Gamification within an organization

Gamification, as explained in some detail here (https://class.coursera.org/gamification-002/class/index), is about applying game elements to business contexts. There are numerous game-like elements that have been applied to various websites and business models that have been widely successful. One popular example is FourSqaure.com, as quoted by the professor in the course mentioned above. FourSquare gives away all kinds of badges to the users of the website for achievements as varied as checking into a restaurant or location some X number of times, for logging in Y number of times, etc. That is an example of Badges, which is a game element, being employed for the specific purpose of engaging people and making it a habit for the users to log in to foursquare and report their specific location.

Now that is an example of gamification as deployed in a very commercial sense. Although I am not immediately aware of the business model for FourSquare, vis-a-vis their revenue generation model per se, but it can be assumed that the more the number of users, the more sales of online ads for FourSquare. The question is really, how well can gamification be employed within an enterprise. The first step, as with almost everything that one undertakes in life, is to have a very clear vision of what goal is to be achieved. Maybe the goal is something as simple as getting the employees in the company to fill an online survey.

The design of the survey needs to be done by integrating game like elements in it. The target behavior of the users is to have them log in to a website and answer a few multiple choice questions and provide comments wherever necessary. The system needs to ensure that the employees are intrinsically motivated to complete the survey. Motivating employees with a lottery pick and a tangible reward is one method that is popular, but this is appealing to extrinsic motivation. The employee only takes the survey so that he/ she can be eligible for this reward that can be won. A short video or a story of how the results of surveys taken in the past have resulted in positive changes would perhaps serve as better motivation. Just like in a democracy where it is said that every vote counts, it is important to make the employee be empowered with the belief that their thoughts and opinions count. What better way than to reinforce this belief with a story on the previous surveys resulting in affirmative action!

Other game elements that can be introduced are within the survey itself. While the questions of the survey need to be thought provoking, the use of simple feedback loops indicating the individual’s progress in the survey being taken would help. Carrying on with the theme of intrinsic motivation, an example of the possible changes that a survey question can elicit in a pane on the web page would further motivate the employees to be a part of the bigger picture. Other game elements can include a competitiveness built in – at an organizational level, what is the percentage of participation from the employees can be made visible to all. This leader board can have its own disadvantages, of course. Poor participation can fuel further disinterest amongst the employees of an organization and it needs to be monitored carefully for such possibilities.

To add an element of fun to the survey, each employee is given a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that fills in a picture that is unique to the team that he/ she is a part of. Once the player completes the survey, his/ her piece is unlocked and that piece is available on this common website to put together a complete picture. This becomes a talking point in hallway conversations, lunch time meetings, etc. serving as introjective extrinsic motivation to some and intrinsic motivation to others. The final result – ensuring that at least 80 – 90% of all employees take the survey can be met if the system is designed carefully and encourages collaboration, belief and team work. Incidentally, all these three elements are important for any company to succeed consistently.

Residing in Bengaluru, I am a Techie by profession and a thinker and doer by birth. I muse about any topic under the sun and love to share my thoughts in print when I am not doing something with them. I love reading and at some point, thought that maybe others would like to read what I have to write, too!

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