The New Architecture of Work III: Gamification - by John Sumser - HRExaminer

The term ‘gamification’ is a five syllable mouthful that means simple visualizations of accomplishment.

The New Architecture of Work III: Gamification

The term ‘gamification’ is a five syllable mouthful that means simple visualizations of accomplishment. Whether it’s administrative paperwork, project plans or performance objectives, gamification will be used (many times subtly) to influence the way work gets done. Gamification is the key to measuring and understanding work pacing and flow in information work.

After the initial nauseating overuse of gamification at work, gamification will take its place as a part of the arsenal of work design tools. The most well known of this era’s successors to time-motion studies and enterprise assessment benchmarking, gamification is one of may work design methods that are emerging from the software design universe. While it’s easy to make fun of the idea, embedding game design principles in work processes will reshape the way we think about jobs.

Gamification works by making the job more enjoyable. It can

  • Encourage employees to engage in desired behaviors
  • Model the path to mastery and autonomy
  • Focus problem solving activities
  • Leverage our desire to engage in gaming.
  • Motivating people to perform chores that they ordinarily consider boring, such as filling out forms, consuming dry training content, gaining approvals, filling out forms, or reading web sites and procedural updates.

At its most primitive, gamification involves collecting and competing for points that are based on schedule, quality or consistency of task completion. Unfortunately, the tasks one would most like to gamify are the places where it will be least successful. For instance, trying to get expense report laggards to hurry up and submit acceptable stuff is unlikely to involve winning the badge for mayor of expense reportville.

In early attempts to gamify, some of the techniques are:

  • achievement “badges”
  • achievement levels
  • leader boards
  • virtual currency (this is currently the rage in incentive software)
  • visual meters to indicate completion of a task a company is trying to encourage
  • systems for awarding, redeeming, trading, gifting, and otherwise exchanging points
  • challenges between users

To the extent that they can be used to promote competition between employees, they are better used in outward facing functions like sales and customer service. To the extent that they involve procedural productivity (better form filling) or personal development, they are more suited to internal tasks.

Gamification will be an important part of the goal visualization and completion process that dominates much of white collar work. This is as simple as embedding key progress visualizations in the midst of the employee interface to the job. It cam be as complex as tying an entire project to a narrative visualization. (“We are going to think about this project as an extended Wizard of Oz metaphor.”)

Gamification is the most disciplined study of human motivation since the late 19th Century. But, its use in the HR Department is only in the earliest stages. We will have to make some silly mistakes before it really takes root.


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