Lately, I have been networking far outside the circle of gamification enthusiasts and the general rule is that most people in business still don’t know what gamification is and what it could possibly look like. When you are working in the field for years, you tend to forget that what is normal for you may not be normal for everyone else. Or at the least, the terminology may not be familiar.
What is gamification?
The definition I use for gamification is the application of game psychology and game dynamics and game mechanics to a non-game situation such as business processes.
In more real terms this definition translates a bit like this into an example. The game mechanic of a leaderboard may by default introduce the game dynamic of competition, which also by its nature brings in a whole load of psychological and behavioural elements for users of the process. A leaderboard in learning may track those that log in most often, which then encourages that kind of behaviour more. (btw ideally it should be set to track what you want more of and logging in may not be most appropriate)
Where have you seen gamification
Gamification has crept into a lot of our applications and most people don’t realise it is gamification. So here are some examples of applications you may have been using for some time:
LinkedIn has used gamification from the early days (and so have most other social media platforms). If you think of the game statistics shown in any game in what is called the heads up display is shows your scores. LinkedIn shows me my scores in terms of profile views, post views, activity, likes, etc. they don’t just show me once but in several places. The frequency is subliminally encouraging me to pay attention and improve on what I have in numbers.
On my LinkedIn profile, when I look at my profile or try to improve it I see the private dashboard. There I also find my status of “All-Star” which used to measure profile completeness and how you do against your peers.
Zoho CRM – achievements
In my customer relationship management system, I have a set of achievements to collect all related to sales and customer relations. They are triggered by regular sales activity. As a systems administrator, I can set more achievements and create rules to earn them.
The language learning application Duolingo has been gamified from the start. Some of their game elements are used to encourage regular to practise because they know regular practice improves language ability. In fact, they want you to do a little bit every day. As an interesting fact, the longest standing unbroken practice streak was 7 years.
I earn levels based on practice and mastery of vocabulary. Keeping up the practice unlocks new vocabulary and increases my levels of mastery.
What makes something a game then?
What all the above examples have in common is that you stay in the process of social networking for LinkedIn, you enter the regular sales information in Zoho, you continue your learning in Duolingo. The game elements are shown as a result of activities in the business process you are doing anyway. That is what makes it gamification.
For it to become a game, you would need to leave the process and enter a game environment. For example, a business simulation you actually are playing in that environment and may pick up achievements and learn in the environment. But typically this includes a debrief to extract the true learning and make the links back to your real job.
Games provide a safe environment to test and learn new skills in. Gamification gives you the nudges and reinforcement of behaviour you want to encourage more of whilst people remain engaged in their daily work. I hope you can now recognise gamification a bit more in your daily use of apps and work software.