The Gamification of Work

I recently interviewed Daniel Debow, the co-CEO of enterprise social software company Rypple. During our conversation, we discussed the game-like constructs built into the Rypple software, like the concept of rewarding people with “badges”  for giving recognition and building reputation within a company.

Game design can be applied to much more than just games. “Gamification,” or the use of gaming mechanics in non-game applications, can be applied to business software, too. Any task based on a process could incorporate aspects of gaming to make it more engaging and better align it with the way most people are “hard-wired;” we respond well to games.

While Rypple does incorporate organic badge-making, distributing and displaying mechanism in its software, the gamification of work goes beyond simply thinking “let’s give out badges.” Instead it involves a thoughtful, strategic process to enhance the ways we recognize one another in the workplace and how we showcase that recognition.

Rypple recently published an slideshow explaining Debow’s thoughts on enterprise gamification:

While the slideshow points out the potential benefits to bringing game-like processes into the workplace, such as increasing team member motivation and performance, it also notes there are risks and the potential for misuse.

Some key takeaways from the presentation are:

  • Gamification isn’t about making work fun. It’s more about understanding human nature and strategy, not frivolity.
  • Gaming already exists in work settings. The acts of competition and cooperation are inherent in most work environments. Harnessing those interactions strategically can be a part of “gamification.”
  • Gamification is not just about badges and points. That is too simplistic a way of thinking about it.

Job Titles Versus Badges?

Debow also pointed me to an interesting gamification-related related question on Quora: What if you earned badges at work instead of job titles?

The ensuing conversation includes these points:

  • There is a place for titles within a company, particularly to delineate hierarchy for decision-making purposes. (as noted by Ben Horowitz)
  • Badges are not meant to replace titles but can be used as a supplement to one’s profile or reputation (as noted by Daniel Debow, Ben Horowitz and others)

Ultimately, people seek meaningful work: work with a purpose. They want to master something, improve their skills, and get recognition for their efforts. They want to be a part of something — contribute to the greater whole. Wouldn’t you want a worker like that? Properly implemented gamification systems can enhance these positive aspects of human nature in the workplace.

Photo courtesy stock.xchng user johnnyberg