We covered the emerging trend of gamification – the application of game mechanics outside of games – in November. A few enterprise vendors, such as Moxie and Rypple, are starting to incorporate elements of gamification into products. Constellation Research analyst and co-founder R “Ray” Wang has identified five engagement factors for gamification in the enterprise: intrigue, reward, status, community and challenge. But aren’t these common elements of a good workplace, with or without the idea of “gamification”?

First of all – why apply gamification principles in the enterprise? Wang notes the following applications:

  • Training
  • Collaboration and knowledge sharing
  • Customer loyalty programs
  • Ad network optimization
  • Virtual goods and currencies.

I can see the applications for customer-facing programs, but how well will internal programs work out?

Intrigue is obviously the hard part. “Content and story line often represent the consumer tech side,” Wang writes. “The enterprise needs to develop relevant content to keep users engaged. Content could include help topics, related information, user generated comments, etc.” Easier said than done.

When we covered gamification before we quoted Margaret Robertson:

That problem being that gamification isn’t gamification at all. What we’re currently terming gamification is in fact the process of taking the thing that is least essential to games and representing it as the core of the experience. Points and badges have no closer a relationship to games than they do to websites and fitness apps and loyalty cards. They’re great tools for communicating progress and acknowledging effort, but neither points nor badges in any way constitute a game.

And to some extent, “pointsification” is just quantification – something enterprises should be doing anyway. In fact, most the principals of a good game should apply in the workplace:

  • Quantification: Tracking sales, average customer support response time, server uptime and other metrics that identify success.
  • Recognition and Reward: Raises, bonuses, promotions.
  • Autonomy: Robertson notes that for a game to be truly engaging players must be able to make decisions that “meaningfully impact on the world of the game.” Autonomy has been identified by Daniel Pink and others as a requirement for motivation and job satisfaction.
  • Challenge: I think this should be self-explanatory.

Looked at this way, is there any difference between “gamification” and “good management”?

Photo by andi.vs.zf