an outside facilitator provided an outstanding experience, work with them again. Finding something new, just for the sake of novelty, is risky and time consuming. Most team-building experts offer plenty of variety and can accommodate return customers.

10. Evaluate
Was there laughter? High fives? A sense of accomplishment? Did employees rate it as a worthwhile experience? And did some of that vibe follow everyone back to the office? If so, that was successful team building.

Pokémon Go & The Pursuit of Happiness

Only 10 days after its release, Pokémon Go was declared the biggest mobile game in U.S. history. That’s right. Americans cast aside Angry Birds and Candy Crush to chase virtual Pokémon creatures all over the world, getting arrested for trespassing, among other things, while they were at it.

Outside of mobile gaming, the most popular board game in history is chess, and the childhood favorite, according to an unscientific aggregation of The Go Game Google searches, is hide-and-seek. (And not to steal the thunder from Pokémon Go, but chess and hide-and-seek have their own share of reported arrests, such as Bobby Fischer for violating economic sanctions against Yugoslavia for playing a match in that country, seven men who were caught playing chess in New York City in a park area off-limits to adults unaccompanied by kids, and the naked guy who got stuck in a chimney for 12 hours in a game of hide-and-seek gone awry.

So, aside from weird arrests, what do Pokémon Go, chess and hide-and-seek have in common? The short answer: the pursuit of happiness.

Games, if they’re good, are built to offer rewards as they’re played—points, other people’s game pieces or the glee of finding a well-hidden friend. These rewards activate the brain’s pleasure center, which releases dopamine. When that happens, it’s like we’ve drunk from a super hero’s water bottle. Dopamine boosts our motivation and concentration. We feel euphoric. Without getting too deep into the science, dopamine is a dose of happiness at its most foundational level. Matthias Koepp and his colleagues documented this relationship between dopamine and video games in a study published in the journal Nature in 1998.

But the pursuit of happiness isn’t only about a dopamine fix. Games, if well engineered, can offer social interaction with other people, distraction from day-to-day life (a.k.a. recreation), a sense of accomplishment, the opportunity to use our imaginations and sometimes even a sense of belonging. (Fact: There are still Dungeons and Dragons groups out there. Bonus trivia: Which is saying something because D&D was first released in 1974.)

Because we’re in the industry and love play in all its forms, we were also curious to compare and contrast the Pokémon Go experience with what we create. Overall, The Go Game and Pokémon Go are similar in the sense that both turn the real world into a game, but instead of looking at the world through a device, our games foster deeper interactions with the physical environment and the people within it.
 
To break it down: Both games use technology to get people outside, move around physically and explore their surroundings in a new way. Like Pokémon Go, our games augment reality, not in the form of virtual AR, but by bringing actors and fictional challenges into the mix.

But the similarities end there. Pokémon Go players pursue virtual critters that rustle in the bushes and battle other players’ pets, while The Go Game players solve riddles and crusade against other teams in head-to-head challenges of wit and skill. In The Go Game, players take goofy photos and videos of their colleagues and friends instead of virtual monsters. And perhaps most notably, while Pokémon Go brings strangers together to form teams, The Go Game unites co-workers in collaboration—the pursuit of happiness with a team.

Whether Pokémon Go stands the test of time is yet to be determined, but, at its core, the latest in digital gaming is similar to other popular games—even The Go Game, except we have no rap sheet.

Pokí©mon Go & The Pursuit of Happiness

Only 10 days after its release, Pokí©mon Go was declared the biggest mobile game in U.S. history. Thatäó»s right. Americans cast aside Angry Birds and Candy Crush to chase virtual Pokí©mon creatures all over the world, getting arrested for trespassing, among other things, while they were at it.

Outside of mobile gaming, the most popular board game in history is chess, and the childhood favorite, according to an unscientific aggregation of The Go Game Google searches, is hide-and-seek. (And not to steal the thunder from Pokí©mon Go, but chess and hide-and-seek have their own share of reported arrests, such as Bobby Fischer for violating economic sanctions against Yugoslavia for playing a match in that country, seven men who were caught playing chess in New York City in a park area off-limits to adults unaccompanied by kids, and the naked guy who got stuck in a chimney for 12 hours in a game of hide-and-seek gone awry.

