Friday, November 09, 2012

Introducing Games into the Workplace Culture

Gamification is the subject today. It is the use of game mechanics in non-game concepts so that said concepts are more engaging. It’s not a new thought, but it’s one gaining traction as gaming has become more incorporated into our daily lives. Kevin Warbach and Dan Hunter review this in their new book “For the Win." 

Dumb titles aside, the book focuses on certain companies that take the concepts of gamification and how they are working for their business. Microsoft has a scavenger hunt for translation mistakes. LiveOps has a leader board and gives out badges similar to achievements.

We all know how this goes. You do a job, and you get a happy sticker to go on the board posted at the other end of the room for doing so well. Yea! *insert “whatever” face here* One thing we have to credit Warbach and Hunter for is that these can come across as condescending and patronizing to workers. Which if you’ve worked at any customer service center, you know that the quickest way to feel less then yourself is to have these inter-office competitions forced upon you. I always hated those. The inclusion of gamification needs to be a seamless transition. It’s not motivating to a call-staff crew to get a smiley sticker on a board. They’re already working for a better reward: a paycheck. They also cite a few psychological studies where intrinsic rewards, enjoying the task for what it is, are more likely to be better motivated versus points, scores, and money.

You’ll see this in MMO’s all the time. I’m one of those crazy people that enjoyed going to Dynamis and Limbus in FFXI because I wanted to. I didn’t need any armor, weapons, or coins. I just wanted to go and play. I’m like this on other games too. Going to a raid for the fun of going. You’d be surprised how many people are like that, and not wanting to use it as leverage for a favor later. Those people in the latter column do exist, just not as prevalent as the community makes it out to be.

The article from The Economist wraps up without much of a conclusion, but the theory is sound. The working world, hell the world in general, would be better and more productive if work didn’t feel like a chore and was a rewarding experience in itself. For some people it is. Live to work, not work to live. But for the 95% of us that need the paychecks, we fall into the second column.

So now it’s a matter of how can gamification be included into the working world without disrupting productivity and mental stability. Let’s face it. The biggest concern is making it transparent enough to not make the game feel like work. Educational games have been struggling with this for decades. WoW, Evercrack, League of Legends works because they are games first, jobs second. When you try to flip the system around, it is destined to fail. Why is this?

Probably because the emphasis is no longer about your job, but about the game, thus removing you from your original goal. The games themselves become a distraction, not just for productivity but for your own mental sake. You know you have a task to complete, and the game removes you from completing said task. Even if you hate the task, knowing that you cannot finish it because of an office game blocking you, you’re going to hate that game. Counterproductive!

So how can you introduce gamification? Indirectly. The best games for the office are the ones that occur naturally. One thing I liked to do at the end of the day was check my e-mail stats and compare it to others on the team to see how well I did, if I met my goal (both work requirement and personal goal), etc. After a while, multiple people on the team began to do this and it became our own motivator to excel for ourselves. It wasn’t until our supervisor at the time forced it upon us to have our own competition that it no longer was fun. I hated pulling up the stat system to show to him “yes, I did my work and I did better than so-and-so.” Intentional competition with my coworkers is not fun. But when we decided for ourselves to check stats, we made it enjoyable. So not only does gamification need to be indirect, but it needs to be developed by the employees themselves. They/we know what we want and what we enjoy. Forcing something on us causes greater resistance, thus lower productivity.

Something to think about on this dragging Friday~

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