First of all I’m in agreement with many in the gaming community with my dislike of the term “Gamification”. Gamers have criticised the term gamification because in many cases business only adopt the incidental features of games e.g. Leader boards, points, badges and levels ignore the real reasons people are passionate about gaming e.g. scenarios, role play, collaboration, strategy etc.
Putting aside my thoughts about the term, gamification is undoubtedly a hot topic. What is noticeable however is the difference between how gaming is used in business operations compared to how gaming techniques are used in training and business improvement activities.
In business operations gaming is still very much of the leader board, points and levels variety. However when applied to business improvement and training games start to include aspects like role play and scenarios and begin to get closer to what games are really about.
This SAP accounts payable example shows a typical use case for gamification within business operations. Leaving to one side the fact that much of this process can be automated using capture technologies, in this example gamification is used to motivate data entry employees to reduce mistakes. For each invoice and line item entered users and their teams can earn points, raise their status and participate in daily or monthly challenges for their team. The reward at the end of the month is a dollar amount that can be donated to a charity.
Many examples of the use of gamification within business operations are not much different from what airline loyalty programs have been doing for years with tiers and rewards. We haven’t been calling loyalty programs gamification.
One of my concerns is that gaming, when used in business operations to create leader boards and assign points, will not just be used to stimulate or motivate staff but will also be used to rank and compare employee performance and simply add additional layer of employee objectives or targets. The question then is whether this is actually gaming or shaming. Games also have a pretty short shelf life and as a result they should be a temporary measure to try and deliver short term performance improvement and not imbedded permanently in operational processes.
Some of the best examples of the use of gaming within business are in the areas of employee training and business improvement. Short business improvement events, brainstorming and training engagements are ideal for the use of one off games. In business process design Singularity/Kofax, BizzDesign, 21apps all make use of and promote the idea of role play in order to extract requirements. SAP uses role play and simulated meetings to train its mobile workforce.
Fundamentally games are supposed to be short term fun events. The danger of gamification in business is that it becomes “organised fun” (which we know is an oxymoron) and just another target for employees to overcome rather than what games in business should be which is a short term alternative approach to solving a business problem.