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Gamification Goes to Work

Moving beyond points, badges, and leaderboards


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Gamification can instill challenge, pay-off and new perspective into day-to-day tasks, tapping into the same human instincts that have led to centuries of passionate competition and engagement – our innate desire to learn, to improve ourselves, to overcome obstacles and to win. As business becomes increasingly social, our professional and consumer lives are being built using digital interactions. This momentum can be tapped to augment performance by embedding gaming mechanics into traditional processes. Technology in the workplace can be rewarding, and (gasp) even fun.

The essence of gamification is a new way of thinking, designing and implementing solutions – and it may even force you to start thinking of your employees, partners and suppliers as consumers. Many organizations are already moving to put gamification to work. Move now to secure your place in the winner’s circle.

My Take
Hear Gabe Zichermann, CEO of Gamification Co, describe first-hand his perspective on Gamification Goes to Work.


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Doug Palmer, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, illustrates the far-reaching impact that gamification can have on an organization through an example of how it can drive specific behaviors within the sales cycle.


Read more about Gamification Goes to Work

Where do you start?

The building blocks for gamification are familiar – starting with business objectives, desired outcomes and understanding the audience. For gamification to truly go to work, however, it is important to understand the inner workings of the organization, process interdependencies and behaviors, including the interplay between human actors and the underlying technologies. Some initial steps:

  • It’s a social business thing. Like any social business investment, the first step is to clearly articulate the business problem to be addressed. Next, identify the social networks relevant to that objective – spanning both the virtual and the physical world. Third, explore incentives that may cause the networks to engage on that objective. Finally, explore opportunities to greatly decrease traditional constraints with the methods, technologies and media of gamification. These steps may seem pedestrian, but many failed gamification efforts start with a specific game mechanic or platform they want to introduce – not the “why,” “for whom,” and “so what.”
  • Design is a team sport. The construct of a game will likely touch on individual incentives, operational and organizational goals, analytics, end-user interface and underlying IT systems. A multi-disciplinary team is needed to represent these dimensions – including social scientists, marketers, game designers, line-of-business managers, data scientists, back-end systems engineers and architects. Business systems are complex and have causation. When applying game dynamics to a business process or the business as a whole, designers should understand the complexity of the rules that govern the organization – and how to increase interaction and engagement with audiences. The game design itself should maintain clarity of its benefits to users – as well as to the organization.
  • Measure, tweak and iterate. Intangible effects and lack of measurement criteria have led to the perceived failure of some early gamification efforts. Benchmark current performance, measure the output once the application is activated, and don’t hesitate to revise assumptions, approaches, or tools in response. Almost nothing kills an innovation in business process like failure to move the initiative beyond the pilot implementation. There are three dynamics which need monitoring. First, be sure to maintain momentum within the “interest corridor.” If the game dynamics are too difficult, the participant will likely lose interest and disengage. The same is true if the dynamics are too simple.

    Secondly, by gamifying a process, the organization will likely have access to a significant amount of new data that was previously unavailable. Through a feedback mechanism, you may have insights on how to adapt in real time. If harnessed correctly, organizations will likely be able to refine their strategy in real time.

    Finally, keep an eye on long-term objectives. Tweaking, measuring and enhancement should be an ongoing process – not a one and done effort. Be sure to fine-tune the model. But more importantly – to keep players engaged over time. What will keep this process exciting and interesting after the first level or achievement is reached? And how will the data that is analyzed regarding behaviors and outcomes cause one to rethink the rewards, incentives and recognition?

Bottom line

Badges and leaderboards have their place, but they are a part of a larger, more interesting opportunity. By following vendor leads, companies may become stuck with isolated one-off concepts, incrementally improving a small part of the business. Instead, view this as a chance to rethink what a gamified business looks like from the ground up. Understand who you’re trying to engage, what motivates them and how gamification can change the way they look at – and work with – the organization. Don’t hit the snooze button, or the opportunity to put gamification to work in your business may be game over.


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