Social Media Week: Food for the Mind, Body & Soul

I can’t recap my first day of Social Media Week NYC without mentioning the night that preceded it. Speakers at 9am always seem more colorful when they’re presenting on the heels of a crazy party. And Social Media Week’s 2012 Opening Reception – hosted by Nokia and held at the Greenwich Village Country Club – included an open bar and competitive sports. I knew I was headed for a great week when I hit, not one, but TWO hole-in-ones over 7 holes of mini golf! Given that we live in a digital world, I’m shocked and saddened that nobody filmed my moments of glory (okay, luck). Nevertheless, the tone was set for a special week – and the following day’s events did not disappoint.

Keynote: Gabe Zichermann on The Business of Fun: How Gamification Will Change Your Organization: Bennu is in the (green) gamification business and Gabe Zichermann is my guru. While Bennu’s focus centers on leveraging gamification to promote sustainability, if you’re even remotely involved in game-based marketing, you can thank Gabe Z for evangelizing the movement and making it tangible. He literally wrote the book on gamification, which he defines as “the process of using game thinking and mechanics to engage people and solve problems.” As always, Gabe’s talk was a mix of thought innovation, business application and unadulterated fun. While I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Gabe speak numerous times, he drops new gems with each appearance. This presentation included my first exposure to the concept of “fluid intelligence,” which characterizes the ability to think critically and solve problems. It’s juxtaposed with “crystalized intelligence,” which essentially translates to book smarts. It turns out that – despite popular conception – children are becoming smarter if you measure wits by fluid intelligence. Early and frequent exposure to games and technology is wiring their brains for multi-tasking and tackling complex challenges. This is one reason why renowned experts ranging from Dr. Jane McGonigal to Raph Koster argue that games have the power to change the world for the better. Considering Social Media Week’s 2012 global theme of Empowering Change Though Collaboration, Gabe was the ideal catalyst to press “game on” and kick off the festivities.

This Game Will Make You Healthier: My next stop spoke directly to my lifestyle. As a vegan and exercise enthusiast, I take great care to manage my diet and health regimen. Along with refreshing my body with Vita Coco, I came away from this event – organized by Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness – with a greater understanding of the intersection between health and information technology. As a perfect segue from my morning session, the panelists discussed how game mechanics like challenges, points, rewards and leaderboards can lead people to better physical fitness and nutrition. The drivers are grounded in principles of behavioral psychology and the innate human desires to achieve, be social and get appreciated. Executives from companies such as MapMyFITNESS and HealthPrize demonstrated how their mobile apps and interactive web platforms provide real-time feedback to keep people motivated and on track toward better health.

Chocolate Tasting Networking Party for NYC’s Social Good Community: Being an entrepreneur can be lonely. The long hours, nonexistent vacations and constant pressure are enough to depress the spirits of even the most passionate founder. But being a social entrepreneur is unique: in addition to making money, we are driven by a mission to create a better world. The most valuable currency for an entrepreneur is inspiration. I received a full plate of it (and ethically-sourced chocolate), courtesy of COMMON, Design for Social Innovation at SVA and the Social Innovators Collective, who collectively brought together a diverse, dynamic and dedicated group of people – most of whom were also dateless, considering it was Valentine’s Day and we were all still “working.” I write “working” in quotes because, as the saying goes, when you have a job you love, you never work a day in your life. This event reminded me how fortunate I am to align my personal values with my professional career, and meet the coolest people in the world along the way.

Social entrepreneurs unite!

The bottom-line. My experience at Social Media Week NYC wasn’t business or personal: it was both.

Bennu organized and moderated the Social Media Week panel on “Green Gamification: Combining Social Media and Game Mechanics to Promote Sustainability.” The recording can be viewed in its entirety on Livestream.