Enterprise Gamification Ready To Make The Collaborative Dream Real
2012 is the start of an enterprise gamification revolution that will let companies achieve social collaboration goals.
Finally, there's the final rock-solid foundational component for enterprise gamification, which I alluded to above: Despite the desirability of the outcome, the stakeholders need to be shown how to collaborate in order to reach these goals. This is the dirty little secret of the social/collaborative world in which we're trying to live. We're not a very collaborative society--this is, after all, the nation of the rugged individualist, the Jeffersonian pioneer conquering the wilderness. Enlightened and capable, naturalement. But collaborative? Not us.
This is where enterprise gamification becomes a powerful tool for the 21st century enterprise, providing a system of incentives and disincentives that direct individuals and groups towards a set of behaviors that in turn positively influences a desired outcome. A well-designed enterprise gamification environment becomes an engagement mechanism for collaborative behavior that can overcome the natural inability of people and enterprises to collaborate effectively towards a common goal.
Thus, the classic gamification elements, such as points, badges, contests, leaderboards, ratings are put to use incenting people to collaborate and cooperate towards the desired outcome. On the way, people get tangible rewards, peer and supervisor recognition, a sense of purpose and collective action, and other psycho-social rewards that can help them and the enterprise reach the apex of Maslow's hierarchy. And they have some fun getting there.
But that's not all. Because all the stakeholder interactions are taking place inside a gamified technology platform--even those interactions that require use of some enterprise or desktop software system--there's an unprecedented ability to measure how well individuals and groups are collaborating. This analytical capability isn't just limited to people: The same environment can also show us how well the technology components, both the gamified elements and the enterprise or desktop software systems, are working towards serving the desired outcome. This ability to measure how people and processes interact and offer guidelines for improvements will provide an unprecedented window into the enterprise's overall effectiveness.
Meanwhile, something subversive is happening inside the newly gamified enterprise: People are more engaged, more able to understand and support the outcomes that matter to the enterprise, and they're being recognized and rewarded for these actions. This ability to acknowledge the contribution of individuals in a collaborative endeavor isn't unique to gamification. But only in a gamified environment can everyone--employees, their peers, and their supervisors--see the value of those contributions to the individual, the work group, and to the company as a whole.
In conclusion, I have to confess to an essential problem that continues to bedevil enterprise gamification: a real ROI. Enterprise gamification is very theoretical, there simply is no data to prove it works, yet. That's the goal for 2012: Take the theory into the field, show how it works, and do it well. That's one of my personal goals as a gamification catalyst, and one that I'll be writing about as the year unfolds.
Luckily for all of us in enterprise gamification, there's lots of solid data on how well traditional multi-user, online gaming works in terms of issues like user engagement and knowledge transfer. Multi-user game researchers like Nick Yee and game-based training researchers like David Williamson Shaffer, to name two of hundreds of researchers in these fields, have amassed considerable data that supports the notion that gamification could have a powerful impact on the enterprise. This body of research is vast, comprehensive, and, in my opinion, provides an effective starting point for cost justifying enterprise gamification. But more is needed, nonetheless.
So, hold tight, it's going to be a fun year, and a year when fun enters the enterprise in the most subversive guise possible: as a means to make good on social collaboration and the potential for greater efficiency in the performance of ad hoc processes. It's a worthy goal, and enterprise gamification is a worthy platform. Onward!
Josh Greenbaum is principal of Enterprise Applications Consulting, a Berkeley, Calif., firm that consults with end-user companies and enterprise software vendors large and small. Clients have included Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, and other firms that are sometimes analyzed in his columns. Write him at email@example.com.
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