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Gamification? It's one of today's buzz words!

"Using game principles in non-game environments to drive business profitability" is a definition of gamification that is gaining universal acceptance.

As any avid gamer will tell you, a sound game plan focuses on leveraging the technology and behavioral insights at your disposal. Gamification is a lot more than just introducing badges and points into the functioning of an enterprise. While traditional games are based on entertaining users, gamification principles are based on motivation to achieve enterprise goals.

How did the concept of gamification come about?
"It's not right, Stepa, the way we shut ourselves up from the rest and don't know the chaps at all. The emulation started spontaneously, without us, we just joined in."

This is a part of a conversation taken in context from the book, "The Tanker Derbent", which talks about motivation and social competitiveness in the 1920s. Even in the 1930s, the enterprises had well-laid plans designed to motivate an employee to surpass the firm's own expectations. Firms rewarded personnel both morally and materially in several ways, be it providing them concert tickets, placing winning portraits on a honoree board, or even a house. Today, one can see some of these elements everywhere, from pizza outlets to consulting firms. However, although the standard principles of motivation existed in firms, they were never considered a single package until the word "gamification" was coined. Working in the financial services unit of an IT firm, I can personally see a major buzz taking place this year in this sector, despite the fact that financial institutions are often considered late adopters of technology when compared to retail, communications and marketing companies.


What is gamification not about?
It is definitely not Farmville; and does not include virtually harvesting crops and stocking grains. When referring to an enterprise, we are considering a crowd with social intelligence. I have seen a website claiming "just add points and boost your employees' performance". Merely adding points may work for a fortnight but not in long run. Gamification is often misinterpreted as providing incentives to lure employees to over-perform. The truth is, it is about interpreting what motivates employees to complete their obligations and stick to the firm's goals.

Then, what really is gamification?
Gamification is about applying suitable game dynamics and principles in planned phases. Consider a scenario where users of an online bank platform need motivation to stick to the personal finance management application on web. This stickiness to the portal can be obtained by using rich user interfaces, simple, un-burdened, "habit creating" content that needs insights into customer behavior. Once this is a success, the goal of the customer in managing his funds effectively is fulfilled while the goal of the bank in cross-selling products is also satisfied.

Some aspects that a gamified experience should consider providing the user are:

  • Self-competence - Draw out a person's personality and characteristics to face and overcome challenges and make strategic decisions.
  • Social competence - An urge to have healthy competition and mastery within a social group
  • Self-efficacy - A belief that someone can perform the task to completion
  • Mastery - Results in the user sticking to the gamified environment.
  • Real goals -Providing a win-win scenario for the enterprise and user
  • Motivation - Interest inculcation in the user to complete his goals

10 suggestions

  1. Define a business need for gamification. Carefully separate what works from what doesn't. This comes from experimenting. So think agile.
  2. Use behavior analytics as an input to re-engineer the platforms. Being creative definitely helps in this process.
  3. Game theory says "games arise when multiple actors with different objectives compete or cooperate for a scarce resource." Gamification says "Motivation and value arise when multiple actors with similar objectives get a gamified experience in a non-game environment". Both, game theory and gamification, are connected.
  4. Game mechanics make sense only when the underlying achievement is providing the target user with meaningful recognition. Within organizations, where the target user group comprises of employees and, as a result, is far smaller, game mechanics can help positively influence participation.
  5. Game mechanics can help improve R&D efforts by offering solutions to business problems
  6. Recognition on enterprise forums motivates contributors to increase contributions.
  7. Enterprise content can be harnessed by providing visibility, recognition and access to the experts contributing the content. Promote the contributors through social networks.
  8. Leaderboards are a good source of long-term motivation. Motivate user involvement at every stage--from a learner to a master.
  9. Effectively manage the change that comes when deploying a gamified experience. Monitor, harness and tweak platforms accordingly.
  10. To be relevant and effective, game mechanics requires continuous updates to themes and the overall aesthetics of the game. This undoubtedly involves financial investments but, in return, far better returns (ROI) as well.

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