How to Find your Dream Job by Playing Games | MIT Center for Civic Media

How to Find your Dream Job by Playing Games

(more NetExplo liveblogging from Paris)

Epistemic gaming is the emerging field of games for assessment. It's an evolution from the immensely profitable field of psychometric testing, where Myers Briggs and StrengthsFinder tests promise to help us identify our individual personality traits and intelligence styles to create better harmony and results in the workplace (for a healthy per-employee fee).

NetExplo luareate ConnectCubed is a meritocratic game-based approach to job recruiting. Founder Michael Tanenbaum found himself excluded from the banking recruiting process, which made him wonder how many other qualified employees were being missed. At its most basic layer, ConnectCubed is a platform of games to help job candidates identify the best fit.

In many cases, work doesn't work. Gallup found that 72% of employees are disengaged. Michael calls this the pandemic of presenteeism. You show up to work but don't care about the quality of the organization as a whole. Michael sees this problem's root in two causes: our expectations of employees and how we found them to begin with. He's focused on the latter.

How do we develop ourselves and specialize in a given career? As children, we learn about the realm of careers by proximity, not efficiency. [For example, children of teachers do well in schools, and it's been posited that they are more comfortable with schools as institutions than other children].

We don't have much guidance for our productive lives. How do we find the best career for our individual personality? Contrast this with the vast array of companies working to capture our expressed interests, like Netflix, Google, and Flipboard. All of these companies have one goal in common: get you to consume more. They collect tiny little breadcrumbs to get you to buy, search, read, and watch more. Yet, we spend so much more time at work producing than we do at home consuming. And there are no companies collecting this information to deliver us the job where we are naturally, intrinsically motivated.


ConnectCubed assembles a dataset about you to find you a job that will be meaningful to you day after day, year after year, regardless of compensation. Rather than be creeps observing your behavior, they ask people to come to their platform and help them create a multidimensional profile of you through games.

Michael points to the 150 million copies of The Sims, which he calls House Chores, the Game.

Released in 2011, ConnectCubed mimics specific jobs and determines if the people who show up to perform it are good at those tasks. They started with a stock-trading game, Ultratrader, developed in 2001. Gamers played for many hours, and follow-up research found that those who showed up and played the best were either already successful traders or were on their way to success in this career. The game positively identified those who would fit the job itself well.

Simulation gaming provides a very good sense for who you are and what you'll be good at in under 20 minutes, far less time than psychometric tests. Michael believes the power of simulation gaming can solve the problem of job matching. A small library of simulations could demonstrate the various departments in your company, so that when people show up, you can place them properly.

Michael also sees an opportunity in the disconnect between high youth unemployment and survey results showing that companies are having trouble finding qualified candidates. We should develop games to better find candidates for professions with chronic shortages.

Two existing examples of this approach at work are Thinkful and Edelman. Thinkful, based in NYC, creates tailored academic programs to help anyone with drive learn new engineering. It's paid for by students, but most of the funds come from the companies interested in hiring new engineers.

Edelman, on the larger end of the spectrum, began an internal learning and development program in 2006 to certify mastery in specific skills relevant to public relations. The company found that their various offices competed with one another to succeed int he program. This level of employee buy-in of an internal learning program is unheard of. Executives gain a huge level of insight of the distribution of their skills companywide.

[Yesterday, Jean-Marie DRU, President of TBWA\Chiat\Day, told us how they created skill-based hubs around the world. The company didn't have critical mass of every skill (data visualization, graphic design, etc.) in every office worldwide. Their network allows them to fish for the skills and expertise they need for various client projects. This 12,000-person skills network is called the Digital Arts Network.]

Jobs can be expressions of what we love. Games give us the ability to be competitively nerdy about the thing which we love. And they attract a talented and enamored talent pool for recruiters to hire.