3 Heavyweights Give Gamification a Go

Got gamification yet? If you don't, you're not alone -- according to Gartner, fewer than 5% of organizations worldwide are using gamification. But get ready: Analysts expect enterprises to start embracing the technique in many areas over the next two years, and the impact, they say, could be far-reaching.

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More often than not, the failure will be due to poor design, says Gartner researcher Brian Burke. Often companies design the game to achieve only the company's objectives (such as better trained salespeople), without any regard for the individuals playing the game (salespeople won't play the game unless there's something in it for them, too). And sometimes the objectives aren't defined at all -- neither the company's nor the individual's.

"If you don't know what you're trying to achieve, you're unlikely to achieve it," says Burke. Instead of having clear-cut goals, companies will say, "'Let's try this,' and then they look at the results and declare that a success," says Burke.

To avoid those kinds of pitfalls, follow these tips from analysts and early adopters:

-- Start with extrinsic prizes and rewards -- such as a $100 gift card for BestBuy -- that have allure to newbies, but then add and eventually transition solely to intrinsic rewards like peer recognition and career enhancement. NTT Data found that intrinsic rewards, such as being tapped for new assignments, were more effective at getting and keeping experienced employees engaged. "These are things that you can't go out and buy in a store," says NTT Data CTO Imran Sayeed.

-- Include elements to encourage cooperation over competition. The game can turn ugly when people's competitive nature kicks in and they race each other to achieve status. To address this, NTT Data started including "share-only" points. These are points that one individual gives to another individual for being particularly helpful.

-- Start small and then iterate. Accenture started by gamifying just a handful of elements in its online community, gradually building up to more than 30.

-- Make sure to reward quality, not just quantity. One way to measure quality is by proxy, looking at how much influence that person has, similar to Klout, says Thomas Hsu, executive, global social collaboration at Accenture. Don't just look at how much an individual posts on an internal social site, but who's reading it and how much conversation it generates.

-- Expect people to try to game the system. In a way, that's good, says Sayeed, "because if they are trying to game the system, that means they are engaged, right?" It's not hard to spot: You just need to notice if, for example, people on the leaderboards are amassing huge volumes of information. One way to address the problem is to reward people for quality over quantity (see above). But there is no cure-all, says Hsu. "Anytime you have gamification, it's not a matter of if people will game the system, it's a matter of what are you going to do about it. It's human nature to try to figure out how to beat the game."

This story, "3 Heavyweights Give Gamification a Go" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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