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Using game design principles to tackle talent shortage

This article is written by Karamjit Singh and first appeared in Digital News Asia on Jul 13, 2012. Read the original release here.

  • Code Army strikes a chord with companies in Silicon Valley
  • Needs to deliver on idea of Gamification-based virtual talent platform

TALKING to Zafrul Noordin, commander-in-chief of Codearmy.com, I was reminded of Ganesh Kumar Bangah of the MOL Group after the latter had returned from Silicon Valley in 2009.
 
Ganesh had created waves in the valley with his acquisition of Friendster. Likewise, Zafrul's excitement was palpable as he spoke of his experiences there and the people he met. [Look out for his interview with Digital News Asia on BFM, next Thursday July 19 at 12.05pm.]
 
Likewise with Zafrul, who was just buzzing with excitement and energy after his recent six-week trip to the United States to launch Codearmy.com, his attempt at solving a big problem: The lack of talent globally.
 
Mind you, Zafrul has a lot to be buzzed about, not least the fact that a respected Stanford Professor, Keith Devlin, known as “The Math Guy”, is apparently trying to get the University Islam Antarabangsa drop-out admitted to Stanford, with just a 200-word essay he asked Zafrul to submit!
 
Describing himself as a reformed gamer, Zafrul’s big idea is to use the concept of Gamification – the use of game design principles in applications outside of games – and apply those to solve the problem of talent shortage that companies face.
 
In his mid-30s and having run a digital agency (Motion Works Sdn Bhd) for the past eleven years, Zafrul (pic) is not your average fresh-faced Internet entrepreneur. He is applying sound business principles and logic he has acquired to the hustle and bustle speed-of-thought type thinking that exists in the Internet world, where ideas are global and competition is too.
 
In fact, that is the challenge he posed to his team before deciding to embark on the Code Army journey: “Do we run with this and make it work ourselves, or sit back and focus on the various things that could go wrong and then watch others as they do this?”
 
The big idea is to build an online platform that uses game thinking to help start-ups and companies of all kinds build virtual teams. He had initially wanted to focus on start-ups only but quickly realized his idea could be applied to all companies, globally.

An idea does not come any bigger than that.
 
Some concepts of game thinking are rewards in the form of tokens that are given when a task is performed well. The more tokens one collects, the higher his standing in the pool of talent registered on Code Army.
 
This means that one’s paper qualifications matter for little. It is verification of work done that authenticates the paper qualifications one claims – thus why employers will love this. Everything becomes transparent.

Well, at least in theory. Code Army will test how far this idea works.
 
Speaking of ideas, he shared an anecdote that illustrates the gulf in thinking/ philosophy that exists between the United States and probably the rest of the world, with Malaysia representative of the latter.
 

“While I was there, my lawyer was constantly reminding me to get the people I met in the US to sign NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) before I tell them anything about Code Army, but I told her, ‘I don’t think they are going to sign any NDAs because the people I meet just openly share their business plans with me.’”
 
What Zafrul plans to do meanwhile has elicited some early positive feedback from large companies including Microsoft and Tata Consulting. In fact, in my lunch with Zafrul on July 12, he shared an email he just received. It was a request from a senior executive of a multinational for his platform to be able to sit behind a corporate firewall and ended with a request for pricing.
 
In other words, companies want to use his Gamification based talent platform now! And, that’s simply because they see his virtual talent platform as being able to solve a major pain point they have.
 
Can he execute? Will he end up being more fluff than substance? Will he beat Ganesh or Patrick Grove of Catcha Group or Vishen Lakhiani of MindValley to become that Internet super star Malaysia is craving for?

From the horse’s mouth next Monday: Zafrul’s tells us of his experience in the States

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