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How gamification drives business objectives

Matt Kapko | May 9, 2014
As more businesses add gamification to their repertoire of tools, the misconception remains that awarding points or badges for existing activities should do the trick. After all, who doesn't like more points and badges?

[Related: How Gamification Makes Customer Service Fun]

"One of the most common characteristics is that any gamified solution that's going to be successful invariably focuses on enabling players to achieve their goals. And by doing so achieving the organizational goals, but the organizational goals are really a consequence of motivating players to achieve their goals."

While these goals are many times aligned, the intersections of which may not be obvious to those in the planning and building stages. Burke encourages businesses to spend a long time in that first step of the process, which he calls player experience design.

"They're engaging with you already, likely for a reason. It's a matter of teasing out what that reason is and then focusing on how to help them be even more successful in achieving that goal, the reason that they're there," Burke says.

Because many IT organizations place their attention on increasing efficiency with new projects, developing systems that focus on driving engagement with a design-forward approach can be a real struggle, according to Burke. Making matters more difficult for IT is the fact there are so few well-worn paths in gamification, but the good news is that these solutions are not bound by industry.

"The only real boundary for where you can apply gamification successfully seems to be in the number of players that you are trying to target," says Burke. "Gamification scales up very well, but because of that initial cost it doesn't scale down to one very well."

How Gamification Works

Companies aren't exactly faced with the prospect of reinventing the wheel with every gamified application they build. "Some of the biggest, most successful gamification efforts are those that are publicly available like Nike with Nike+, Quirky in innovation management and Kahn Academy in education. These organizations count their users in the millions," says Burke. In the case of Nike+, which continues to grow its user base at a rapid clip, the company reported a community of 28 million strong as of last month.

[Related: How Gamification Reshapes Corporate Training]

In his book, "Gamify — How Gamification Motivates People to Do Extraordinary Things," Burke identifies four unique currencies of the game economy:

  1. Self-esteem
  2. Fun
  3. Things
  4. Social capital

Every business should award at least one if not all of those currencies to achieve player and organizational objectives, says Burke.

Social media is not an absolute necessity, but it can dramatically amplify the impact of gamification, Burke says. Social media is a powerful motivator that enhances the value of the achievements players gain through gamification and brings with it the opportunity to go viral.

One of the most interesting and unique deployments Burke says he has encountered in his research comes from DirecTV. The IT organization at the broadcast satellite TV provider determined its staff had become overly risk adverse and hesitant to start more forward-thinking projects due to the fear of failure. It's a common struggle among IT professionals, says Burke, but DirecTV was determined to do something about it.


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