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Brooks Mitchell is a professor of management at the University of Wyoming and the founder of two software companies. Aspen Tree Software produced the first computerized interview software, and Snowfly Incentives encourages game playing in the workplace as a reward for performance.

Larry Greenemeier

December 1, 2006

2 Min Read

Dr. Mark Allen, CEO of Corticon Technologies -- Photograph by Ray Ng

Photograph by Ray Ng

Brooks Mitchell
Educator And Entrepreneur
Interview by Larry Greenemeier


Mitchell came up with the computerized job interview in 1976 on a setup that included an Apple II running Aspen Tree's software with an external hard drive and a printer the size of a suitcase. His software asks applicants questions and then generates a file with suggested questions for the subsequent live interview. "I was the first person to suggest you could get a better job interview using a computer than a person."


Years later, while in Nevada, Mitchell was captivated by the legions of elderly casino patrons and their large bags of change. "They were paying to do something we couldn't normally pay them to do--pull a lever for several hours."


Mitchell used the slot machine model to provide "intermittent reinforcement" in the workplace. His company, Snowfly--named after his passion for fly-fishing--lets businesses offer employees a chance to play online games during their breaks to win points that they can redeem on eBay or apply toward earning a day off. The early reaction: "They told me, 'You're going to let people play games at work? I pay my people to work, not play games.'"


Mitchell's ideas have caught on in businesses, particularly sales departments, where incentive programs are regularly relied on to encourage productivity. "A large percentage of our users are also contact centers where workers are sedentary and doing very repetitive jobs."


Mitchell earlier this year published his latest book, Kipling's Error III, about his father's experiences as a bomber during World War II. "My father was the navigator on that plane. He reluctantly gave me his diary, and I was blown away."

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