By Sarah K. White

The good old American Dream – home ownership – could be in jeopardy. In 2015, housing prices were rising in the US, but incomes weren’t keeping up. Only one in four families who rent a home could afford to buy one in their neighborhood. It was going to take more financial resilience and ingenuity to get Americans back on top, after seven years of a shaky recovery. And that’s exactly where gamification comes in.

The game theory of creating and playing games actually has been known since the 1970s, and there are established applications across multiple industries and across the whole spectrum of business. One of the hottest sectors in gamification right now is health and wellness, where gamification serves to engage consumers in what could be life-saving activities such as smoking cessation, walking, and weight loss. Companies as diverse as UnitedHealthcare, Verizon, LG, Nike, and AMPAS are already using gamification to improve lives and business. By pursuing gamification for their projects, you might be saving thousands, or millions, or even billions of dollars by winning the game and improving the financial bottom line.

There are game mechanics in everything from the design of restaurants to the instructions for applying for credit cards. These are not meaningless applications of gamification. Gaming is an enabler of innovation; a predictor of success; a tool to overcome the barriers of difficulty and avoid failure; and as an extension of the holistic experience at the heart of each of the three human dimensions – mind, body, and spirit. Over time, gamification will likely take the place of creative thinking (instead of the 10th most productive U.S. executives – other than CEOs – likely using gamification tools), investing (instead of being cost-prohibitive), and coaching (instead of asking employees for feedback during a 15-minute self-check-in).

On the business side, gamification is poised to make that “right decision” for every decision you make. You can be the best communicator in the world, but if that communication is so incomplete and lacking in emotion that no one knows what you’re thinking, you’re not going to move any plan forward. On the business side, gamification is poised to make that “right decision” for every decision you make. You can be the best communicator in the world, but if that communication is so incomplete and lacking in emotion that no one knows what you’re thinking, you’re not going to move any plan forward. You don’t just need game mechanics, however, to enhance your communications and provide insight into how your decisions affect your team. All you need is an open mind – or “gameshow face,” as the case may be – to ask challenging questions, expose biases, and look for patterns that could represent connections that otherwise go unnoticed.

It doesn’t have to be difficult to become smarter and more productive. And it doesn’t need to be expensive. Sometimes, all you need to do is go for a walk or reflect. Who knows? Just building those skills in a game format and in-game tasks (“People with all life-skills are more creative,” “They must have such serious work habits”) might take you a long way towards a game-based career. Here’s to a brighter future, and no longer where we might be five years from now.