Despite being a relatively new concept in the KM field, gamification is already an overused term that gets thrown around in virtually any initiative. Defined as an organization’s use of design and insights from video games to increase participant engagement in learning, gamification can yield great results or unintended consequences depending on how it is implemented.
Too many organizations think of gamification as a single and complete solution to overarching change management. They assume that gamification techniques and activities can drastically change mindsets and behaviors overnight simply because they are fun and competitive. Programs that start this way typically fail. Instead, we at EK approach gamification differently. We treat gamification as the use of design and insights from games to help develop knowledge and foster ability of (KM) behaviors and processes. Further, we continuously encourage our clients to consider gamification from the perspective of the end user. The focus isn’t just on the competitions themselves, but on human-centricity and the various behaviors that can be incrementally encouraged and rewarded over time. By balancing competition with collaboration, we can place appropriate emphasis on features that genuinely capture end users’ unique motivations.
Recently, EK developed a three-part pilot series to help a client’s Help Desk team successfully create user-centric documentation. Realizing that our recommended process for documentation was vastly different from the process currently being used by the Help Desk, we leveraged gamification techniques to help support and encourage the adoption and sustainment of the new documentation process. Help Desk team members were involved from the very beginning of the process and frequently provided feedback, which prevented us from “self-hugging” (designing for yourself instead of your end user) and creating a gamification program that didn’t resonate with the intended users.
Our initial series of work contained:
- A list of the most challenging and frequent incidents facing the Help Desk;
- A pilot that worked to ensure that all individuals were aware of the new documentation process; and
- A final pilot where team members could “compete” against each other, leveraging the newly understood documentation process to develop incident resolutions that would bring immediate value to the team.
Additionally, all throughout these pilots we incorporated classic games, such as Ninja, Cowboy, Bear and Back-to-Back Drawing, with a KM spin to sustain high-levels of engagement and to energize the group.
Sound like fun? The following is how EK recommends an organization begin to implement gamification techniques to support a change management effort:
- Be Agile: Start small. We do not recommend applying a blanketed gamification effort to an entire strategy implementation, especially if it is the first time an organization is incorporating gamification. Instead, we recommend that organizations identify either a single process or behavior to target, such as tacit knowledge sharing. Then organizations should collaborate with users to develop a proof of concept (PoC) or minimum viable product (MVP). Further, organizations should validate and test the PoC or MVP. Do not be afraid to rework, retest, or completely start fresh. Since gamification is highly dependent on the user’s acceptance of a product, it is imperative that organizations be patient and agile when developing and implementing gamification techniques and plans.
- Understand Your User: Identifying and understanding a user’s motivations, frustrations, and goals is critical to achieving meaningful gamification that garners acceptance and is capable of generating value for end users. More often than not, users will only engage in gamification if it satisfies a combination of their internal and external motivations. Therefore, utilizing design thinking principles, such as User Personas and Journey Maps, will help to ensure that each game is being designed for the users and not the creator.
- Know Your User’s Environment: This is where organizations consistently miss the mark. Instead of integrating gamification into their current systems or processes, organizations spend thousands of dollars building an additional gamified platform, believing that an elaborate platform will be enough to entice users. Sadly, this approach is often only capable of producing initial buzz because employees feel overwhelmed and experience technology overload shortly after the launch. For this reason, EK works to specifically develop gamification roadmaps that are designed for employees’ most frequent environments, such as SharePoint or ServiceNow. For instance, if users typically work in SharePoint, we recommend building a dashboard or gamified page within SharePoint. This method makes it easier for an employee to adopt a new process because it does not require significant changes to their day-to-day activities.
- Play to Your User’s Learning Style: Lastly, and most importantly, one must play to the end user’s learning style, especially when utilizing gamification to increase adoption for a new process or to enhance organizational learning and development. If an end user is more analytical, then try to incorporate points and badges. If an end user is more “big picture,” leverage a narrative or “story” approach. This is why EK recommends that organizations begin their gamification thought process with user personas because they help to identify trends, themes, and end users’ specific learning styles.
Gamification is not going anywhere. While organizations are beginning to realize that gamification needs to be more than a combination of technology and rewards, most organizations struggle to identify how to evolve and merge their gamification efforts, especially with broader Change Management. Through EK’s expertise and passion, we have helped our clients deliver meaningful gamification to support the adoption and sustainment of their new Knowledge Management strategies and initiatives. Struggling to gain adoption of your organization’s latest changes? Think gamification might help? Contact us today for assistance.