Gamification: It’s Elementary

Gamification: It’s Elementary

When I look back at my elementary school days, one thing gives me immediate anxiety: math board races.  For third graders, it only takes a few runs through a multiplication table for teachers to notice disengagement.  Much to the chagrin of my passive self, teachers would often give the hardworking class a “treat” of having board races at the end of class.  Combining math skills with competition, board races separated the class in two teams, each lined up along the chalkboard and ready to duel in division.  The two heading each line would wait for the teacher to call out a math problem.  First one to get the right solution wins.  With the entire class watching, the winning mathlete would receive both a point for their team and the publicity of their intelligence.  Taking both team contributions too personally and despising spotlight in pressureful situations, I would immediately panic while my classmates screamed and punched the air with the same kind of passionate ferocity and excitement one might see at a heavy metal concert.  Of course, these were the future team sport athletes; it just took me five more years until middle school swimming, where I found in individual sport my intrinsic human desire for two things: competition and achievement; two of the pillars of gamification.

A completely foreign term to eight year olds, and maybe even their teachers, multiplication board races were a perfect example of gamification.  Traditionally, this was widely defined as “giving game elements to non-game or learning situations”, but today it encompasses the act of changing undesirable tasks to incorporate engagement interactivity.  The days of board races have probably been phased out in elementary schools by now, and no, probably not because of the devastating mental ramifications on eight year olds, but because technology has brought gamification into the classroom in other ways, of which the business world is in hot pursuit.  Now students use iPads for reading, math, social studies, science, and foreign language.  Apps with cartoon characters and interactive, educational video games push students to achieve digital awards and compete with their own abilities.

This same technology hasn’t made video games out of market analytics, yet elements have started to seep into company intranets and business functions…and employee responses have been as heavy-metal-concert-excited as the HR department will allow.  Successful intranets and enterprise social networks serve companies in the ability to be a connected force of employees, executives alike.  The benefits of a social intranet are endless: collaboration between workers of all departments; communication from all levels of an organization; also the connectedness a central knowledge base provides.  An enterprise social network can be a source of knowledge wealth, but can intimidate many people in simply navigating and using its capabilities.

Gartner has now clearly defined gamification, changed to fit a more pronounced and corporately-applicable description.  Sound familiar to anything you’ve ever experienced?  It is now “the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals” and is broken down in these five ways:

-Game mechanics refer to the user’s ability to accumulate points, badges, or appear on leaderboards.

The experience design refers to the users’ experience within the game, or the “journey” they undergo in “play space”, which is the environment where the functions happen, like their intranet.

Gamification digitally engages people with technology, not with other people, meaning that an experience challenges their personal ability and motivation instead of creating a potentially negative competitive environment.

The goal of gamification is to motivate people to, as a Gartner report states, “change behaviors, develop skills, or to drive innovation”

-Goal achievement is essential to gamification because when users achieve organizational goals, so does the organization.

Apply it:

Wondering how to incorporate this into your enterprise social network?  Use the example of NNE Pharmaphan, a Denmark-based pharmaceutical engineering company.  Recognizing the struggle to unify employee onboarding within all areas of the global company, NNE Pharmaphan employed gamification in the process of training new employees.  Navigate, the custom built digital onboarding social intranet, sets missions to be completed within their first three months.  Using gamification, Navigate features three missions to be completed within their first 90 days of work.  These missions help to teach organization and skills within the company.  Since the implementation, NNE Pharmaphan reports that company performance has been accelerated and employee turnover reduced.

Many enterprise social network platforms offer the ability to include gamification in simple ways.  By digitally engaging employees and creating the opportunity for individual competition and achievement, elementary changes can make a huge difference.