What Designers of Task Management Apps Can Do to Catch Up with Pokemon Go

Francis Wade
Sep 12, 2016 · 19 min read

Two Schools: Innovation Meets Gamification

The first school of thought originates from HBS Professor Clay Christiansen. He’s an expert in disruptive innovation and helped create the idea that a customer needs to be seen as “someone who is trying to get a job done.” He discourages companies from focusing too much on features and benefits of their software, products, and services.

The User/Player Journey

Most online gamers are familiar with the idea of the Player’s Journey. This growth from lower to higher levels is marked by measurable shows of achievement, the addition of special powers and a capacity to learn and execute new skills. Well-designed games keep players hooked by making this journey clear, along with the milestones needed to get to the next level.


How This Knowledge Can Help Developers

When any professional who helps people cope with time demands doesn’t understand the entire journey, things can become difficult.

Designing for Game-Play

During the course of this article, I have hinted at a single game everyone plays that spans all six levels. For simplicity’s sake, let’s call it “The Time Demand Capacity Game.”

  1. Unfortunately, a real score-sheet does not exist that indicates how well we are doing. All we have to use are a blend of intuition and gut feelings. We know something feels wrong, for example, when time demands start falling through the cracks. When other unwanted symptoms show up we start looking for answers. They include lateness, falling behind email, not spending enough time on relationships, experiencing a work-life imbalance, missing due dates, not entering the flow state/deep work and suffering from a ruined reputation. A good score-sheet would send us an alert when these problems started happening.
  2. To make things worse, the feedback mechanisms are haphazard. When the symptoms mentioned before start happening, they show up in drips and drabs, making them easy to ignore. It’s easy to misinterpret them, believing they are either coincidental or caused by random factors.
  3. Fortunately, in this game, most players have the autonomy to choose their own level. Few companies impose the use of task management tools, leaving the user to up-level as needed.
  4. There is very little coaching available in playing the Time Demand Capacity Game. Most coaches, authors or trainers use a “follow my example” approach, leading users to get stuck at their preferred level.
  • Help their users move on to the next level when the time is right. By anticipating user/players’ needs, they can add new features from the next level. Some paper planner companies, for example, are digitizing their solutions.
  • Reach out to players at lower levels who are ready to upgrade, helping them see the early warning signs.

My Next Two Articles

This definition of the “Time Demand Capacity Game” is just a start. In my next article, I’ll show that there are other games afoot, some of which I can see. Several of them will probably look familiar to the average professional, but the article should help designers gamify their current solutions.



2Time Labs

Research-driven ideas in Time-Based Productivity

Francis Wade

Written by

Founder of 2Time Labs, ScheduleU.org and author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity. You can connect with Francis on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus+.

2Time Labs

Research-driven ideas in Time-Based Productivity