Gamification in Business: How Learning and Development Can Take It Beyond the Hype

Gamification in Business How Learning and Development Can Take It Beyond the Hype
Summary: Is the buzz on gamification in business reaching its peak? According to Gartner’s Hype Cycle, that may be the case. Yet according to Brian Burke, gamification in business (and, we would argue, training) can “motivate people to do extraordinary things.” Experienced, talented learning and development professionals have the skills to take gamification in business beyond the hype.

Gamification in Business and Training Is Moving Beyond the Hype and Honing in on the Critical Elements for Success

I just finished reading “Gamify: How Gamification Motivates People to Do Extraordinary Things” by Brian Burke of Gartner. He's an expert on disruptive technologies, and for the past three years, he’s been leading Gartner’s research on the emerging gamification in business trend.

Like many new technologies, there's lots of hype about gamification in business. In 2012, Gartner predicted that by 2014, 80 percent of current gamified applications would fail to meet their business objectives because of poor design. Gartner maintains a Hype Cycle, and expects that gamification is about to move from the "peak of inflated expectations" into the "trough of disillusionment."

Burke’s book is an intelligent primer on gamification. Rather than a technical overview, this book looks at gamification from a business perspective.

Gamification in Business and Training: Success Starts in the Design Process

What's really interesting to me is what Burke has to say about the gamification design process. He attests that for businesses to achieve success in gamification, it requires much more than slapping some points, badges, and leaderboards on top of a business process and calling it a day.

Instead, it starts with clearly identifying:

  • Organizational goals and related metrics
  • Employee (“player”) goals; really understanding what motivates core behaviors

Once you’ve identified your organizational and employee goals, you look for the areas of overlap. Then, you build your gamified system around that sweet spot.

Burke thinks most gamified solutions will fail because of skipping or skimping on the upfront analysis.

Who Can Ensure that Gamification in Business and Training Initiatives Will Succeed?

A key point he makes is that the people who have the expertise for this kind of critical analysis are not user experience and visual designers, or are they the guys in IT — it's the people who understand business and human performance/motivation and the connection between the two. In many organizations, that’s someone with a learning or organizational development background.

One Example of L&D Professionals Driving the Gamification Design Process

It’s validating to hear Burke’s perspective because it’s the approach we’ve always taken for gamification in business and training. For instance, to build a gamified system about product knowledge for commercial salesmen, we conducted research to understand the client’s business (e.g., how sales territories are determined, compensation and commission structures, new-customer acquisition policies). We even rode along with star sales people to really understand how they do their jobs.

With that base of understanding, we worked with our design and technology teams to create a gamified system that is meaningful to the sales team. Here’s a brief example: Before our solution, sales people had to pore through thick, printed product catalogues when meeting with customers. Our gamified solution includes a virtual product catalogue where a sales person can easily access information about the products. And, as a logical next step, we’ve now converted that into a mobile app, so a sales person can quickly find specs on any product via smartphone or tablet.

I agree with Burke that many people won’t use these best practices in their gamification projects, so let the hype-bashing begin (or continue). But I also agree that, when done right, gamification in business is highly effective, will continue to mature, and can “motivate people to do extraordinary things.” It’s up to those of us with learning and development background to influence the direction to make sure that gamification moves beyond the hype.

Interested to learn more about the effectiveness of gamification in business and corporate training? Check out this interactive gamification infographic from SweetRush: 4 Reasons Games Work.

eBook Release: SweetRush
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