A few weeks back I posted on gamification. My intent on that post was to warn companies about turning a strategic recognition program into a "game." I also said gamification could be considered when looking at incentives. A great conversation followed in the comments. Take a look when you get a chance.
For those that don’t click over the net-net was this...
Strategic recognition isn’t a “game” and shouldn’t be positioned as such (I do, however like some of the psychological principles involved in game design and those can be part of the program.)
Making strategic recognition too much like a game takes away some of the value (IMHO – some would argue – but I think they’re wrong…)
When/How Game Mechanics Apply in an Incentive
However – I DO think game mechanics are valuable in an incentive application for a variety of reasons – shorter term, more focused on transactional behaviors not values and more esoteric things. The fact is, although we in the industry didn’t call it “gamiifcation,” we’ve included many of the elements of game mechanics in our programs for years. We just didn’t have the foresight to call it something cool.
To give you an idea of how game mechanics CAN be used in an incentive program I point you to this post (I’m gonna steal liberally from it.) It’s one of the better summaries I’ve seen on how to incorporate game mechanics in a corporate initiative to drive behavior. The author, Roan Yong, consults with companies on using these principles in the Knowlege Managment space. His post is about using game mechanics to influence behaviors to increase knowledge sharing in a company – a problem many companies have.
The author outlines how game mechanics impact our reward center in the brain and makes us WANT to keep playing…
- Showing progress through visible “progress bars.”
- Including long and shorter term goals in the “game.”
- Rewards for efforts – not just outcomes.
- Rapid and frequent feedback – even if it is negative. Think of games where you die if you make a mistake. That is negative feedback. But we learn and continue. The key here is that the failure is safe – you’re not fired for doing something wrong. The author calls it a “safe-fail environment.” I like that a lot.
- Keep them guessing by providing uncertain award – think slot machine. This is a big one for most companies – they like things to be fair so they shy away from uncertain rewards. But if you put minimal value on the award – and base it on behaviors not outcomes – you have better chance of it being accepted.
- Add an element of collaboration – allow people to work together on a task/challenge. People are inspired and engaged with other people. The ability to solve a problem with a team is a reward in itself.
The author then goes on to show how to incorporate those elements to drive knowledge management activity. The recommendations are solid and I’m reprinting them in whole below so you can see how they can be incorporated into a specific objective – sharing knowledge.
- Establish Points System. If someone in the organization captured her knowledge, give her some points. This gives her some sorts of reward for capturing knowledge.
- Establish Hall of Fame, and ensure that it is visible throughout the organization. Hall of Fame would allow people to compare themselves against others – which would build up healthy competitive spirit. For example, the high scorers would be given ‘lofty titles’ – such as KM champions, evangelists, guardians. And the top ten in the list would be featured in the organization newsletter.
- Show the Impact of KM activities. Establishing Hall of Fame is not enough, people may not see the value of outscoring each other. Unless, they are able to see the impact of KM activities to the organization, or to themselves. Consider illustrating the benefits of KM activities in terms of time saved, productivity gained, increased innovation. Better still, translate knowledge capture in terms of personal development. In gaming, this is called ‘leveling up’.
- Make Types of Rewards Uncertain. An element of uncertainty is what makes people keep on going. The key here is to keep people guessing on what kind of rewards they would get. So, consider giving random rewards. It is important to avoid giving financial rewards such as salary increment, or bonus payment. Instead, tell people that they can expect either one of these: (1) Appreciation Lunch with Senior Management; (2) Time-off; (3) Employee of the Year award; (4) More training opportunities; (5) Additional points during performance review.
- Give Rapid and Frequent Feedback. In gaming, when you are inexperienced, your character would die often. These instances of getting killed are part of the rapid and frequent feedback mechanism. This kind of feedback system, spur people to learn. In the same way, people who are inexperienced in KM activities should be given rapid and frequent feedback. For example, they should be informed of how many people downloaded (or using a Facebook term – liked) the knowledge capture documents.
- Give Autonomy. In gaming, gamers could accomplish missions in various ways. That’s why gaming is so engaging! In the KM world, people should have the freedom to capture knowledge using methods that they prefer. Rigidity kills intrinsic motivation.
Now think about your own organization goals. Which one would benefit from adding some form of game mechanics into the process? I’m thinking most of them if not all of them.
Substitute your goals/process into the above list and see if you can create a “gamified” solution.