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Why Gamification Fails: A Parable

A business man asks car makers to deliver his goods.

A business man sells anvils, bicycles, and May poles. One day he notices how fast Ferraris go and dreams of the day when he could use Ferraris to deliver his goods. How fast they would go! So he commissions a team of automobile engineers and says “Make me a Ferrari to transport four anvils, ten bicycles, and a May pole.” The team sets to work. After a few months, the chief engineer comes and says, “The anvils are too heavy. Can we reduce the number of anvils?” The man answers, no, the anvils are very important to the project. A few months later, the chief engineer comes again and says “The bicycles bounce around and damage each other. Can you redesign the bicycles so they fit together better?” Again the man says no; the point of the project is to deliver the bicycles as they are, not to redesign the bicycles. Several months later the chief engineer comes for a third time and says, “The May pole is too long. Can you offer a shorter May pole?” The business man is offended. “A shorter May pole! The whole point of a May pole is to be tall and grand and beautiful, one piece of wood that stretches up into the sky and draws the maidens into the dance! The May pole stays as it is!” The engineer returns to the shop. After several years and several million dollars, the team comes back with the promised vehicle. It is a large cargo truck that goes 80 km/h like any other, except it has been painted Ferrari red. “It’s too slow!” exclaims the business man. “I told you to build me a speedy car for deliveries, not a cargo truck!” The chief engineer responds, “Master, if you wanted to use a Ferrari to deliver your goods, you should have bought one and determined what it could carry. For if a man hopes to capture the magic of a glorious vehicle, he must fit himself to the vehicle, not the vehicle to himself.”

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