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Gamification 101 – a simple guide to gamification in the enterprise

board gamesAs Christmas comes hurtling over the horizon, many of us will be dusting off the Monopoly and Cluedo in preparation for the arrival of family and friends. It got me thinking about that oft-quoted – actually, over-quoted – thing called gamification. Cited by some as the holy-grail of employee engagement and others as a load of old twaddle (<- I sit somewhere in the middle! :-) ), what exactly is it?

So, I raided the internet and stole ideas and information from experts … er … I mean did some research … and, below is my unbiased (<- is that possible?) view of what it is and some simple tips for using it effectively and some things to avoid …

What is it?

Gamification is the use of game play mechanics for non-game applications, for example, in the workplace … or, put another way, turning ‘work in to play’.

When has it been used for in business?

Gaming has been used in a variety of scenarios in a business context, for example:

  1. When rolling out a new initiative, such as new values or ethics, where you want people to actively engage with information to understand its implications for them as an exercise in shared understanding.
  2. It is used widely in ideation systems.
  3. As part of mass collaborative events to encourage participation.
  4. To help build communities by recognising contributions.
  5. As part of training or learning packages.

Top 6 tips for getting it right:

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Start with clear objectives
  3. Understand the three principles which underpin successful games:
    • Autonomy (people can play when they want not when you want them to)
    • Mastery (shouldn’t be too hard and players need to see they are progressing)
    • Purpose (players need to understand why they are playing – what the point is).
  4. Scores aren’t everything – people prefer validation through prestige to simple number scores which can alienate people particularly if a small number of players get way ahead of everyone else on points.
  5. The game should be about the journey and not the end result – players need to enjoy the process of playing.
  6. Make it social – i.e. let people share their progress/successes with colleagues.

The four basic characteristics of gaming are:

  1. Simple, recognizable cues for next actions.
  2. Clear, instant feedback for actions taken.
  3. Easily identifiable markers for ranking and performance.
  4. Streamlined, accessible paths to further achievement.

It’s not as easy as it sounds!

Getting gamification right is harder than it sounds. Gaming is best used to amplify existing behaviours rather than introduce new behaviours, particularly if these feel unnatural to players. Gaming won’t make people do something they don’t want to do (i.e. it has to be a part of something that players already have an underlying, intrinsic interest in doing).

Common pitfalls when setting up gamification include:

    1. Thinking gamification is ‘pointsification’ … i.e. simply allocating points to a set of activities. This will fail very quickly.
    2. Ignoring the multi-generational workplace and different technical skill levels can alienate large numbers of employees.
    3. Intentionally designing for addictive behaviour. If a player knows when to expect a reward based on their actions, this is predictable feedback and acts as a motivator. However, gamification becomes addictive when feedback is not entirely predictable. For example, if a player receives predictable rewards most of the time, but sometimes receives an extra reward for the same action, this encourages the player to repeat this action more to receive the disproportionate reward. Casino fruit machines are a good example of this. You don’t want your game to be addictive!
    4. Gaming for gaming’s sake without a clear purpose.
    5. Ignoring cause and effect. This is not understanding potential unintended consequences. This means that just because you design a process to achieve a particular outcome, you may unintentionally design for a different outcome entirely.
    6. Creating gamification clones – ripping off existing games without understanding the underlying mechanics and principles of gaming mechanics. Gartner believes 80% of current gamified applications will fail to meet their business objectives primarily due to poor design.
    7. Creating a game which encourages players to play to win. When winning becomes the key motivation, your game has failed and players will game your system to get to the top of the pile.

Gaming silos

A growing problem with gamification is that every system you buy-in these days has elements of gamification in them. Even SharePoint has some pretty lame badges as part of its community sites set-up. This is a similar problem to social silos where every system also comes with commenting, liking, rating etc. where social activity is locked in to a system and can’t be shared across an entire intranet or easily searched. In my view, it would be much more powerful in both the gamification and social spheres if they were enterprise-wide avoiding duplication left-right-and-centre!

So, there you have it!

I hope you have a wonderful holiday and a happy, wholesome and fulfilling New Year!

