Daily Archives: March 30, 2011

The Gamification of Work

I recently interviewed Daniel Debow, the co-CEO of enterprise social software company Rypple. During our conversation, we discussed the game-like constructs built into the Rypple software, like the concept of rewarding people with “badges”  for giving recognition and building reputation within a company.

Game design can be applied to much more than just games. “Gamification,” or the use of gaming mechanics in non-game applications, can be applied to business software, too. Any task based on a process could incorporate aspects of gaming to make it more engaging and better align it with the way most people are “hard-wired;” we respond well to games.

While Rypple does incorporate organic badge-making, distributing and displaying mechanism in its software, the gamification of work goes beyond simply thinking “let’s give out badges.” Instead it involves a thoughtful, strategic process to enhance the ways we recognize one another in the workplace and how we showcase that recognition.

Rypple recently published an slideshow explaining Debow’s thoughts on enterprise gamification:

While the slideshow points out the potential benefits to bringing game-like processes into the workplace, such as increasing team member motivation and performance, it also notes there are risks and the potential for misuse.

Some key takeaways from the presentation are:

  • Gamification isn’t about making work fun. It’s more about understanding human nature and strategy, not frivolity.
  • Gaming already exists in work settings. The acts of competition and cooperation are inherent in most work environments. Harnessing those interactions strategically can be a part of “gamification.”
  • Gamification is not just about badges and points. That is too simplistic a way of thinking about it.

Job Titles Versus Badges?

Debow also pointed me to an interesting gamification-related related question on Quora: What if you earned badges at work instead of job titles?

The ensuing conversation includes these points:

  • There is a place for titles within a company, particularly to delineate hierarchy for decision-making purposes. (as noted by Ben Horowitz)
  • Badges are not meant to replace titles but can be used as a supplement to one’s profile or reputation (as noted by Daniel Debow, Ben Horowitz and others)

Ultimately, people seek meaningful work: work with a purpose. They want to master something, improve their skills, and get recognition for their efforts. They want to be a part of something — contribute to the greater whole. Wouldn’t you want a worker like that? Properly implemented gamification systems can enhance these positive aspects of human nature in the workplace.

Photo courtesy stock.xchng user johnnyberg

Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):


An article in Recruiter Magazine about recruiting in Asia Pacific says: “The impetus is on building relationships. If you come here for quick gains you may get one or two successes but you’ll eventually fail.”

Huh? Since when did sales anywhere work with a fast talking, hard sell attitude? It’s nothing to do with it being Asia and everything to do with the fact that people buy from people they like.

There are two things you can do to dramatically increase your career success. Improve your results and improve your relationships. Improving your relationships will increase your results. What are you doing to improve your relationships today?

Is The Upturn Coming?

A graph in Recruiter Magazine shows the number of new jobs and the number of new candidates over the last year in London. What’s interesting about the graph is the two lines are not divergent. At their widest, in June last year, the lines are 6,000 more jobs than candidates. In January 11, there is a difference of 5,000. Yes, that’s more jobs than candidates.

There isn’t a lot of information about where this data came from or how it was measured, but we can assume it’s representative of the rest of the economy. Information from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development says that of their members, 68% experienced recruitment difficulties in 2010.

On our Facebook page last week, we asked who was hiring. Of the 15 who replied, all but one are hiring. If you thought our cast on preparing for the upturn was premature, you might want to think again.

Image Matters

On my way home from the airport yesterday, I found myself on the freeway behind a big truck. The back was originally white coloured – and presumably had stayed that way for a while, but by the time I saw it, it was very very dirty. In the dirt, high up, someone had written ‘Lazy guy, not a team player’.

There’s a well known haulage company in the UK called Stobarts. Wikipedia credits their success to: “A lot of hard work, never declining an order, and a virtual paranoia about keeping his lorries, characterised by their Tautliner bodies, immaculately clean eventually paid off, and Edward started to get orders from larger businesses. One of its key success factors is its specific emphasis on building a strong reputation and corporate image. For example, in the 1980s and 90s, if any driver was caught not wearing a tie while on duty, he or she could face disciplinary action. Similarly, the company has a policy that all drivers must wave back and honk their horn in the traditional truck-driver fashion when signalled by a passer-by or “Eddie spotter” to do so.”

Dirty truck = lazy guy, not a team player. Clean truck = a successful business. Whilst the cause of Eddie Stobart’s success is not as simple as clean trucks, the image the trucks created were (and continue to be) a factor. Often, it’s the things we dismiss as trivial, like image, which matter.


In an interview, Mary J Blige says: “The best way to help others is to be a great example. Let people see you actually doing the work instead of just talking about it.” She’s talking about the foundation she created, but it occurred to me that this was a great lesson for managers.

When I was newly in the workplace, I remember having long conversations with a friend of mine about one particularly successful person we knew. What does he do that we don’t? What is it that he has that no-one else does? Looking back, I can see what some of those things were (he was awesome at relationship building) but at the time we were clueless.

What would have changed if he’d told us the secrets of his success? We’d have been better. He might have been a manager, and we were individual contributors in another team, but there was enough interaction that our being better would have made his life easier. There were times when he had to solve problems that would not have existed if we had been better at our jobs. It’s worth investing the time in helping others understand ‘how it’s done’. There’s an attraction to having a ‘secret’ method of effectiveness, but it limits effectiveness to you. Share, and the whole organization gets better.


An article describing some research into what it takes to be a senior leader in HBR says: “One strikingly consistent finding: once people reach the C-suite, technical and functional expertise matters less than leadership skills and a strong grasp of business fundamentals”.

Mark said in a recent podcast that if he took over a team, without any technical knowledge, his team would perform better, because he’s better at developing relationships than anyone else. Technical smarts gets you on the career ladder. It’s people smarts that get you up it.

It’s not even senior leadership. It’s team leadership and project managers. Just one layer up from the individual contributors, technical aptitude is less useful than soft skills. If you have the choice, and you want to be promoted, go on a soft skills course, not another technical course.