Gamification - fad or fun?
Stephen Bounds — Fri, 12/04/2013 - 15:16
The rise in "gamification" as a management technique to change staff or user behavior is simultaneously exciting and exasperating. Exciting because it means that managers are beginning to recognise that incentives are necessary to change behavior; exasperating because it claims some special insight into how incentives are implemented and managed.
For example, the recent KMWorld feature on KM behaviors and adoption through gamification talks about employees being given "an insight into the level of impact he or she is having across the organisation" and "being recognized and rewarded for that". Yes, the outcome is increased "impact of collaborative behaviors on the organization" (which is great!) but the reason is the recognition and reward, not gamification per se.
Put another way: if the game was there, but managers publicly or privately told staff "I see you've been wasting your time getting points with that collaboration leaderboard again", and over the long-term promotions went to people who ignored or gamed the system, then it would rapidly lose its effectiveness.
Gamification systems work because managers endorse and support them as a metric for desired behavior. Any culture change program with strong management support will have a good chance of success; gamification's innovation is to turn "soft" attributes (collaboration and innovation) into a measurable one.
Which is fine as long as you are aware that any gamification metric becomes the goal, not a proxy for the goal. Which is why I found it ironic that the KMWorld article concludes with: "You will need to pay attention to people who want to ‘game' the system. Where possible, build in approaches to limit the ability of people to do so."
It's a bit like aiming to "limit the time a fish swims in their acquarium". With gamification, the game is the system; that is both its strength and its weakness.
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