It is easy to write gamification off as a fad. It is also easy to be switched off by the name. Instantly you see visions of your employees sitting at their desks playing video games, rather than doing real work.
Let me get this out of the way straight off the bat: Gamification is NOT about turning everything into a game. It is about taking ideas and mechanics that games developers have been using for years to get players to do what they want them to do and applying them to day to day business tasks.
If you ask ten experts “What is Gamification”… you will get at least nine different answers. However, most will revolve around the same ideas. When asked, I usually give the following statement: ”Gamification is the use of gaming metaphors to influence behavior, enhance motivation, increase productivity and improve engagement.”
Here is a little secret… games developers have been manipulating games players since the first games were invented. Not just video games, but all games ever. They create a rule set and tell players you will do simple tasks, based on my rules, you will enjoy it and keep coming back for more. Monopoly is a great example. It is a game that has you buying and selling property. Unless you are an estate agent, this is hardly the stuff of school children’s dreams. However, put some dice in, add some cute character pieces and put some strict rules in place and you have one of the most popular board games of all time. And there is more to the enjoyment of the game than just winning.
This kind of thinking can be applied to almost any task and people are doing this in the real world. Take a mundane task, such as data entry. Create teams of data entry staff. Apply a set of rules that state that for every correctly entered line of data, that “players” team get a point. At the end of each week announce a winner and hand that team a trophy. Now you have teams of people, doing what is honestly boring work, with a new motivation. Help my team be the best and stay the best.
This is not just theory. Big names like SAP are already using similar methods with their accounts payable teams. There are so many applications for gamification in any company that it is impossible to talk about them in one blog post. In my next post, I will address how gamification is being used in learning and corporate training.
Gamification is not a magic bullet, nor is it simple to implement. However, given the right approach and the right dedication it has the potential to improve almost any aspect of a business.