Scrabulous, as the New York Times reported this weekend, is spreading like wildfire within Facebook. People who were logging into their Facebook accounts once a week are suddenly keeping a tab open all day so they can check to see if their opponents have played their turn.
While this could be a productivity sucker for employees who become addicted to the game, I think there are some productivity lessons that can be learned from this as well.
The Power of Asynchronous Work
Improved speed. Imagine sitting in a large room with 12 of your friends who are each playing 12 games of Scrabble one on one with each other. If my calculations are correct, you'd need 66 Scrabble boards and spend half your time running around looking for tables where you could play your next move. It would end up taking a long long time for all 12 people to complete games against their 11 competitors. However, if each person can play their turns at a time that's convenient for them, the total time committed to each game goes down significantly.
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Read the New York Times' account of the rise of Scrabulous, much to the chagrin of Scrabble manufacturers Hasbro and Mattel. Although as writer Heather Timmons points out:
To some online marketing experts, Scrabulous represents a turning point for the board game industry, which has struggled for years to recreate itself as new generations turned to alternatives like the Xbox and the GameBoy.
"If you're Hasbro or Mattel, it isn't in your interest to shut this down," said Matt Mason, a consultant to the entertainment industry and author of "The Pirate's Dilemma: How Youth Culture Is Reinventing Capitalism."