So, aside from weird arrests, what do Pokí©mon Go, chess and hide-and-seek have in common? The short answer: the pursuit of happiness.

Games, if theyäó»re good, are built to offer rewards as theyäó»re playedäóîpoints, other peopleäó»s game pieces or the glee of finding a well-hidden friend. These rewards activate the brainäó»s pleasure center, which releases dopamine. When that happens, itäó»s like weäó»ve drunk from a super heroäó»s water bottle. Dopamine boosts our motivation and concentration. We feel euphoric. Without getting too deep into the science, dopamine is a dose of happiness at its most foundational level. Matthias Koepp and his colleagues documented this relationship between dopamine and video games in a study published in the journal Nature in 1998.

But the pursuit of happiness isnäó»t only about a dopamine fix. Games, if well engineered, can offer social interaction with other people, distraction from day-to-day life (a.k.a. recreation), a sense of accomplishment, the opportunity to use our imaginations and sometimes even a sense of belonging. (Fact: There are still Dungeons and Dragons groups out there. Bonus trivia: Which is saying something because D&D was first released in 1974.)

Because weäó»re in the industry and love play in all its forms, we were also curious to compare and contrast the Pokí©mon Go experience with what we create. Overall, The Go Game and Pokí©mon Go are similar in the sense that both turn the real world into a game, but instead of looking at the world through a device, our games foster deeper interactions with the physical environment and the people within it.
ξ
To break it down: Both games use technology to get people outside, move around physically and explore their surroundings in a new way. Like Pokí©mon Go, our games augment reality, not in the form of virtual AR, but by bringing actors and fictional challenges into the mix.

But the similarities end there. Pokí©mon Go players pursue virtual critters that rustle in the bushes and battle other playersäó» pets, while The Go Game players solve riddles and crusade against other teams in head-to-head challenges of wit and skill. In The Go Game, players take goofy photos and videos of their colleagues and friends instead of virtual monsters. And perhaps most notably, while Pokí©mon Go brings strangers together to form teams, The Go Game unites co-workers in collaborationäóîthe pursuit of happiness with a team.

Whether Pokí©mon Go stands the test of time is yet to be determined, but, at its core, the latest in digital gaming is similar to other popular gamesäóîeven The Go Game, except we have no rap sheet.

Your physcial therapist could prescribe video-games!

The Go Game is always looking for brand new ways to incorporate cool interactive technology into our games and simulations. Technologies like Augmented Reality and sensors that collect external information are inching out of science fiction and into our daily lives. At the Go Game, we’re interested in how we can put these types of technologies into use in our games. Many have begun to see how they can improve lives with a fusion of games and technology. MIRA (Medical Interactive Recovery Assistant), is a software that has melded technology, health, and — our favorite! — games.

Many patients (such as Cosmin Mihaiu, the founder of MIRA) find their physiotherapy exercises fantastically dull and unappealing. On top of this, physical therapy and rehabilitation after an injury can be both physically and emotionally draining. MIRA’s software helps recovering patients actually have fun while completing exercises that help them regain control over their bodies. The system operates on existing hardware, so it is accessible for immediate use by doctors, and hopefully patients will soon be using it at home. The system transforms existing physical therapy exercises into video games that give patients instant feedback and positive reinforcement. An external sensor tracks the patient’s progress, and sends the information straight to their physical therapist. In an interview Mihaiu said that, “patients stay entertained and feel rewarded as they watch themselves advance from level to level, gathering points and so on. They feel like they’re making progress — and of course, by doing the exercises, they actually are!” Disguising physical therapy as video games inspires patients to work through their recovery faster, while having more fun!

Innovations like MIRA  combine blend games and technology to fuel positive healing and growth. We already love games because they are fun and entertaining. Now, with advances in technology like MIRA’s sensitive motion-detecting sensors  – and the creativity to use them well – we can amplify the power of play and its effects.

So what do you think? At the Go Game, we see technology as an opportunity to improve individual growth and strengthen human connections. We’re playing with how to fully employ these kinds of new technologies in our newest projects. How do you want to see kinetic sensors, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and other cutting-edge technology used in games? Let us know!