People talk a lot about ‘gamification’ – which Wikipedia describes as the “use of game design techniques[1], game thinking and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts”.

It’s quite a new concept in some ways,  pioneered by applications like Foursquare, to reward the user when they reach certain milestones, both one off and repeated – like becoming the mayor of a certain place for repeated check-ins, or for the first time one checks into an airport, or indeed airport to airport check-ins, all of which I have achieved in recent days on account of being in Saudi Arabia. Go me.  Other ‘games’ like Draw Something have themselves adopted some gamification techniques – the purpose of drawing something is to guess what your co-drawer (on another device somewhere in the world) has drawn.  The gamification elements of it are what makes it – you can go on ‘runs’ i.e. how many consecutive correct guesses can you get, you also get ‘coins’ for correct guesses, which then can be exchanged for more ‘stuff’ like colours. Clever stuff.

The question (and fashionable idea at the moment) is can this be applied to the corporate world? To the world of corporate IT systems perhaps?

One could easily see it work – achievement badges/milestones etc for using the system in a certain way, helping others, activity milestones etc – definitely the concept CAN be applied to (for example) an ERP – but so what?  These concepts are successful in the real world where there is a societal bragging aspect – this exists in the workplace, but perhaps not to the same extent. So what then?  How to get people to play at this?  Simple – Reward.

My suggestion would be to provide people with a  % uplift to their salary. Let’s assume crazily 10% is available. Make 5% of that purely available as monetary benefit – i.e. use the system, be successful, participate in the sharing of best practice, information, how to, help others out, get your badges, unlock achievements, then eventually, bit by bit, make up-to a 5% uplift in your salary.  Make the other 5% reflect a performance management benefit uplift – i.e. have it as an objective to do well over a year, and get rewarded by a similar % uplift.

This would probably be ‘too rich’ a cake for leaders to stomach – so another idea could be to allow other benefits (like vouchers), get unlocked through activity and be available to all/any users.

Another idea I’d love to try is the concept of ‘unlocking functionality’ based on activity. Imagine some kind of transactional activity, which upon conducting 10 in a detailed way unlocks a short-cut (perhaps to a home-screen) or unlocks a ‘template’ functionality or something like that….Achieving those milestones will create a real optimism in the end users.

So there you have it – You probably won’t see this kind of push for adoption in a corporate context. What we might see is a simple application of Gamification into a corporate context with no link to reward, meaning it will die on its feet – even with my change management brethren waxing lyrical about it.