Thursday, July 21, 2011

Practical Gamification Use Case

Gamification is a buzz word making the rounds lately. The idea is very simple – drive user adoption and employee engagement by turning the use of enterprise software into a game. Deep inside, we are apparently all gamers and can’t resist playing. It starts already in kindergarten when we used to collect stickers on a chart – whoever had the most stickers got a reward – I win, you lose. 

Now, we are applying the same principle to the workplace by adding game elements to enterprise software. We can earn points and badges by sharing information, contributing to discussions, completing assignments, passing tests, or closing deals. What used to be a performance chart on the manager’s office wall is now a leader board with employees leveling up all the way to a Champion or Grandmaster level. 

I must admit, it is pretty addictive and the amazing thing is that it seems to work. Inspired by the world of video games and more recently by social games such as Foursquare, gamification is invading the enterprise. I have recently spent a little bit of time with the IT developers at OpenText who have built our new gaming application called the “Leaderboard”. Leaderboard is not an OpenText product; at least not yet. This is OpenText as a customer building a custom application on top of the existing commercial offering. That commercial offering happens to be OpenText Pulse, a social media product that the OpenText Content Server customers can simply add on top of their existing deployment.

I've quickly completed a couple of tasks get a decent ranking

The team designed the Leaderboard not only to drive internal adoption of Pulse but also to stimulate the desirable employee behavior. Different social interactions earn points – posting a comment, liking someone else’s comment, sharing a document, etc. By collecting points, users can level up to different levels – from Newbies to Masters. There are also points available for non-Pulse activities such as correctly adhering to the iterative development process (IDP) or through learning more about our products by watching a training video and taking a quick test.

The team actually used the concepts from a Bartle Test to design how different users can approach their path to earning the most points in a way that best suits their personality. Richard Bartle defined four types of game users: Achievers, Explorers, Socializers and Killers. This concept has since been used by many game developers and so our team designed the Leaderboard with something to offer for each gamer type. Being a friendly Canadian company, they have renamed the gamer types into something a bit more politically correct.

James Knight, Trevor Sharpe and Quinton Roberts - the Leaderboard development team

The results are more than promising. The Leaderboard has been the buzz for weeks on Pulse and when it had gone to beta, available to the IT team only, outsiders like me had to beg to be invited (Google doesn’t have a lock on scarcity marketing tactics). After just a couple of weeks of the beta test, the IT level of active participation was well above 60% which is significantly higher than the current average in the rest of the company. And the users are truly engaged – many competing with fervor to beat their co-workers. The “side effect” is more communication, employee engagement, and expertise sharing which is what Pulse is all about. As the OpenText CIO Steve Hunt told me: “It's like cyber crack .... They’re hooked!”.


  1. I betting that points are not motivating people as much as the intrinsic rewards of increased connectedness and collaboration. But them I'm on the Bartle's part of the scale that never looks at leaderboards :)

  2. Wow, talk about cloning a product already in commercial use. Ever hear of RepTivity?

  3. If "gamifying" a process is simply a matter of adding extrinsic rewards, then why not just call it (pop) behaviorism instead of gamification? :-)

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  5. Fantastic! A great way to push out useless time-wasters like farm-ville, or whatever it is that people play on facebook! Simple, yet addictive. Like sugar.