As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of ‘gamification’. Certainly for formal learning, where I think intrinsic motivation is a better area to focus on than extrinsic. (Yes, there are times it makes sense, like tarting up rote memory development, but it’s under-considered and over-used.) Outside of formal learning, it’s clear that it works in certain places. However, we need to be cautious in considering it a panacea. In a recent instance, I actually think it’s definitely misapplied. So here’s an example of doing gamification wrong.
This came to me via a LinkedIn message where the correspondent pointed me to their recent blog article. (BTW, I don’t usually respond to these, but if I do, you’re going to run the risk that I poke holes. 😈) In the article, they were talking about using gamification to build organizational engagement. Interestingly, even in their own article, they were pointing to other useful directions unknowingly!
The problem, as claimed, is that working remote can remove engagement. Which is plausible. The suggestion, however, was that gamification was the solution. Which I suggest is a patch upon a more fundamental problem. The issue was a daily huddle, and this quote summarizes the problem: “there is zero to little accountability of engagement and participation “. Their solution: add points to these things. Let me suggest that’s wrong.
What facilitates engagement is a sense of purpose and belonging. That is, recognizing that what one does contributes to the unit, and the unit contributes to the organization, and the organization contributes to society. Getting those lined up and clear is a great way to build meaningful engagement. Interestingly, even in the article they quote: “to build true engagement, people often need to feel like they are contributing to something bigger than themselves.” Right! So how does gamification help? That seems to be trying to patch a lack of purpose. As I’ve argued before, the transformation is not digital first, it’s people first.
They segue off to microlearning, without (of course) defining it. They ended up meaning spaced learning (as opposed to performance support). Which, again, isn’t gamification but they push it into there. Again, wrongly. They do mention a successful instance, where Google got 100% compliance on travel expenses, but that’s very different than company engagement. It’s got to be the right application.
Overall, gamification by extrinsic motivation can work under the right circumstances, but it’s not a solution to all that ails an organization. There are ways and times, but it’s all too easy to be doing gamification wrong. ‘Tis better to fix a broken culture than to patch it. Patching is, at best, a temporary solution. This is certainly an example.