Can Games Drive Productivity?

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Big companies such as Intel and Accenture incorporate gaming elements into the work process to improve employee achievement. Could gamification apps work for small business?

If you have any doubt that people love games, one look at annual video game revenues alone will convert your thinking. Games are in fact so popular that they’ve become a growing trend in the business world.

Better known as gamification, it’s the use of game mechanics and psychology to encourage specific behaviors with a target audience. The concept is effective in building customer loyalty and engagement, for example. It also works well as a method for improving employee productivity.

APQC, a nonprofit that advances best practices and benchmarking for organizations in all industries, produced a report called Gamification in Knowledge Management: How It Works and What Your Organization Should Know. It focused on game initiatives launched by companies such as Intel and Accenture—such as creating an app where employees can win something by doing what you want them to do, like bring in new customers, increase sales or cut costs.

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According to the analyst firm Gartner, more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified app by 2014. However, poor design will likely cause four of five gamified apps to fall short of their business objectives. Research published by the Deloitte University Press indicates that 25 percent of redesigned business processes will incorporate gamification by 2015

Could a gamification strategy drive increased productivity in your business? If the concept intrigues you, consider these best practices culled from APQC’s report.

1.  Choose the behaviors you want to encourage. Accenture found that game-based motivation inspired more microblogging, collaboration and document sharing.

2. Start slowly so that you can figure out what works and what doesn’t. Then you can expand efforts based upon proven practices.

3. Strategy comes first, and it should determine what technology you need. Don’t let tech drive the strategy.

4. Don’t overcomplicate the game; otherwise people will drop out. If you have to explain it in any kind of depth, it’s too complicated.

5. It’s a game so make it, you know…entertaining. Include game experience essentials such as a compelling narrative, strong aesthetics and fun. Be sure to incorporate different accomplishment levels, too.

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6. Make sure that employees can always view real-time results, such as total points, badges earned, and levels achieved. Keep these results on display to help maintain engagement.

7. Make winning worthwhile by offering great prizes. Cool gadgets are always nice, but your employees might also appreciate attending a great professional conference in a warm climate.

8. Timing matters.  Don’t let the game drag on too long, otherwise the folks who trail behind will likely quit. Press reset periodically to recharge interest.

9. Does your strategy have any loopholes? If so, stamp them out. Make it possible for employees to manipulate the game by doing an end-around of desired outcomes.

10. If you want people to play and you want the game to drive productivity, the game must relate to your employees’ day-to-day work.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of Small Business Computing. Follow Lauren on Twitter.

Adapted from How Games Can Drive Employee Achievement, by Dennis McCafferty at CIO InsightFollow CIO Insight on Twitter.


Excellent article! CAN GAMES DRIVE PRODUCTIVITY? It's a big "YES" for me. Game theory is already a common practice in the work place. Competition, incentives, scoreboards are common in the sales industry. I think it could be way more productive in things like training. :)


A famous quote comes to my mind, "Circuses were meant to draw the audience’s eye to various clowns, acrobats, trapeze performers and artists meant to bedazzle and delight.  With more people spending time online, companies can feel as if they have to run Barnum and Bailey rather than a company."

Though I shouldn’t adopt gamification just for the heck of it. It’s important to keep your end goals in mind. And your gamification strategies should be designed to meet your end goals and business objectives. I too have shared my thoughts on strategize before you start with gamification:


I can not understand. There are many people who have to go to work for an hourly wage. The time to get paid for playing, offended their situtation. We should go to work to earn money and focus more on our families and friends. And we should be paid fairly for our services and not for playing.


This is a great list; well done.  Too many companies are implementing gamification just for the sake of it.  That's why you're seeing such high failure rates from Gartner and other analyst firms.  Companies need to pay special attention to the structure of the game and most importantly the reasons for running it.  At FantasySalesTeam, our customers have seen great success in the SMB, mid-market and enterprise leveraging gamification for sales team motivation.  All of these games have taken advantage of a lot of your advice above; simple contests, highly visible results, fun / relatable environment and prizes that drive engagement.