About the Biz, Methodologies

Personal Development in only 3 minutes?

Gamifying the Experience

We’ve done several sessions of the full, mediated personal development plan.  The most common feedback question that comes back: this is great when it is moderated, but how can you ever turn this into software?  Will you use videos?  Will you just sell it to life coaches?  How will you introduce this to the average Joe or Jan on the street?

In one of my previous lives, I built a company where we developed video games.  We were always planning on making gamification a big part of driving personal development.  The original idea was that gamification would come in as an afterthought, as icing on an already tasty cake.  The more feedback we get, the more it feels like the entire system should be structured like a game from the get go.  The newbie level will be an introduction to the concepts and we will gradually unlock all the different pieces of know thyself and ultimately the entire development plan.  Yes, there may be videos along the way but everything will be introduced in very bite sized pieces.

The 3 Minute Rule

As I was explaining the idea of the Odyssey to one of my closest friends, whom I started the video game company with and who stayed in the industry, he brought up the 3 minute rule.  A lot of the titles that he publishes these days are mobile titles.  One of the golden rules for a mobile game is that you have to be able to have a satisfying experience in 3 minutes or less.  This means that you can play a round while on the subway or on the can.  It has to be an encounter that can give you a sense of accomplishment in that time frame.

Turns out the 3-minute rule has applications in a ton of other scenarios.  We all know that the average pop song is around three minutes.  The Beastie Boys actually had a song called the 3-minute rule, not that I would ever dare to categorize the Beastie Boys as pop.  Billy Joel also lamented the restriction in the Entertainer – “it was a beautiful song / but it ran too long / if you’re gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit / So they cut it down to 3:05.”

The 3 minute rule is also used in auctions and nautical measures.  Another interesting case is a philosophy that a venture firm proposed in the Harvard Business review about understanding your customers.  They found that you can learn a ton about them by asking them what they were doing three minutes before using your product and three minutes after.   These three minute chunks place the customer in context to see why they start using your product in the first place.  Similarly, the three minute chunk after they use your product gives you a sense of what they are doing with the outputs you provide, how you fit into the greater workflow.

The moral of the story seems to be that the human mind identifies three minutes as a minimal amount of time to get something necessary, like an errand, done.  I did some research on this to see if there is an evolutionary reason for the time period but failed to turn anything up.  If you have seen any research about this segment of time, please let us know in the comments.

Making Each Step Fun

The other rule that we want to pull from gaming is that it should be fun at every level of progression.  RTS(real time strategy) games were brilliant at this.  The early game was all about establishing a base, the mid game was about exploration and advancement while the end game was typically about destruction of the enemy.  Another good example of this is the game Rim World.  Although it sounds like some dirty space fantasy, it is actually a brilliant strategy game.  I don’t know anybody who plays it the same way.  My wife loves the early game of setting up the colony, where I love the end game.  My girls seem to enjoy the expansion that happens in the middle.  The point is that one game allows us all to enjoy it for different reasons.  This is what we want to bring to the Odyssey.

The Internet Quiz

Internet QuizSo how do we implement the 3 minute rule in personal development?  The first obvious way to do this is the internet quiz.  Half of the Know Thyself elements that we use are built around taking personality or character strength multiple choice quizzes that define some primary attribute(s) about yourself.  Buzzfeed made the internet quiz a staple over the last ten years so familiarity with the approach will not be a problem.

The next step is providing an enjoyable entry level experience.  This will start with narrowing the problem space.  Can we pick a couple of problems that are very common in the current zeitgeist and build a ‘make-your-own-adventure’ decision tree that will allow our users to address very real problems in bite sized chunks?  We hope so.

Finally, we need to build the entry level functionality with an eye towards the mid and end game.  Each step needs to be fun and each step needs to bring our users a step forward in their personal development.  Most of this will be presented by unlocking new functionality each step of the way until our users are working off of a full personal development scorecard.  Many of these ideas have been story-boarded and wire-framed.  Our next step will be getting some early user feedback.  Stay tuned!

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