Innovation and bureaucracy may seem like polar opposites, but companies like Spigit are working to bring them closer together. In the burgeoning world of gamification, it has been well-cited that Gartner predicts half of innovation-based companies will be gamified by 2015. Gartner released a case study on implementing a gamified enterprise solution for the United Kingdom’s Department of Work and Pensions, but the products and projects that support their research remain less well known.
Spigit, founded in 2007, is the company that designed and implemented the enterprise platform for the Department of Work and Pensions, called Idea Street. Throughout, James Gardner has had a role in the project. He was previously Director of Future Design and CTO at the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions, and this January he joined Spigit as Managing Director.
“In the past, it has been particularly difficult to motivate civil servants,” Gardner told the Gamification Blog. “And there is an interesting element of cultural challenges: managers don’t want employees playing games at work.” Without explicitly calling it a game, that is exactly what Spigit did. They implemented a system where the central goal, the growth and support of ideas, was driven by game mechanics.
Idea Street used a virtual currency to set up competition. Although the virtual currency was tied to real-world wages, employees earned more by making comments and trading on a virtual stock market where civil servants were able to buy and sell shares in ideas. A leaderboard was also utilized. The civil servant that eventually reached the top of the leaderboard had worked in a remote district office. As a result of his success in Idea Street, he received a letter from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to come and work in the central office.
“The game creates heroes”, Gardner said. “Other methodologies don’t do that.” By releasing the internal motivations towards work and collaboration, gamified systems not only motivate individuals, but support them in creating and realizing new ideas.
This year, Spigit announced a similar program with the City of New York. In Mayor Bloomberg’s support of open government and the City’s “Road Map for the Digital City”, Spigit’s Simplicity platform will be utilized to support and grow ideas from New York City’s own civil servants.
At the end of the interview, Gardner concluded “Games are unfamiliar to the old guard. They are the people who have been very centered on traditional business.” But the guard is changing. With an entire generation raised with digital games being their primary form of entertainment, play is becoming a central tenant of work.