Don’t you hate it when someone says “our strategy is to gamify the experience”? Contrary to popular belief, gamification is not a strategy, it is a tactic that can be used to essentially motivate people to perform an otherwise mundane task that they otherwise wouldn’t do.
Imagine if FourSquare was called “The Check-in app” – it allows you to check in to physical places, but doesn’t keep score, give you badges, or let you compete against others. The data entry process would become a chore that doesn’t provide you with any utility or feedback of any kind. Would you use it?
Now think about your job – you perform a series of tasks that, no matter how fun, eventually seem mundane purely by the fact that you have to do them all day every day. How could we gamify this experience? What if the tasks you needed to perform were clearly outlined, with defined metrics that determine the extent to which these tasks had been successfully completed, and a tool provided to collect data on the success of the tasks you’d performed. You would have instant access to feedback on how you’re going in the form of a score. You could even unlock special rewards for achievements in a specific area of your job, get powerups in the form of training, and compare yourself against your colleagues to rise to the top of the leaderboard!
Incentives and bonuses have been used for decades as a management technique, but where they fall short is that they are only based on a top-line objective (like sales). They don’t clearly outline the tasks you need to perform in order to succeed, and more importantly they don’t give you consistent feedback on what you need to do more of in order to improve your performance. On the other hand, the results of using gamification as a management technique would be better results and happier employees – who wouldn’t want to go to work every day and play a game?
So as 2012 winds down and we all move into holiday mode, think about this: would you rather return to the office next year to a job or a game? Get ready, it’s time to play.