domingo, 29 de janeiro de 2017

“Why is gamification not working in my company?”

Last week, I was invited to a meeting in a medium-size Brazilian company, which for ethical reasons will not have its name disclosed. The director of the innovation area wanted a special consulting about the gamification process implemented on the last two years. After many attempts, these tactics proved worthless for the company. The employees did not understand the purpose of this process and could not see the utility in what was proposed. Why did it happen? In the director’s mind, gamification is a positive thing for every company, after all, it’s an attempt to put games (a fun element) inside work (a boring subject) to improve their routine.

Well, it is not that simple.

In the article “Hate the games, not the players", Daniel Ruch discusses some points that can make gamification fail in the business ecosystem. First of all, Ruch gives us one good definition about the term:

“Gamification” is the application to other activities of game-playing elements (such as point scoring, competition and rules of play) in an attempt to achieve a measurable goal. In business, that goal could be greater productivity, user engagement or employee satisfaction. In our personal lives, goals might include losing weight, exercising regularly or unplugging from mobile devices.

After this definition, Ruch says that many companies tried to implement the gaming process in their DNA, but, in most part of them, the game objectives were unclear and complicated. According to Ruch, some employees “weren’t sure how to win points and badges”, and, let’s be honest: what’s the real purpose of it? One virtual trophy received in a special e-mail will not motivate behavioral change. One public score with a race between the selling departments could only create frustration and bad competition. A system that only punishes failures and never rewards positive acts is bounded to be a failure. So, what is important to think before introducing processes like gamification into a company? Here are some thoughts to dwell on:

1) Define clear goals. What’s the problem with your company that gamification will try to solve? Are employees unmotivated? Is communication between departments bad?

2) What paths are guaranteed to solve the problem and achieve the goal? And one essential thing: does your company really need to implement gamification processes? Or can the problem be solved in a much simpler way?

3) According to Ruch, “gamification begins with a why question”.

4) Once identified that gamification could be a solution for the problem, comes one important step: to hire a specialist team to implement the process. Discuss with them. Try to put the objectives clearly to the employees. Emphasize the benefits, the rewards and the gains. “We can’t make successful games without understanding the problems we aim to solve”.

5) Gamification is a not a generic solution applied to any kind of company and employee. One cautious observation and previous analysis is fundamental.

Another important thought to highlight this discussion comes from Bogost (2016, p.82) who says that

A job is made of fun not by turning into a game, but by deeply and deliberately pursuing it as a job. Jobs are fun when their work is meaningful, when their activities matter, and when the act of conducting them can be done over and over again with the increased commitment. Fun can’t be added to something, like sugar to coffee or like songs to chores.

Gamification is always a polemic subject. Many experts condemn the term and prefer to talk about "ludification" or "game thinking". Regardless of how it is called, it is important to broaden the discussion on this subject.

Now, on to your opinion!



BOGOST, Ian. Play anything: the pleasure of limits, the uses of boredom, & the secret of games. New York: Basic Books, 2016.

Article “Hate the games, not the players”.

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