Game mechanics are a popular subject these days. With good reason, as they have an important role in the future of participation and work. Which was covered here previously in Reputation and Game Mechanics Are the Future of Social Software.
Seeing the uptick of game mechanics in leading edge consumer apps, curiosity not surprisingly turns to the possibilities inside companies. On the question-and-answer site Quora, someone asked, “Have any companies successfully deployed gaming mechanics in enterprise situations?”
Have any companies successfully deployed gaming mechanics in enterprise situations?
Here’s my answer:
Yes, a number of companies are leveraging game mechanics in their innovation process. I can’t answer this without noting that they’re doing so through Spigit, a provider of innovation management software.
For example, AT&T is leveraging game mechanics to source and identify ideas from its employees (see the Business Week article), as is a large financial institution (not publicly announced). The required basics of their innovation program are there, namely posting ideas, vote on them and provide feedback via cross-organizational discussions.
And then there are the game mechanics. Here are three of them:
Members in the innovation community earn reputation scores over time. The scores are based on a number of factors, including the progress of their ideas, the ratings received for their contributions (ideas, comments) and the level of interaction. Organic idea progress and community feedback are drivers here.
So these reputation scores become badges for everyone. Which itself is a social incentive. But then the reputations are applied to the innovation process itself. A person’s feedback is weighted by their reputations, giving those that have earned higher levels greater say in which ideas advance. There’s real “meat” to these reputations.
Quality Participation Incentives
Employees earn currency in the system based on the quality and quantity of their contributions (ideas, comments, reviews). Quantity is an obvious one. But the reputation score again comes to play here. But quality matters as well, which is where reputation again comes into play. The amount of currency a person earns is weighed by her reputation. Higher reputation means higher currency.
Currency is then used to purchase items in an online store. For example, the large financial institution offers gift cards of various denominations. Employees redeem their currency for these.
Idea Trading Market
Another use for the earned currency is to buy and sell ideas. That’s right, a “stock market” for ideas. People take positions in ideas they believe will have the most impact, and which will be taken up by the company as true innovation projects.
The game mechanics here can be quite powerful. Contrast taking a “financial” position in an idea versus a simple vote up for it. Votes are unlimited, easy to give away. Once you’ve voted, that’s kind of it. But deciding where to put your currency is a different matter. It’s not unlimited, so you’re a bit more careful where you apply it. While a vote is a static amount, you can vary how much you invest in an idea. And after you invest, you can see personal benefit as the price of the idea rises.
As the Business Week article notes, there’s a built-in incentive here to focus on the most realistic, high value ideas:
Another hurdle lies in keeping staffers from betting on the success of ideas—say, giving everyone a raise—that, while appealing to the rank and file, are unlikely to win management backing. At AT&T, employees lose virtual currency when they bet on ideas that don’t prevail.
Votes are easy, currency raises the bar on identifying the most promising ideas.
So, the answer is ‘yes’, companies are successfully deploying game mechanics in enterprise situations.