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.