I had a conversation with a reward and recognition professional the other day. They asked me “what do you think of gamification in the recognition world?” The implied addition to that sentence was, “versus the incentive world.”
My response... “Not good for recognition. Good for incentive.”
He said – “y’know – that might make a good post.”
Aaaaaannnnnnnd here we are.
What is Gamification
And like any idea – it can be used for good – or evil. Here’s a link to a pretty robust article on the gamification craze.
From the post...
The use of gameplay mechanics for non-game applications. The term also suggests the process of using game thinking to solve problems and engage audiences.
And it is expected to be big...
A recent Gartner report from April of this year suggests as much. Analysts predict that by 2015, more than 50% of organizations will gamify their innovation processes.
“By 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon, and more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application,” the Gartner report concludes.
Why Incentives And Not Recognition?
If you don’t really believe or understand the difference between incentive programs and recognition programs stop reading now. The rest of this post will just confuse you and make you mad.
Game mechanics – Points, Badgets, Levels, Leaderboards, and Challengaes – apply many of the influence techniques and social psychology things we talk about here on the site, consistency, commitment, scarcity, social proof. They all play a role in influencing someone’s behavior and can turbo-charge an incentive program.
Now – time to split hairs – but it’s important.
You can recognize achievements in an incentive program (that’s good) and levels and badges are those events. They are recognition of specific achievements.
But... they are not “recognition programs.” They are recognition events within an incentive. (Read that again -important concept time.)
Recognition programs – ones that are driven from corporate culture and long-term business and personal values - do NOT lend themselves to overt gamification.
First of all – they are already “gamified” – but in a more refined manner.
Think about it. Recognition programs provide levels of achievement. Recognition is already about assigning someone to a category whether that be “innovator” or “top sales” or “top service rep.” Recognition programs rest on some of the elements of the gamification foundation.
But... and this is a big but (I cannot lie,) to add a level of “gamification” to an already “gamified” platform is like – well, adding peanut butter to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It is just too much. It changes the sandwich from something good and gooey to something just gooey. Adding gamification on top of a high-level recognition program just makes it less good and more gooey.
Gamification = manipulation.
If you “gamify” a recognition program – start layering in things that take away from the core values you dilute the real intent. The real intent of a strategic recognition program is to reinforce a culture – reinforce core beliefs and tenets. Gamification, in the word itself, communicates that the system can be manipulated.
In addition, gamification is about short-term – it’s about the “next step” – not the big picture.
Strategic corporate recognition programs reward bigger issues than a simple behavior. Recognition programs – the strategic kind – not the little employee of the month parking space kind – require a more dignified approach (IMHO).
Can you use gamification in an overall recognition strategy?
Will it communicate that you don’t take recognition seriously and you think it is a game to be played versus a business approach to be lived? Yep.
Will people be engaged? Yes.
Engaged in scamming the system to get the badges, levels, etc., not to be recognized for their connection to the mission and values of the company.
Gamification takes the focus off the outcome and places it squarely on the game. Recognition should focus squarely on the outcome and take the focus off the game.
So... if your incentive supplier wants to add gaming elements to your incentive program say “Tell me more.”
If they want to add gamification to your strategic recognition program, well, as they say in “The Holy Grail” – RUN AWAAAAAAAY....
(Video below from "The Holy Grail" - some may say NSF, but I think it's okay. Email and RSS subscribers may need to visit the post on the website here.)