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Moving Beyond Points and Badges: Gamification 2.0

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What’s next for gamification in the workplace? 

The following is an Op-Ed by Siddesh Bhobe, CEO of eMee – a social gamification platform based in India

The technology and business world has been abuzz with a new term– gamification, defined as the use of game elements in everyday scenarios in order to drive engagement and make work more interesting. This has been seen by some as a game changer (pun unintended) to make boring tasks fun & drive motivation, while others see it as a modern and web friendly extension of the ubiquitous reward and recognition techniques already being used by companies in some form or another.

Gamification 1.0

Gamification, as we see it implemented in most organizations today, has largely been about implementing a points-based economy, coupled with leaderboards and badges in order to drive motivation or engagement within an assigned user group, whether employees, students, or customers. This has seen mixed success with many early implementations bringing great value to users and helping businesses drive desired objectives, while on the other hands, poorly designed programs have failed miserably and have been criticized as a waste of time.

One thing is certain – gamification is here to stay, and many reputed research firms predict that gamification will drive innovation in most companies over the next couple of years.

But the question is, is it always going to be just about points and badges? The answer has to be an emphatic no. While points and badges have served admirably in terms of providing social recognition and motivation to millions of users already, their novelty is rubbing off, and incremental gains are dropping alarmingly.

What we need is Gamification 2.0

The next wave of gamification will be about taking business problems and mapping them to game play, improving trainability, and increasing effectiveness and results of core business-related actions and workflows, through the game play. Gamification companies will look to use not only game elements, but also actual game play that can solve real world business pain points. This is especially relevant where the business tasks are repetitive or process driven and game play can help in decision making, increase productivity and make the work fun and therefore, efficient. The use of rich web interactions like animations, social media, and other web 2.0 elements will also allow us the opportunity to complement existent business systems in a way that wasn’t possible even a few years ago.

Gamification 2.0 at work

Our own experience began with HR systems, where we looked at redefining employee engagement by implementing a game based visualization platform to combine social collaboration, performance management, learning and rewards & recognition. We implemented this at Persistent, a 7000+ employee company, and the system has been running strong for close to 2.5 years now with stunning results. One example of an actual business pain point being mitigated by gamification & game play was the continuous performance assessment system, where game elements like virtual gifts and avatars provide employees with a platform to showcase their skills, achievements and contributions while “living” their virtual lives. Powered by big data analysis, the system recommends actions that can earn appropriate “gifts”, while reminding players of actions due, and gently guiding employees towards “desirable behavior”. Appraisals, which were an end of year function and took up to two to four weeks to complete could now be completed just by looking a look at each employee’s profile & avatar and their position and activity in the “game”.

Gamification can help decision making

A great example of how gamification can help decision making is the problem of managing a typical sales funnel. Imagine that sales people could easily visualize their opportunity funnels as fishes in a pond, or animals in a jungle, mapped into their virtual avatars by business rules that factor in size of the opportunity, strategic importance of the account, TCV, and other relevant parameters, which can be modified and updated as often as needed. Instead of poring over endless rows of difficult to analyze data, sales people could now easily see who their “big fish” were, and which animals would be tough to crack! Depending on the skill of the hunter, and the amount of hunting gear and time available, a decision can be quickly made even by the most inexperienced sales person!

Bringing efficiency and fun to boring workflows

Most resource management teams will vouch for how thankless and boring their work is. Scanning scores of resumes, matching them against openings, and trying to fill open positions can be one of the most dreary jobs, due to its repetitiveness and lack of opportunity to innovate. How about a game that converts the problem into that of an Air Traffic Control tower, where projects are flights ready to take off, and the ATC’s job is to get them off the ground as soon as possible, ensuring a full flight deck is staffed and ready to go? How much more fun it would be to look at all the planes lining up, taking off, touching down, the endless excitement of finding the right pilots and air hostesses to take care of it all?

Meetings are great candidates for gamification

Ask any employee what the biggest drain on his or her time is, and it will be a meeting. However, meetings lend themselves beautifully to some serious gamification. From managing monkey to playing on a golf course, from managing a restaurant to doing a six hat thinking session, the opportunities are endless and can revolutionize how meetings are conducted, especially when teams are spread over multiple locations, and when you start looking at a meeting as an instance in time over a longer relationship.

Conclusion

To conclude, we need to combine our learning from Gamification 1.0 and look at real world business pain points and map core management activities and operations to gamified actions and rich web interactions. Points, leaderboards and badges and other such pure game elements are the fundamental building blocks, but we need to look beyond them to help organizations exploit the same core human tendencies and habits that made computer and online games a multi-billion dollar industry. This promises to fundamentally change the way we work, bringing fun and excitement back into the mundane as well as the critical, resulting in business success and benefit to all stakeholders.

Image by Vermin Inc

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  • http://www.facebook.com/sberends Steven Berends

    “It may well be that creativity is the last unfair advantage we’re legally allowed to take over our competitors.” – Bill Bernbach

    • http://www.facebook.com/sberends Steven Berends

      There will come a time when just points and badges just isn’t creative enough anymore.

      • http://twitter.com/Ingensia Hal DuBois

        Which leads to “stealth gamification” – once I’m detected, I cloak? Hello, Ethics! It all seems to boil down to picking your “battles” carefully – knowing that a situation is open to the introduction of gamification and employing techniques that, after proper testing, fit the goals. Game mechanics have a tendency to get stale or, as you suggest, become too transparent, forcing gamification into short-term scenarios. Major or permanent shifts in behavior require a foundation of trust, and that takes time to establish, and can vanish in an instant. (I’m off to write lyrics to “Old Man Flow” now!)

        • http://twitter.com/Ingensia Hal DuBois

          …but before I go…if your goals are long-term, you should think about how the Boy Scouts and Higher Ed sustained their models. (What made me let that Red Cross instructor almost drown me every Saturday morning for a badge? Why did I work for seven years for a framed piece of paper?)

          • http://www.facebook.com/sberends Steven Berends

            A prize you need and can’t cheat to get.

        • http://www.facebook.com/sberends Steven Berends

          Nike+ vs. Zombies! Run is a good pairing of examples of what I’m getting at – Zombies! Run goes beyond the basic gamification 1.0 elements of leaderboard and badge.

          • http://www.facebook.com/sberends Steven Berends

            Although it includes them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sberends Steven Berends

    Also, is that photo from Melbourne?

  • http://www.facebook.com/sberends Steven Berends

    “Meetings are a great candidate for gamification” Really? I would worry this would make them even more annoying. (Just my five points worth).

  • http://www.facebook.com/bki74 Barbara Kocot-Ilka

    “Ask any employee what the biggest drain on his or her time is, and it will be a meeting. [...] the opportunities are endless and can revolutionize how meetings are conducted, especially when teams are spread over multiple locations, and when you start looking at a meeting as an instance in time over a longer relationship.”

    If gamification could turn meetings into short and fruitful ones…

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