Gamification Mechanic Monday: Trash talk
When watching professional sports especially fighting related, you will often hear competitors raise themselves up to be more than their competitor and challenge them to step it up. It is a tactic to intimidate and influence the opponent into fear or doubt. In boxing or wrestling this is often part of the storyline and show element before the actual game. It has even been attributed to Mohammed Ali in some sources to be the first to use this technique and his talk “I am the greatest” is considered to be a version of trash talk with the purpose of intimidating opponents.
In a lot of other sports however this is discouraged in the youth leagues, yet it goes on in a subtle fashion. Take athletics where you have Justing Gatlin claiming to be the man to beat and putting the challenge up to Usain Bolt and the obvious answer coming in the actual sprint. Mo Farah dealt with a similar rhetoric from the Kenyans ahead of the 10,000m and when he passed the final Kenyan he returned the rhetoric by looking at the leading Kenyan in the face before cruising past him.
In business you only have to observe close rivals to see how corporate messaging plays a part in this. I think it was last year or two years ago at a technology conference a guy from Google was doing a Google glass demo and before he had actually started showing his device he trash talked about the Microsoft stand across the room from them. Ironically karma played it’s ugly part and the demo failed miserably, Google glass didn’t take pictures, failed to connect, etc. which as an observer made the bravado look a bit absurd and it was double face-loss if you ask me.
As a storyline it can work and for internal communication it can give an element of added fun. If you are using it consistently as a tactical move against your competitors, always be prepared for the fall-out. My advice for this game dynamic is to use it sparingly in areas where you clearly dominate.
Have you seen a great example of trash talking in the world of business? Feel free to share it in the comments.