Volkswagen recently launched a website, www.thefuntheory.com, built around the idea that by adding fun into the equation it’s easier to change people’s behaviour for the better. In their own words…
“This site is dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better.”
To back up this idea, VW decided to re-think three everyday tasks and inject their own brand of fun into the situation to see if they could achieve a positive change. The projects they decided to undertake were to change a bottle bank into an arcade machine, a subway staircase into a musical instrument and a public bin into “the world’s deepest bin”. The results of each project have been documented on video and can been seen on the Fun Theory website. Having seen the videos and knowing how the projects turned out for VW it’s clear to see that an element of fun really can help achieve a change in behaviour. (Although I think that the novelty of the musical staircase would probably be outweighed by the rise in complaints about the noise and injuries cased during rush hour!)
For VW, the Fun Theory website acts as a positive influence on their brand name even though it doesn’t have any real relevance to the world of automobiles or their day-to-day business. This is not always the case when you are trying to change behaviours in other lines of business, but that is not to say that it cannot be achieved! The same technique can be seen in many other businesses. For instance lots of energy companies are now trying to push the use of real-time energy monitors to help their customers see how much energy they use. This type of interaction allows the customer to see the impact they can have by making small adjustments, turning the whole process of reducing their consumption into a challenge that the customer can track and monitor.
Another example of introducing fun can be seen in www.smart.fm, which claims to take the hard work out of learning. The service aims keep people motivated to hit their goals by creating personalised learning programmes for them. The programmes are designed to harness the powers of a learning technique called graduated interval recall, guiding the learner to revisit their learning at key points to aid the retention of the knowledge. The fun factor in this service is that you are able to monitor your progress in a variety of formats, from tracking personal goals to testing long-term retention or item memory strength, and many other formats. The whole service is also available on the move via the iPhone which again buys into the fun factor of making the service available without the need to be in front of a PC.
There are probably many other engaging examples of fun being used to change behaviours and this seems like an opportunity that’s too good for the e-learning industry to miss.