An article on the negative side of gamification

Back when I worked in HP labs, one of the areas I focused some attention to was gamification. In a recent article in Fast Company they looked into the dark side of gamifying workAnother interesting article was in the January 2012 issue of Wired titled The Curse of Cow Clicker.

For me, the simple definition of gamification is “Metrics-based behavior modification” or using game mechanics to influence real-world behavior. Some view this as a way to improve the worker experience for business functions, while others view it less positively as “exploitware”. We see it all around us in healthcare, retail and new areas all the time.

You may wonder “Can sitting on a help desk and answering calls from consumers be turned into a competitive game that improves the experience for everyone?” — it turns out it can. Many activities can be tracked, rewarded and tuned to the needs of the day. People respond when you give “points” for things like “resetting passwords”, “resolving install problems”… as long as the points mean something to the individuals doing the tasks.

Human behavior can be manipulated by just pulling on a few of the right strings. This is one way companies can tap into the streams of data and the inherent human intellect in their business to drive value. Businesses just need to listen and invest in understanding what drives those they want to influence and define systems to meet that unspoken need. One key though is to not make it so blatant that those involve feel manipulated.

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