CANNES 2013: PHD staff now come to work to play

After six months in beta, staff at Omnicom agency PHD will come into work everyday to play games, following the formalising of an initiative called Source, spearheaded by the worldwide strategy and planning director, Mark Holden.

Holden adopted the radical new video-game design approach to solving the agency’s strategic challenges around the world after reading Jane McGonigal’s book on the subject.

The idea is a simple one, with tasks, questions and challenges involving clients and internal requests from across the PHD network being pinged to all staff – arriving in the style of challenges in computer games.

Anyone can suggest solutions, encouraging collaboration and shared insights, and if ideas are adopted or progressed then the contributor receives recognition through the equivalent of a global leader scoreboard.

Speaking on stage at Cannes today, Holden said adding the game layer to the media agency’s own global operating system, engages 2,500 people in the network.

Source is reported to have turned its work for blue-chip clients like Unilever into a mass scale game, has led to 75% of its global workforce displaying unprecedented levels of engagement, collaboration and creativity.

Holden said: "Source has changed the way people at PHD work. Now people come to work each day and play the game – the result and effect of which has enhanced planning and innovation for our clients across the world.

"This has been achieved without us truly maximising the full potential of game thinking which suggests that the opportunity for brands, business and communities at large is highly significant."

McGonigal was on stage with Holden, and revealed some stats about the one billion people who currently spend seven billion hours a week connecting and playing games.

The games designer believes there is huge potential for businesses to tap into the positive attributes people receive from participating in games.

According to McGonigal, the key to harnessing the "engagement economy" is mass participation combined with skills and abilities.

She said it is driven by basic, universal human desires such as the desire "to be challenged, to get better at something, to master new skills, to put those skills in service of something that really matters, to be connected to a larger community".

McConigal added: "Decisions about where to work, what to spend money on, which brands to be loyal to – these decisions will all be made based on how well an organisation, or experience, or product fulfils this urgent desire to engage whole-heartedly with meaningful challenges".

Game mechanics have also been applied to this year’s official Cannes Lions app, which awards delegates Pings for a variety of things, from attending seminars. The latest figures show 1,572 are actively playing PHD’s Win Cannes app, and the top 5 countries are the USA, Brazil, Japan, UK and India.

Watch videos of Mark Holden and Jane McGonigal here