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Mind the gap – the key to an effective #digitalworkplace

mind the gapIf I was in the happy position of designing a new digital workplace completely from scratch, I would develop a beautiful suite of applications which seamlessly ooze into one another and which dance daintily onto the variously sized screens used by employees in offices, on trains and while sitting comfortably on heated toilet seats … I think you get the idea!

However, in the real world, a digital workplace is a cobbled together bunch of bits and pieces, from e-mail to expenses systems, developed and purchased by a company over many years. In most cases, making wholesale changes to your bits and bobs to bring them closer together in terms of usability and user experience is out of the question.

This only really leaves one option. Being clever with the spaces between your digital workplace components. How you design a fluid user experience into these spaces will make or break your digital workplace. In fact, if you’re not clever with the way you squeeze your users through these narrow spaces, they probably won’t even know they’re in a digital workplace at all.

I think taking this approach is pragmatic, simpler, quicker and cheaper than focussing on the experience inside each application. It also feels much less daunting and more do-able.

From control to influence – the evolution of internal communciations (#internalcomms #IEC14)

John is a press officer in the media relations team at Blah Blah plc. Like John, most of his peers are ex-journalists. They all started their careers in local newspapers, writing about village fêtes, lawn mower thefts from back yards, court news and their local football team. One by one, they all got promoted and specialised in a particular field and covered a larger patch, before moving to regional media outlets and finally on to the nationals. John worked for ten years at a popular national tabloid newspaper.

The conversation around a piece of content which creates context and brings it to life becomes more important than the original content itselfJohn and his colleagues all progressed based on the quality of their end product – articles; broadcast media segments – essentially, a presentation of some kind. The quality of their end product depends upon things like: how good their sources are; how skilled they are at writing and crafting narrative; their research skills; and also their instinct for sniffing out as good story.

Then one day, John saw a job advert for a press officer at Blah Blah plc. It offered a better salary and benefits, more secure employment and a far less claustrophobic/nepotistic culture. So he applied, got the job and made the switch from journalist to spokesperson.

John soon found out that, while all his old journalistic skills are still very valuable in his new role, success is measured very differently. The output or end product of John’s labours shifted from being a presentation for a mass audience to his ability to influence a much smaller set of identifiable individuals. So the presentation subtly shifts from being an end in itself to a means to an end. That end being influence.

So, what’s all this got to do with internal comms? I believe the journey that John has undertaken above, is exactly the same journey that we as internal communicators must now make to remain effective in a social organisation – by which I mean an organisation with internal systems which support commenting and conversation and which are used widely by employees.

In organisations which are strongly hierarchical and where on-line, social engagement functionality is not available, employee communications is highly managed, structured and controlled. What employee comms people produce in these types of organisations is well crafted presentational material – be it a news item or a communication from the CEO or senior manager. This is akin to journalism inside.

As an organisation introduces functionality which supports connection and conversation, employee comms people need to compete with other information providers to attract attention to their content through the noise. This will never be achieved by continuing to produce corporate presentational material – however well crafted. The conversation around a piece of content, which creates context and brings it to life becomes, arguably, more important than the original content itself. Influence comes from being part of that conversation and change happens as a result of it. So the presentation subtly shifts from being an end in itself, to a means to an end. The end being influence

Being part of the conversation, explaining – sometimes defending – the company’s position to employees and trying to influence behaviours is much more akin to being a spokesperson for your organisation, inside your organisation. This means no more hiding behind a wall of content and being invisible to employees. It means stepping in to the limelight, being the most connected person in your organisation and discussing openly and honestly the messages you have been tasked with delivering and describing and exhibiting the behaviours you are trying to promote. It also means being accountable in a much more transparent way than we have ever had to be before.

Pretty scary? Certainly. Very exciting? Definitely!

The great news is that, as employee comms people, we already have a fantastic set of skills to help us flourish in this new environment. All we need to do shift our thinking. There really has never been a more exciting time to be in employee comms … and a social organisation is the perfect environment for us to flourish and grow.

The fall of the house of intranet – a cautionary fairy tale for intranet managers

[Allergy advice: written in an office containing nuts; may contain sentiment offensive to intranet managers]

MonsterOnce upon a time, workers lived among reams of paper – newsletters; memos; phone books; and much more besides … as soon as these bits of paper were spewed out of printers, they were out of date … the cunning and ruthless Sir Lever Arch infiltrated himself into every aspect of corporate life.

