It’s all fun and games until you lose…

… your position in first!  I look forward to our family ski trips and a fun activity is checking our daily stats on “Epic Mix”.  Lots of facts and all kinds of fun awards for riding the chairlift “x” number of times, going down a run or racking up vertical – it is all a virtual game that we get to play. 

Gamification uses techniques foound in games to develop and create support mechanisms focused on improving business performance.  Hard to believe but adding in some fun to work activities can move people towards a desired behavior, create opportunities to have people be engaged with the behavior and each other, set up a non-threatening method of tracking progress, and establish review/revise (aka “feedback”) loops to keep the process improving. 

Sounds like a Hammer, TQI, or Six Sigma program: defining success, establishing a method of measurement, modeling the behavior and/or process, and rewarding those who succeed. 

 So does it work?  Dion Hinchcliffe put out a post recently titled: Enterprise gamification: Will it drive better business performance? quoting a Wall Street Journal article that “recently explored how a call center was able to reduce wait times up to 15% and increase sales by up to 12% using gamification.”  Operations may be drooling but it is HR and Learning who should betaking the lead.  Gamificiation sites have increased levels of interaction and by maximizing the use of social tools you can build in personalized encouragement and support – you can engage the mind and heart.  Every action taken in the “game” can be a link to training, procedural, and corporate content objects.  But it is “not just about points, levels, and leaderboards… gamification involves crafting an experience where a player engages in a challenge and uses interactivity and dynamic feedback to make decisions and work toward a specific outcome.

Outcomes are a primary topic as health and wellness programs move quickly into this space not only from businesses trying to have healthier employees but also insurance industry leaders including Aetna, Humana, and UnitedHealth Group.  And while gamification is grounded from the video gaming research “current data backing the effectiveness of workplace “gamification” wellness programs is thin, though companies including WellPoint Inc. and ShapeUp Inc. have early evidence of weight loss and other improvements in some tests.”   

I am sure there will be more research however planning and design can drive success for the learner.  We need to define true success (the outcome or deliverable) because gamification, by itself, will not work forever but it is very effective getting people started down a new path.  We need to take every opportunity to engage the community of users to learn, adopt the values and behaviors being espoused.  Gamification can help by leveraging our social need to meet others going through the same process, to build upon the best practices (and lessons learned!) the group can share, and creating new relationships that go across the organizational silos – these connections are more than a virtual reward, this is how we can effect true change.  Of course, I still like some cool awards to show off on my email!

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