Scott Crabtree Uses Gamification for his Happy Brain Science | Episode 116

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Scott Crabtree helps people apply science to thrive at work. After earning a degree in cognitive science from Vassar College, he went on to lead the design and development of video games and other software. He discovered the science of thriving (positive psychology and other brain sciences) in 2003 and immediately became a passionate student and teacher of that research. He resigned his senior leadership position at Intel in 2011 to found Happy Brain Science.

His Happy Brain Science clients include DreamWorks, Nike, Kaiser-Permanente, Boeing, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Activision, Blizzard Entertainment, and NBC. He continues to use his game development background to ‘gamify’ all of his keynotes and workshops. He’s also produced the successful ‘serious card game’ Choose Happiness @ Work. He applies the latest findings from adult learning and hears from audience members years later that they still remember and apply his immediately applicable techniques.

When not presenting the science of thriving at work, Scott enjoys playing music and getting into Oregon wilderness, especially with his wife and two daughters.

A typical week for Scott has a lot of variety and often one day doesn’t look like the next. A typical week could involve a workshop or two, whether that’s at google in California or more recently at the northern tip of Alaska, these workshops are often around the science of happiness or employee engagement. A week might also involve multiple executive coaching clients as Scott does both individual and group coaching to help people apply science to thrive at work. Scott also does a lot of writing and blogging and has a book coming out soon called ‘All Work and Some Play: Future-Proof Your Career through Games’. Scott also supports his card game Choose Happiness at Work that might involve such things as gameplay sessions or discussions that use the same cards. Finally, his week is ended with managing employees and contractors Scott partners with.

Scott’s favorite fail comes from his card game Choose Happiness at Work, his background is in video game design and development and when approaching this card game his first attempts were too complex with lots of rules and options. He spent months game testing and refining the game, getting input from external people and then when he was driving back from a workshop, he had the thought of getting rid of most of the rules. This led to a much simpler, more successful and engaging game and so the lesson Scott learned here was “sometimes we try too hard to make things great and sometimes stripping away and simplifying is the path to greatness”.

A story of success for Scott comes from within his speaking work and his want to bring more of his game background into his speaking work. He started off speaking about the science of happiness and fell in love with it which led to a new career and in-turn him quitting Intel. Around 2 years after this happened, he wanted to bring games and gamification into his speaking work and so started looking at frameworks and approaches that were out there. For Scott the success really came when he simplified the approach, this led to Scott’s framework ARMS which he used for the first session with a game within it. Not only was Scott teaching about gamification but at the same time, a game was being played. This was great for Scott as he personally found it fun and the feedback was great. A practice that Scott has found advantageous is when playing games with his audience is to throw around physical stress-balls (in the shape of a brain) as using these for points and having the physical element really helps get people involved and making the game engaging.

When Scott is approaching a new workshop his process firstly involves identifying the problem that can be solved and then looking for solid science that can solve that problem. Scott tries to ground everything he does in science as much as possible because he trusts science more than he trusts anyone’s opinions including his own and this comes from his background at Intel. From here Scott then tries to take all that science and distill it down into a form that people can immediately apply, the smallest amount of things that are absolutely necessary. Then it is important to figure out what action do people need to conduct to do the things he wants them to learn, and of course, what do they need to know to perform such actions. He wraps up with a form of debriefing.

If Scott was to recommend a best practice it would be around feedback and iteration, the inspiration from this comes from the quote “writing a novel is like driving at night, you can only see as far as your headlights but you can make the whole trip that way” by E.L. Doctorow, as in Scott’s opinion we start overthinking things and not taking action. For Scott, it is about taking this action but then seeking the feedback to see what is working and not working.

He would like to hear Thiagi on Professor Game who is a gamification expert with the focus on improving performance playfully and follows similar themes to Scott, how they can help organizations get the best from their brains through a playful approach. A book Scott would recommend is Glued to Games: How Video Games Draw Us In and Hold Us Spellbound by Richard M. Ryan and Scott Rigby.

One of Scott’s favorite games is StarCraft, specifically StarCraft II and another is a board game Settlers of Catan. He also considers Mini Metro one of his favorite games, it’s very different from other games and feels different as you play it and was made by friends of his when he worked at a games company in New Zealand.

Scott would say his superpower is his ability to understand science as well as the real business world and his ability to get the business world to understand the science world and how we can really thrive at work.

You can use code ‘choosehappy30’ to receive 30% off of Scott’s game Choose Happiness at Work. Scott also has a new book coming out soon ‘All Work and Some Play: The Scientific Case for Playing Games at Work’ that talks about how games are uniquely great at teaching 21st-century job skills. If people want more information around this contact Scott through his site and get on his mailing list. His final advice is to bring the world together through play!


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One Reply to “Scott Crabtree Uses Gamification for his Happy Brain Science | Episode 116”

  1. Pingback: Kristen Toohill with Games to Future Proof Your Career | Episode 125 – Professor Game

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