June 28, 2011

You got game?

In August 2008 Marc Hogan was bet £1 that he couldn’t become a stand up comic in less than 12 months and perform a one man comedy show at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in August 2009 for 21 nights. He won the bet!

Do you play computer games?

If so, have you ever wished you could beat up a difficult colleague (à la Grand Theft Auto) only for them to automatically survive and return to work the next day raring to go! Or perhaps on a Wednesday afternoon you could do with a free “power up”, or if you work in a call centre, rather than playing the game does it feel like you spend most of your time actually talking to “Angry Birds”?

While this kind of day dreaming probably doesn’t help productivity, the question remains, can computer games actually help your business?

There’s a new buzzword in business models, ‘Gamification’. What’s that you ask? Well, it’s when computer game-like setting or approaches are applied to a non-game business model with a view to creating loyalty, increasing the perceived value to the client, or generating new ideas.

It is increasingly used for marketing by business-to-consumer companies who in a bid to foster loyalty want to make it more enjoyable for consumers to interact with their brands.

A simple example might be the Tesco Clubcard, the more money you spend the more points you get (unlike the 2012 Olympics where the more money you spend the more unlikely you are to get a ticket).

Another example would be foursquare, where customers are encouraged to “check in” to shops and hotels using their smartphones, and in return they are sent special offers.

Technology research firm Gartner predicts that more than half of organisations wanting to encourage innovation will use gamification processes by 2015.

Computers, the internet and mobile devices are companies’ dearest friends when it comes to ‘ramifying’ different situations to motivate people, or to change behaviours in a particular way.

These techniques aren’t just used externally with customers or potential customers. Some firms use them internally to encourage employees to generate and develop ideas through game-like applications, and rewarding them with virtual badges or prizes.

One successful example of this is the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions’ (stay with me!) ‘Idea Street’. This social-collaboration platform is essentially an internal market game, which encourages workers to invest ‘shares’ in ideas – and develop them to the point they are ready to be implemented. Staff who come up with an idea are rewarded with points called ‘DWPeas’ (do you see what they did there?!). More DWPeas can be earned for further development of their own or others’ suggestions. Should a proposal be selected for implementation, shareholders are rewarded with yet more DWPeas, but if it is rejected, points are lost. Successful participants may also be temporarily seconded onto the innovation team of seven as a further incentive to become involved in the scheme.

And it works – within the first 18 months, some 4,500 workers have used Idea Street, generating more than 1,400 ideas, of which 63 have been implemented. The system works by bringing staff from across the organisation together to solve problems, and it does so in very little time, most people spending only 10 minutes of so logged into Idea Street.

So what can you take away from these examples to benefit your business? How can gamification techniques apply to your organisation? Here are four ideas for using the approach with your staff:

1. Accelerate your feedback cycles and maintain motivation and engagement. In games the feedback is delivered quickly, allowing it to be acted on and the momentum to be maintained. Compare this to typical work environments where feedback, for example as part of annual performance appraisals, is often slow.

2. Set clear goals for your staff and have well-defined rules of play to ensure that employees feel able to achieve their objectives.

3. Create a compelling narrative to encourage individuals to get involved and hold their interest.

4. The final must-have is to ensure that tasks provide employees with continual challenges to develop them and also maintain their interest. The ideal is to include multiple short term, achievable goals in any given system or process.

Who said computer games can’t be educational?

Click here to watch Marc’s showreel. If you would like to find out more about Marc, visit www.marchoganlive.com or to book him for a speaking event please contact your favourite speaker bureau.


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