Like rising damp, armies of managers emerged from under rocks and from within cracks to manage each other and all sorts of other stuff which oiled the wheels of the corporation, but which were ultimately pointless.

This was a pretty poor state of affairs so, one day, a very clever wizard – no one knows exactly who he was but his magic wand and pointy hat were very magic and pointy – decided that all this paper could be replaced by the interweb.

Not the big-wild-west-interweb-dominated-by-porn-and-gambling-since-discredited-by-Tory-MPs-who-wouldn’t-know-the-interweb-even-if-it-donated-squillions-of-pounds-to-their-evil-cause … but secret interwebs owned and managed inside companies only accessible to those in the pay of the big bosses who were the direct reports of King Arthur himself – for it is he …

And so the intranet was born.

Soon after, it became clear that these secret interwebs needed a firm hand and a stout heart to keep them in order and make sure they delivered shareholder value, met the needs of users and supported business objectives … and lo-and-behold White Knights, or intranet managers, strode confidently from the magic forest to pick up the gauntlet.

These White Knights rode on stallions named Governance, vanquishing unofficial servers … ruthlessly slaughtering poor user experience. For a while, the White Knights ruled supreme – proclaiming the word of the intranet … ‘governance; cost savings; user testing; cost savings; usability; cost savings; business requirements; cost savings; and many more black-magic-type-cost-savings which were lapped up by the men-in-suits who pandered to King Arthur himself’.

All-the-while, in a dark cave high in the mountains of IT-shire, a strange and unknown creature was emerging called the Digital Workplace. At first, the intranet managers hailed the Digital Workplace as their saviour … they saw it as a way to ingratiate and elevate themselves to the Great Round Table at which King Arthur himself sat. Fortified by PowerPoint and buoyed up by free trips to exotic lands in which they supped at the famous and unlimited Fountains of Conference, they enjoyed the good times and grew complacent – talking up the great Digital Workplace and their perceived control over it.

However, the unwitting intranet managers, in feeding the Digital Workplace, were unleashing a power beyond their wildest dreams … a power so strong it would one day turn on them and swallow them up … coughing up their semi-digested remains in a tangled furball of BYOD, tablets, real-estate, smart phones, work-styles, collaboration, network access and slimy social media …

However hard the White Knights fought to untangle themselves from within this furball of complexity, they could never free themselves … and their power and influence was lost forever.

[The End]

Back from blog black hole …

It’s been a bit quiet around here recently … sorry about that. Inspiration has eluded me … smothered by the thick woolly blanket of work!

We’re *still* in the midst of an intranet migration to SharePoint 2010 … which actually means we haven’t really started yet but have done the ground work – the only small nut to crack now is how to get tens of thousands of pages out of existing content management systems into SharePoint 2010 while causing everyone – users and publishers alike – the least amount of pain possible … answers on a postcard, please! :-)

I’ll probably share more about this over the coming weeks …

The impact of social media on internal communications seems finally to be creating some buzz about the place … which is great news. On that note, I recently made a small contribution to a free eBook about how internal comms is changing in the modern workplace – it’s a light read and I think worth a browse.

I’m also speaking at the annual conference of the Institute of Internal Communications (May 23-25) which I’m really looking forward to … although I seem to be the last speaker of the whole event just before lunch on Friday … not sure what to make of that! If you’re going, please say hello …

Anyway – just thought I’d pop-up for air to reassure myself that I still exist … more soon … promise … maybe …

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In conversation: the impact of social media on internal comms #internalcomms

The third in the series of in conversation with Red Sky Vision talking about the impact of social media on internal communications. The conversation weaves around the changing role of internal comms and how and why internal comms people can thrive in the social space.

In conversation with Richard Dennison – Social Media and Internal Communications from Red Sky Vision on Vimeo.

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In conversation: social media and the BT Intranet

The second in the series of in conversations with Red Sky Vision – this time a short sound bite or two about why we introduced social media onto the BT Intranet (this one is much shorter … only 1 min 20 sec :-) ).

In conversation with Richard Dennison – Social Media and the BT Intranet from Red Sky Vision on Vimeo.

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