An increasing number and variety of business applications are integrating game mechanics, or gamification, to improve user engagement, engage new customers, incent employees, build loyalty, and more.
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Gamification is the art, and sometimes science, of applying game theory and mechanics in non-game contexts. Businesses have used game mechanics for years--often in training and human resources settings--to provide users with incentives to perform particular (and, quite often, tedious) tasks. Now, with the rise of social networking in the workplace, the game, as they say, is really on.
Gamification has been used in business settings in the past, but users were often playing in a vacuum--or their success at "the game" was only visible to a manager. Think of a human resources application, where a user could earn points for every training document he or she read. The person's score might make a difference in his or her next performance evaluation, but the gaming model did not leverage what really makes people engage in games--the human desire to compete, against others and against themselves.
That's where social networking comes into play (pun intended). Organizations are using social networking platforms externally--for marketing, customer service, and product development--and internally--for workflow management and collaboration. In environments where people are already sharing and linking to each other, gamification is a natural fit. Now, users are competing against each other for points, or badges or to be known as a leader. Status is clearly visible, so even when users are not competing against each other, there is still incentive to achieve.
The gamification model integrated into social business applications often includes badges showing different levels of achievement, progress bars and meters, points and other rewards that can be earned, loyalty awards, and leader boards.
The market for gamification is expected to grow significantly in the next few years. Research from Gartner indicates that by 2015, 50% of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes, and that by 2014 more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application.