The Infosys Labs research blog tracks trends in technology with a focus on applied research in Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

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Gamification - shifting the center of gravity from 'systems' to 'people'

I have been keenly observing the IT industry dynamics since last one decade. There has been a great deal of effort and investment in filling up the process automation gaps in the enterprise processes in last 10 years. This automation was critically necessary to manage the scale, speed and complexity of the business operations. As realized during the large transformation programs of business automation, 'people' - customers, end users, partners etc. -  were the most important factors to get this automation right and make it effective towards the strategic purpose of the large IT investments. Without that, none of the other advance opportunities like business innovation, business intelligence, collaboration, business mobility etc. would have had any chance of survival.

With maturing evolution of the IT landscape, enterprises evolved their business processes which offered fair share of the productivity and efficiency gains to a level that was best possible with the matching skills and motivation of 'people' engaged in the business operation - internal and external alike. The efficiency and productivity gaps that could easily be addressed just by automating the process are already done. Going to the next orbit of the performance with the technology/system alone has been an extremely difficult goal to achieve, industry is already facing that challenge. Despite continued effort and focus, enterprises have been struggling globally to make another leapfrog jump in their performance standards in the same way as they did previously using the IT automation. For the next level of transformation, the most important lever happens to be the 'people'. If you notice, most of the emerging paradigms for the industry today are about people - social network, user experience, mobility...

Here is a very important hypothesis, extremely important to understand and judge the value of gamification or many similar trends where organizations are looking to invest. With the highly processes centric disciplines like Six sigma, CMMi, TQM, Lean etc. already being in place, organizations are more or less already in an equilibrium of performance between what these strategies could offer and what people can perform with their knowledge, motivation and skill levels available at natural level. Further strengthening the process, quality mechanisms or any systemic intervention that pushes the existing natural performance limit can only bring slight incremental improvement and even for that sustainability will be a question-mark because that is not a natural equilibrium. To achieve the sustained transformational performance, organizations need to find the new equilibrium by changing the rules of the game on the 'people' side now. How do we change the rules of the game on the 'people' side? This is where Gamification and User experience will play phenomenon role by unlocking the power of the people engagement and thus opening up new possibilities of the business outcome transformation that have not been exploited so far.

Is there enough to believe in the Gamification?

May be that's a wrong question to ask. In my view, gamification is going to be a matter of 'creative business thinking'. Waiting for 'enough' to be there to believe could leave you behind the curve even before you realize it. However, consider following:

  • 61% of surveyed CEOs and CFOs play digital games during their working hours
  • Average age of the gamer is 37 years, has also been playing for average of  12 years
  • Gamers across the globe have collectively spent 5.93 Million years  playing World of War craft
  • Time spent gaming per day in the US alone is 215,000,000 hours
  • 1/3rd of the internet time is spent on social games
    [Source: Sources: ]

Does it answer the question? Partly? These statistics clearly show the penetration of the gaming phenomenon across the globe and also highlight the depth of engagement that gaming users have today. It tells us that there is something in the gaming phenomenon that is able to engage users, keep them motivated and keep them oriented towards certain goals and end-results, it is a no-brainer. But more importantly, what is interesting to realize that such intensity of engagement is accomplished without any specific training, change management, coaching or governance, all through self-sustained effort of the users, across geographies, across diverse cultures and across language or other social boundaries.

On the other side - in the enterprises world, user engagement is one of the highly challenging problems that organizations are struggling. This statistics clearly tell that we can't ignore the gaming phenomenon expanding rapidly in the consumer world; we must leverage it to create innovative approaches of user engagement and bring new opportunities for enterprises to improve the organization performance.

Education sector is already infected with the gamification virus. I'm sure many of you are already experiencing it, especially if you have a child in the age range of 8-12 years. Interestingly, my same 8 year old son who earlier will throw all kinds of tantrums and find all kinds of excuses to stay away from the books and exercises can now sit for unbelievable duration in front of computer while solving the exercise problems of his study subjects - all this just to collect virtual gold coins, points and unlock some animation freebees. Retail sector is already catching up with gamification of the rewards, points, electronic redemption on mobiles etc. including the integrated social network engagements. Beyond a point, no matter how rudimentary, how seemingly ridiculous and how unrealistic it may feel, it will be become a matter of differentiation that will influence the customer choices, will impact the employee behavior and will influence the brand image of the organization.

What can enterprises leverage the gamification for?

Now that's an important question, not just from the investment dollars perspective but also for getting the gamification approach right. Fundamentally gamification is a people engagement technique. Historically in various shapes and forms, this technique has been successful in engaging people to solve complex problems, get them to act/react in certain desired pattern and increase the overall happiness index that can continuously fuel the organizational energy to get things better and better.

As many of you may realize that enterprise has network of human talent like a structured system. While technology systems can be forcibly fine-tuned, optimized and adjusted to give desired performance; system of human talent network cannot be easily changed due to complexity of individual mindsets, belief systems, disparate motivations and varying capability levels. Gamification allows us to tap into the system of human talent network, leverage the human psychology in a systematic way to achieve transformational business results.

On the customer side, enterprises can leverage the gamification to influence the customer loyalty and advocacy, drive greater co-creation with them and improve the brand penetration. On employee side, enterprises can break the productivity ceiling, improve the compliance benchmarks, improve the value contribution from the employees and possibly have greater employee retention rate.

In the next blog, I will share the high-potential industry use-case patterns that are showing great promise for the gamification investments....

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