Gamification is discussed in Chapter 7 of my book Advising Upwards: A Framework for Understanding and Engaging Senior Management Stakeholders. This post takes a closer look at the topic from a more basic level and based on some of the research, and will suggest options for making your next wait at the dentist’s fun!
In my book, Robert Higgins, the author of Ch. 7 – The New Confucian Communication Game: Communicating with the Nintendo® Generation, suggests the way to lead in business is very similar to being a superhero in an on-line game and explains the self-organising networks of communication and status that develop (with plenty of help for non-gamers). But the potential is much wider. Gamification has the potential to revolutionise the way people see work, and how they interact with one another within the workplace.
Gamification is the concept of transferring the positive mechanisms present in games (such as badges, leader boards and other forms of ‘instant feedback’) to mundane work tasks, creating a more dynamic, fun approach to the working environment. Applied effectively, Gamification restructures a typically boring task into something fun, competitive and engaging.
Technology research and advisory company Gartner has identified four principle means of driving employee engagement through the use of gamified techniques:
- Acceleration of feedback cycles to maintain engagement
- Use of clear goals and rules of play
- Allow players to feel empowered to achieve these goals
- The building up of narratives that engages players to participate and achieve the goals of the activity
When used in a positive way, gamification will encourage people’s psychological desires for competition, drive them to engage and participate in a community structure, and increase workplace morale and productivity; it is a great way to motivate and engage the new generation of knowledge worker and reduce attrition.
The key is to develop a meaningful ‘points score’ associated with the performance of the work and then provide effective (and visible) feedback. Built from Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of need’, three key areas to include are:
- Level 1: Recognition. This first level focuses on highlighting success and engaging novices. The key themes drive personal brand recognition.
- Level 2: Access. This second level builds demand for association and attracts intermediate users by creating value and scarcity around access to ‘special’ resources, people, and tools for improvement.
- Level 3: Impact. This third level appeal to power users and advanced users. At this level, bragging rights and incentives align with impact on the growth of the organisation.
Gamification as a concept within business is still in its infancy, but with the energy surrounding its adoption it seems inevitable that in the long term we will all be exposed to this fast growing phenomenon. The statistics certainly suggest there is a potent demand for gamification. Research by Gartner suggests that by 2014 more than 70 per cent of global organisations will have at least one ‘gamified’ application, and by 2015, the research shows that 50% of Global 2000 organisations that manage innovation processes will have gamified those processes. Although this current wave of enthusiasm may be at the ‘peak-of-inflated-expectations’ and about to descend into the ‘trough-of-disillusionment’ on Gartner’s Hype Cycle.
Used effectively, gamification has the potential to improve productivity significantly. Three examples include:
- Using gaming to revitalise ‘lessons learned’, and promote the creation and sustenance of organisational and project knowledge ‘wikis’ rather than boring databases using competitive knowledge ranking systems to encourage increased contributions and improved team engagement (often seen in enthusiast online forums today).
- Using challenges and rewards to track performance against the plan (where the on-time performance for the updating of progress information and the accuracy of the data provided is weighted more heavily than the actual achievement of results – the ‘players’ all have equal control over updating their progress accurately, but may not have control over the pace of work).
- Workflow processes can be visually represented and improved by managers and team members alike, with leader boards in turn highlighting and rewarding the innovative thinkers (see more on process improvement).
The use of feedback mechanisms, such as leader boards, allows the creation of a potent dashboard from which other managers can gauge the health of each project. As well as allowing the day to day monitoring that is essential to ensure on time delivery.
Gamification has the potential to become part of the project managers ‘toolkit’, and when combined with other innovations, to contribute to successful project delivery, but it is not a one size fits all remedy to all project problems and should not be forced upon a workforce without first gauging the level of buy-in amongst individual employees. And, it may just be another business fad, but who could deny that to make work fun is a laudable aspiration? Your next challenge is to make a ‘game’ out of waiting at the dentists…..