by Nick Price
Facing a challenging business environment we, as futures consultants and futures thinkers, look for novel ways to change. A contemporary approach is gamification, the use of rules and motivations from the world of play in the workplace. Gamification is more than a process or work style however, it can be a changer of company culture.
The business scenario
Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of someone who needs a game changing product innovation. We are under pressure from outside the organization – analysts and consumers – and inside – management and competing peer groups – to create something new. Although we have our usual innovation approaches to draw upon we need something different. So, we decide to use a gamified approach to our challenge. How might gamification have deeper implications than simply a single project?
Gamification – more than a method
Gamification is the use of game mechanics, the rules and motivational theory built into games, to help or encourage people to do things in business. Now, the complication of using gamification is not so much the execution, but the values that go along with it. For example, if we set up teams to compete against each other, say to create a new product, there are a number of implied values we would show them through the exercise.
Social values – boundaries and markets
For a start, let’s think of some social values associated with goals. In the example of product creation there is the possibility to set a constraint for the production process, product construction and footprint of operation to be conscious of environmental impact. This is a social value of care for current and future generations.
Another social dimension is the market. Is the product to be aimed at people with a high disposable income or to enable people with less income to buy it? The market dimension has values around supporting different parts of society, brand values (often with people oriented intentions) and the profit imperative of the business. So there are further social values in the constraints.
Leadership and management
Next is the team structure and the values around leadership. If we put a team in place do we assign a leader? Do we allow one to be self-selected by the team or do we let leadership emerge (or not)? If a leader is found what style will they use? An authoritarian style might get the job done but maybe losing diversity of ideas. A collaborative one might stumble on decision making and agreement but increase learning. A game based exercise is an opportunity to teach a team about leadership and management styles. It may reinforce existing styles in an organization or allow others to be experienced.
Finally, reward. How do we reward people ? Do we only reward for winning or also for participating or performance during the exercise? Do we want to reinforce differentiation of individuals, teams or a group of teams? The consideration here is what values we would like to endure in people after the exercise.
Also related to prizes is the form of the award. For example we may give status, money or gifts. These rewards are, as intimated above, relational to other competing individuals and teams. What values do we want to demonstrate to participants who may not have been so successful? This is an interesting value area as it starts us thinking about gaming itself, to win alone or succeed and benefit all?
These are a few thoughts on some of the deeper opportunities when we start to use gamification and some of the hidden values promoted through its use. Giving people an opportunity to work and think differently might be disappointing if it does not persist. The temporary nature of permission needs to be underlined unless we seek to encourage an enduring cultural change.
Quite simply, gamification brings opportunities for innovating temporarily and also creating enduring cultural change.
About the author
Nick Price is a Speaker and Strategy Developer. His background is as a professional futurist in technology, business, design, and user experience. Nick has worked with companies all around the world from bases in Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands and the United States. Now he is back to a base in the UK and working for all sorts of companies who want to understand the world and do business in a different way.