Driving KM behaviors and adoption through gamification
Be warned: Many gamification projects fall short because they take an overly simplistic approach and ignore the subtleties of game design and behavioral economics. In other words, you can't just slap points, badges and a leaderboard on an application and immediately expect to see long-term behavioral change.
"That's not gamification; it's pointsification," says Hsu. "Games are not merely a collection of elements—the mechanics of badges or points are not what make a game fun. Yet, people frequently focus on these mechanics as the key to engagement."
Games are fun, but building good games is neither simple nor straightforward. For every successful World of Warcraft, hundreds of flops were consigned to the virtual trashcan. The same holds true for gamification implementations. Indeed, Gartner predicts that, by 2014, 80 percent of current gamified applications will have failed because of poor design.
"Enduring engagement comes from the inherent benefits of effective collaboration, the meaningful choices in the system and the sense of accomplishment when you achieve something worthwhile," Kaukonen advises. "Start with those core principles and then decide, based on your objectives, which mechanics are the most appropriate to use—not the other way around."
Another potential pitfall is not going back to basics—in this case, by making sure you're starting with a good KM program. Assuming gamification can magically transform a bad product into something engaging is a common error. "If your core product isn't compelling, gamification will probably only make things worse by irritating your audience," says Hsu.
By contrast, a well thought-out and sustainable approach to gamification offers significant potential to make collaboration fun and engaging.
Gamification: practical tips
Don't lose sight of your objectives.
Start with your business objectives in terms of the outcomes you are trying to achieve; keep your eye on those objectives and validate them as you design, develop and implement your program.
Focus on behaviors, not activities.
It's very easy to get caught up in focusing exclusively on ‘activities'-and end up having people busy doing ‘stuff.' Similar to objectives, keep a focus on the behaviors you want your people to adopt and identify activities that are indicators of those behaviors.
Data is king.
From an execution perspective, you need to be able to capture, store and retrieve data. Without a way to quantify and measure it, you'll be stuck on first base for a long time.
Spread the recognition.
Don't be miserly and limit the number of people who can be recognized through your program. In addition, recognize people's efforts in a variety of meaningful ways.
People will game the system.
You will need to pay attention to people who want to ‘game' the system. Where possible, build in approaches to limit the ability of people to do so.
Start small and evolve.
Gamifying collaboration is not just something you build once. To arrive at a good end product, you need to be iterative, creating rough versions and play-testing continuously.
No silver bullet exists.
Gamification-like pretty much everything else—is not a silver bullet. Neither, however, is it just a fad. All the available evidence suggests that it can be leveraged further to embed the collaborative behaviors that go to make up a meaningful culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing across any organization.