Move over children, now it’s time for grown-ups and business leaders to play! The new buzzword is ‘Gamification’, and apparently it is no child’s play. We increasingly hear the term gamification bandied around in the business and technology world, and if you have ever wondered what’s behind the hype then here is my buzzword-busting lowdown on this new business trend.
In simple terms, gamification means applying some of the features we enjoy in video games to businesses, or indeed to any non-game-related area. The rationale is that people love playing games; they lose themselves in them for hours on end. Successful games such as Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft or even app games such as Candy Crush Saga have millions of passionate players, who on average spend 13 hours a week playing games. The 4% of extreme gamers spend a staggering 48.5 hours per week, which is more than most people spend at work!
So what makes games so appealing and how could we use this for business? What games offer people, and many real world situations don’t, is this intense competitive environment with constant challenges of trying to move to a new level and complete the next mission, where players get instant feedback, reward, collect points and badges, move up rankings, and see their status increase.
All this is possible because we play video games in a digital environment that can track and analyse everything we do. With an increasing digitization and datafication of our real world, we can now do the same in many business environments. Airlines, hotels and retailers have long used game principles in their loyalty programmes: Each time you fly, stay or shop you collect reward points and you might see yourself moving up the tiers to silver, gold or even platinum level. We all know that they work. People love colleting points and I see many who check their frequent flyer apps on their phone as soon as the plane lands to see how many points they collected, and once they reach a higher status level they can’t wait to put their gold or platinum badges on their luggage.
Deep inside we are all still children who crave fun, new challenges, achievements, rewards and recognition. I see how much my own children love to get a badge for doing well, they love competition, they love leader boards, and you can’t stop them if they can collect points. Their school uses it – my six year old loves to tell me that he got a ‘Super Brain’ badge from his teacher for work that was particularly good. Even our dentist uses it – he has given my 3 children a scorecard on which they collect points for cleaning, etc. and each time they have a check up the dentist scores them. Suddenly, brushing teeth becomes a competitive and fun thing to do!
Here are two more real business examples (one from a large and one from a smaller company), that illustrate the power of gamification:
Before Microsoft releases new versions of software it needs people to test them so it can find and fix bugs. In the past it simply invited Microsoft employees to test new versions of software but saw very low uptake. In the end, it takes some time to download, install, and run a new piece of software and everyone is busy enough. However, uptake went through the roof when Microsoft gamified the testing of one of their new operating systems. The difference: Microsoft published the names of employees on their intranet and gave people progress bars for e.g. downloading, installing, running a test for 48h, etc. It also created a leader board to show who completed most tasks and provided the most feedback. Soon everyone was talking about it, downloading and testing the software, and watching the leader boards change.
Bluewolf, a smallish consulting company, wanted to encourage employees to use more social media, build their own brands and develop themselves as subject matter experts and thought leaders. Even though the company knew that a bigger social presence would generate new leads, it struggled to make people do it. Then the company started to use their CRM system to track the blog posts people wrote, the amount of times people shared information on Facebook and Twitter, the amounts of reads, likes and comments people got. Each of these tasks would earn people points, which allowed Bluewolf to create dashboards with rankings and leaderboards. Needless to say, people became very social, which in turn tripled traffic to their website from social media, tripled blog readership, gave them an 8 times increase in blogger community, and increased collaboration internally.