Definition – gami¦fi|ca¦tion: “The application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service” Wikipedia
Pockets of the learning and development industry have adopted gamification as a method of engaging people and influencing behaviours. There are many reasons why gamification works, in our experience the top reasons are:
- We are naturally competitive – from an early age we’re competing; with our siblings for love and attention, our class peers for teacher’s praise and as we transition into adulthood, for the boss’s acknowledgement. In the right circumstance, measuring achievement encourages people to get on board – nobody wants to be ‘last’. Examples of how we’ve measured adoption in past projects include:
- The reduction in helpdesk calls across business divisions
- The uptake of online conferencing across business units, and
- The percentage of electronic records uploaded to SharePoint by department
Whether those results are shared across the organisation, or just among the divisional leaders, will be dictated by the culture of the organisation. Measuring results gives us important insights into how well people are adopting the new technology being introduced, so we can adapt our adoption strategies accordingly.
- It makes learning fun – Friedrich Fröbel, a German pedagogue who dealt with the theory and practice of education, published ‘The Education of Man’ and laid the foundation for modern education based on the recognition that children need real experiences to learn. He recognised there was a link between play and learning. We know from the success of games such as Candy Crush that we continue to enjoy playing as we get older so why not embrace this theory for adult learners? Every organisation has some dull mandatory training; introducing a bit of humour and light relief can make a big difference to people’s propensity to pay attention and absorb.
- Practice makes perfect – gamification gives people the opportunity to try and fail in a safe environment while gaining meaningful feedback in real-time. The more you do something the more likely you are to get to a state of mastery and form a habit, as we explore in our Insight, Old Habits Die Hard.
- It gives people an incentive to DO something – everyone’s lives are busy, there is always something to do. A few hundred emails to respond to, a dozen calls to return and an ever-expanding ‘to do’ list means while we might have the best intentions of doing something, we might never get around to it. Gamifying learning offers a brief respite from the pressure of work, and as Wikipedia comments, “gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun”.
Gamifying SharePoint – a case study
The Inform Team worked with a leading UK University to help their staff adopt a new SharePoint environment. The previous network drive environment would remain in place long after the introduction of SharePoint to store CAD drawings and videos which represented a significant challenge – people were only likely to change old habits of saving into the network drives once they understood the benefits of using SharePoint. To do this, we applied our unique 3-phased approach – Excite, Equip, Embed:
- Excite – Our first recommendation to the University was to give the programme an identity. This helps people recognise the programme, and a well thought-out moniker can serve to remind people of what it is trying to achieve. Read more about why branding is important in our insight, Bland versus Brand – your choice. Next on the ‘Excite’ campaign was to engage the programme’s executive sponsor and IT Director. We filmed a short video which gave them the opportunity to articulate the benefits of their SharePoint environment and explain how it would make both them as individuals, and the organisation more efficient. The video was shared with all staff ahead of the implementation so they were prepared for the change – they knew what was happening and why it was happening.
- Equip – We then had to give some thought around how to migrate the legacy data within the network drives to SharePoint; through engaging with the University we understood some people were anxious about their most-used files, so we asked people to identify their top 10-15 files prior to the implementation and to bring this list to the training we had organised for them.
The training was split into three sections:
- Instruction and theory – demonstration of the SharePoint environment and its structure, along with the classification theory of how and where to save documents within their 2000 folders.
- Practice and compete – using a replicated ‘practice’ environment where staff could practice what they had learned against their peers, the winner receiving a small reward.
- Action and change – staff moved their top 10-15 files into the live SharePoint environment to make it difficult to go back to old ways of working.
By the time staff had completed their training they had also moved their most-used files. They weren’t anxious they were going to get missed or corrupted during a mass data migration and they had learnt how to use SharePoint in a real situation.
- Embed – ahead of the programme, we encouraged the project team to take some baseline measures of their data estate. This enabled them to monitor the volume of data being migrated to SharePoint, and proactively target pockets of resistance, ramping up engagement and communication activity where appropriate.
So, gamifying can work extremely well in the right circumstances. Think about your next programme, could applying gaming principles turn it from a dull IT project to something that delivers a meaningful business output?