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Volume 5, Issue 24


The Promise and Risks of Gamification

Gamification is a potential boon for organizations—but it's still a gamble, according to business experts.

At a recent University Pennsylvania Wharton Business School conference, "Gameful Approaches to Motivation and Engagement," business leaders swapped successes and challenges of gamification. Gamification is defined as applying motivational game elements (such as competition or rewards) to non-game situations such as business, education and fitness.

One panelist offered a real-world example of gamification. Amaya Capellan, vice president of product at software company PeopleLinx, said her company implemented a gamified weekly leaderboard email to boost sales representatives' participation with a software product.

"[Team members saw that] people they recognized and respected were participating," she said. "It encouraged them to give it a try as well."

Other organizations are integrating game-based initiatives for staff as well as customers. WeSpire, a technology firm that runs employee engagement programs, helps companies create initiatives for employees to save energy, waste and water. Points are used to drive behavior, said panelist Susan Hunt Stevens, founder and chief executive officer of the company. Another gamification technique is to create one-day competitions, she said. Meanwhile, Fidelity Investments is working on using gamification concepts to help customers manage finances, said panelist Chuck Pickelhaupt, vice president of software architecture there.

Panelists agreed that the concept is still so new that designing programs with game elements is very complicated. Best practices are still emerging. Still, Will Giammona, director of community education and recognition at software company Appirio, said gamification can pay off.

"There's a lot out there that's working really, really well," said Giammona. "I have customer after customer from various different companies who will say, I got a 5 percent, a 10 percent, increase [in engagement]; people are happier than ever; everybody loves this solution. Not every single solution is wildly successful, but a lot of them are."

One ultimate lesson is that employee motivation programs have to be based on an organization's specific goals. At some organizations or companies, gamification may make sense, but not at others, said Pickelhaupt.

"I'm spending a lot of time just sitting down with someone and [he or she is] saying, ‘How do we put gamification into X?', and I'm saying, ‘Please don't.'… Let's have a conversation about what your real goals are, and think about how to motivate people toward those goals."


This article is from the Advancement Weekly, Dec. 14, 2015 issue.

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