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.
Improved quality. Quality improves because people can work on their puzzles at a time when they’re in the right mindset to take on the task. They pick a time when they’ll be able to focus on the task at hand without interruptions.
True Multitasking. Finish one task that’s part of a larger project, move onto the next. Return to the first.
However, I believe the reason this works so well within Scrabulous while less so in many work environments is the quality of the task definition. Every involved party is dealing with a clearly defined task, and in the vast majority of cases, a task they’re familiar with from previous projects.
In fact, the task is so well defined in Scrabulous that you never need to interact with your fellow project partners. You may know their name, but you don’t need to talk, know where each other live, how old you are, etc. You’re both their to work on a known task.
I think efficient businesses are most capable of achieving a Scrabulous level of efficiency where employees can login to work from anywhere at any time, immediately understand what needs to be accomplished, and get right to work.