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Achieving corporate success through gamification

Robert Strohmeyer

Playful to success in the job. This is how you could explain gamification. Behind the term is a sophisticated method to score points with gaming aspects in professional life.

EnlargeAngry Birds: The Perfect Example of Gamification
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Clever business people have long understood and internalized the importance of competitions and games as a motivational factor. Points and highscore tables for performance overview are in some places an integral part of sales departments, factories and other work areas. Academic institutions use GPAs (Grade Point Averages) and rankings to create a competitive work environment. And in the American drama "Glengarry Glen Ross" the managers of a fictional real estate company managed to increase their income through a monthly sales competition.

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Over the past ten years, tech-savvy companies have gradually begun to explore, adapt, and refine and adapt the principles of game mechanisms to meet their needs. Their goal: to get better performance from their employees and to encourage customers to behave in the desired manner. Even if the term "gamification" fulfills all clichés with a pale marketing slogan, experts from all areas of the technical industry cannot deny it: If you enjoy your work more, you automatically do more and better work. And those who reward their customers for their loyalty with fun get all the more loyalty back. But what exactly is "gamification"?

Gamification

The concept behind this is simple: make non-playful activities more fun by bringing them closer to games. In practice, this can be interpreted in many ways, but there are some important fundamentals for gamification in action:

  • There must be simple and recognizable clues for the next action

  • Direct and clear feedback is needed for all actions that have been carried out

  • Ranking and performance markers must be easy to identify

  • Future successes must be recognizable and achievable

Just think of a good video game - Angry Birds, for example. In this game you have a clear, overarching goal: to kill as many pigs as possible by shooting small birds at them with a sling. For every bird you shoot, you get direct feedback: you hear a destructive sound when the bird hits its target and the pigs that hit grunt. You see objects hit explode or otherwise destroyed. You hear the Angry Birds cheering. And you can see how the score counter rotates when you achieve certain goals. All these small feedbacks cumulatively ensure that you want to continue playing in the subconscious in order to earn more points and further improve your talents.

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Now think about sales management software. Your overall goal is to generate as much revenue as possible. To achieve this goal, many small steps are necessary: ​​contacting customers, holding internal meetings, watching training videos about the new product range, and so on. If you gamified these processes, you would get points for each and every one of these steps. Have you just called an important customer? Excellent! No matter how the interview ended, you will receive points for it. Was the phone call the hundredth this week? Congratulations, you've just won a medal and everyone on the team will notice. Your boss too. Have you just bagged the biggest sales deal of your career? Wow, that will give you the "Sales-Checker" badge - and only with that will you get free coffee! You can also share your awards on Facebook so all of your friends will know right away what a great pike you are. A well-structured recognition system like this can bring a real Las Vegas atmosphere into your company, which encourages every employee to achieve new heights.

The games begin

Making a company more playful has now become an industry in its own right. Companies like Badgeville and Bunchball, for example, offer a whole range of products and services with which achievement and gamification systems can be introduced for websites and companies - both internally and on the customer side. Salesforce.com, for example, has now gamified all of its sales management and customer service products. In the education sector, Khan Academy and Codecademy use gamification and motivate their students with reward medals for big and small progress, which they can also share on social networks. This approach not only binds users to a particular website, but also promotes the site itself, with students sharing their achievements with their Facebook friends.

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"There's no doubt that it will work," said Michael Fauscette, who heads IDC's business software group. In a gamification study from June 2013 in his company, Fauscette was able to confirm without a doubt that gamification increases employee engagement. A significant example is the Deloitte Learning Academy: It wanted to use gamification to encourage students to take part in professional development programs. The academy introduced several fun "missions" into their development programs that allowed participants to earn points and unlock secret achievements while continuing to study as normal. This is how Deloitte managed to attract busy people to its programs. "The number of those who returned to the program after a single use could be increased by 46 percent during the day and by 36 percent during the week," explains Fauscette in a summary of his report. "Active users unlocked an average of three successes, some of the top users even unlocked more than 30."

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Daniel Debow, Senior Vice President of the Work.com group - a division of Salesforce.com - came across gamification by chance. As a co-founder of a company called Rypple (bought by Salesforce in 2012), Debow wanted to develop a tool for his employees to make tracking their performance less grueling for managers and more rewarding for employees. That was in 2008, when gamification was still in its infancy and medals and successes were only just beginning to find their way into web apps. "We just wanted to develop an application that people would really want to use," explains Debow. "In my opinion, what people call gamification is just a well-made application."

Indeed, elements of gamification are ubiquitous on the web today. Facebook's user interface is full of gamified items - from the number of replies and shared content of a status update to the number of people on the friends list. Achievements and points of some kind lurk around every corner.

The gamification winning strategy

In order to benefit from the advantages of gamification, a lot of thought games and planning are necessary. In any case, you won't get much out of the idea if you just plaster your website with awards and achievements. Debow warns against confusing gamification with "punctuation": "Be skeptical. You don't make your people do something they don't want to do by showering them with points and medals. Instead, gamification has to be more of a reinforcer See a pre-existing signal. It has to be part of something you already have an underlying interest in. " Debow draws his warnings from the games industry itself, where there is great skepticism about business gamification. Great thinkers in the games industry have long warned against the hype of gamification, as the fun of playing depends more on the overall experience and not on individual, external factors.

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In his book "The Theory of Fun in Game Design" from 2004, game designer Ralph Koster observes that it is primarily the reward system that is fun in games. Aside from points and medals, games are fun because they give the player a certain level of competence, self-confidence, power and skill. "If you only want to get something out of gamification for yourself or your company, the approach won't work," says Debow. IDC's Michael Fauscette is equally aware of pitfalls like this: "If you just do it because you think it's cool, what's the point? If, on the other hand, you know you have a productivity problem and a certain behavior want to work, then you've come to a point where gamification can work. "

Companies interested in working with gamification should primarily focus on these five principles and rules:

1. Set a measurable goal: Focus on provoking certain behavior. For example, if you want to increase the number of product reviews on your website, reward users with points for each written review.

2. Focus on the things people are already interested in: Your best starting point for gamification is to reward behavior that is already happening.

3. Measure the change: Monitor the desired behavior before and after the introduction of gamification so that you know whether the principle really works.

4. Reward increasing progress: A good gamification experience measures and rewards small advances as well as large ones. When you reward people for taking small steps toward a bigger goal, they're more likely to stick with it.

5. Be social: Whether within an intranet or on public portals such as Facebook - give your employees the opportunity to make their achievements public and to share them with others. This also makes the rewards more important.

Last but not least, gamification always means a lot of work. This is about individual solutions. During the implementation, you must always keep a close eye on your company identity, as well as on the relationship with your employees and customers and on what factors motivate them. Badly done gamification quickly becomes stupid and selfish. However, if you do it right, it can make your teams happier and more profit-oriented as well.