Social apps and games are today omnipresent and you can see people engaged in one or the other of these activities while traveling, waiting at airports or generally filling up their free time. Some facebook updates even show people climbing various levels or achieving new powers when they are supposed to be at work. :) The levels of engagement that gaming is able to generate got me thinking on how to harness the same levels of energy and engagement and apply it in work scenarios. I pondered on a few attributes which enables the gaming industry to keep people occupied for long hours on end.
- Responsibility and ownership - At the very outset, you are clearly given the ownership of your 'territory' in the form of a city or a farm or a piece of real estate. There are defined boundaries and set tasks that you are supposed to perform with given resources in order to ensure the well-being of your territory. Relating this to the work scenario, when a new resource 'signs up' to your organization, evaluate whether he is given this sense of responsibility and ownership on day one of logging in.
- Coaching and guidance - Invariably, day one on a new game comes with a tutorial where you are taught some basic tasks to perform which will help you in your daily routine. Some of the more successful games will assign a virtual assistant who will guide you through the initial few days and ensure you do not get lost in the maze. You are able to confidently chart out your course with this assistance on the basic paths leaving you to explore the enhanced levels depending on your aptitude and interest.
- Decision making - In complex, multi level strategy games, you are often allowed to create the story board individually. Every individual will have the choice of which path he wants to navigate, thus creating his own unique experience. At every stage there is a decision to be made on the next steps to be followed. There will of course be consequences and rewards of choosing one or the other activity which will lead you on a particular strategy path. While the internal logics of strategic path creation are really complex, the choices for the individual are quite clear and concise to enable him to move forward in his chosen direction.
- Daily mission - To become a really accomplished player, you would of course need to constantly polish your methods and climb up the levels to unlock new skills. This takes daily practice in your tasks and requires learning new tasks and methods to accomplish more. There are consequences to not keeping daily tabs on your tasks as invariably something or someone will suffer from the lack of daily activity. As you practice daily on given tasks, you become proficient and can climb up the levels till you reach a particularly tough level to crack (level of incompetency?). Most often you also have your daily mission set out for you which can act as your to-do list. Create five new sales leads today, submit your pipeline report and account for your expenses today - ring a bell for anyone?
- Instant feedback - Every action or inaction has an immediate consequence. This feedback is very bluntly available as you progress along the daily chores. Positive actions earn you credits and allow you to prepare for the next endeavor. In multi-player simulations, you are able to even get feedback from real or virtual co-players. This feedback enables you reflect on your actions, modify your methods to perform the same tasks or helps you perform advanced tasks.
- Collaboration - In a multi-player scenario it is often possible to collaborate with other players. This leads to collaborative planning and combined efforts which always have greater impact than individual efforts. There are scenarios to be part of a larger group rather than limit yourself to an individual city, farm or restaurant. Thus you start being a part of an organization and your actions now have an impact on the well being and survival of the organization and not just your own territory.
- Rewards - As you become accomplished in the game, your fame starts to spread and your achievements are published in your social feed for you to gloat on and for your friends to try achieve similar glory. Rewards can also be in the form of working on new levels, acquiring new powers or skills or tools. When every action provides certain credits to your account, it becomes all the more motivating. Usually organizations do have incentives directly correlated with targets usually for their sales and marketing functions. The inhibiting factor in such target linked incentives is that they work only till the target is exhausted and there is always a fear of breaking the target which will permanently raise the bar in future periods and act as a dis-incentive for breaking the target in the current period. Anyway, that's a topic for another blog post.
- Growth - Building on the above points of collaboration and rewards, there can be opportunities for growth based on your skill levels, your collaboration and organization capabilities. Growth can be in terms of increasing the size of our territory, your wealth or the strength of your group. This leads to aiming for the next higher level of growth which is now a distinct possibility.
- Engaging experience- However complex the internals of the game are, as far as the user is concerned his task is never made complex. Success of the game and its popularity and success is directly proportional to the ease of use of the interface, challenges posed to ensure the daily routine never becomes boring. All of this combines to ensure that it is easy to use and difficult to put down once started. The focus is always in ensuring the player keeps coming back for more.
Introducing these concepts into the workplace would of course have impacts on hierarchies and processes.
Is it possible to apply these principles to lead to a 'gamification' of the workplace leading to an enhanced sense of ownership and higher engagement levels? Would love to hear your feedback.