Gamification… A foreword.

Before we dive in, I wanted to tell you a story that came from my visit to Toronto while speaking at DSrupted (hope that the video of that will be up on the web soon). One of the other speakers held a very strong stance on 3D printing, it later turns out that he was attaching ideas of rapid manufacturing and printing of human tissue / orgins etc. It was this leap in to vast sci-fi that gave him this very strong opinion which lead to him to saying how much he hated that technology. This is not a post for me to talk about that, but at the same conference I too was very vocal about my disdain for Gamification. I have said a number of times that just because you post a leader board, or give out badges – those two actions DO NOT make things a game.

“Gameified” (yeah, in air quotes)

If there is not a clear set of rules, if you do not have an express loser, or if the reward is vague or ambiguous (like we all feel better)… It is not a game and you should stop saying that what you are doing is gamified. Just because you post up numbers to say how team members are doing, that act is not making what they are doing a game. A game is something that everyone knows that they are playing, they are taking active ‘turns’ in a role to win, or have a similar out come or result. I will also add that when you take a very complex system of tasks that try to mechanize them by adding extrinsic monetary rewards you will see the work that goes into those tasks grind to a halt while people try to figure out how to win ‘better’.  

The carrot and the stick has changed – just throwing money at problems by adding more people to the equation does not always solve the issue, and often it over complicates things.  The main case in point is the mythical man month…  If you have a project that is known to take a month in man hours, adding a person on the project does not reduce that time in half, in fact depending upon the nature of the work done it could add time to the mix!

Motivation has changed

Just like the kind of work that we now often do is changing, the way in which we are motivated is also changing.  If you have been reading this blog for any length you will know that I firmly am in the camp of Daniel H Pink when it comes to motivation 2.0.  We want to know that what we are doing has purpose, we want autonomy in the way in which we do those tasks, and we want to know that we are gaining mastery in what we do.  If you take one of those three items out, you remove a key component in how we are motivated. You can make one or all of those into a Game, but the reason that I think that I hate the word Gamified, is because businesses have been making things in to games to manipulate people to action, not to inspire results. If businesses can figure out systems to inspire the best out of people inside of the confines of a ‘game’ then we all could win!