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Business gamification works when it is functional, not fun

Business gamification works when it is functional, not fun

Motivation design expert highlights the importance of challenge and progress in application gamification

Gamification in enterprise applications should focus on being functional instead of fun, according to motivation design expert, Jason Fox.

Fox spoke about gamification at the Gartner Business Intelligence and Information Management Summit in Sydney, highlighting the opportunities and challenges with the approach in business.

“Gamification is where you take some elements of game design and apply it to real world things to influence behaviour at work,” he said.

“Instead of going with attitudes and beliefs, defaulting to incentives and rewards, the opportunity is to make the work inherently motivating.”

The concept of gamification has been around in one form or another for years, though Fox said it only appeared on the radar in 2011 due to a prediction by Gartner.

That prediction was 70 per cent of organisations will have at least one gamified application or process by 2014.

A year after the initial hype, Gartner followed up with a forecast that said 80 per cent of gamification implementations will fail by 2014 due to poor design.

Fox attributes this to gamification in applications being overtly focused on rewards.

“Challenge is important and you can’t just remove it,” he said.

“A lot of people are taking old and defunct models of loyalty and just rewarding."

Feels like winning

Fox said goals, rules, and feedback correlate with our modern understanding of motivation, purpose, and autonomy.

“Feedback allows you to make better choices, rules give you an idea of what to focus on, and goals correlate with purpose,” he said.

To see where this fits in the workplace, Fox points to research by the Harvard Business Review that looked into what gets employees enthusiastic about doing work.

Managers chose "recognition for good work" as the top choice, while employees chose "clear sense of progress", which the managers had ranked last.

“If there is ever a time where you lack the motivation to do something, often what will happen is the activity will default to an environment that provides a richer sense of progress,” Fox said.

Fox selected email as an activity where people tend to look for a challenge and progress.

“You start the day with 60 emails and then you have 15, so it feels like you’re winning,” he said.

Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.

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