Knowledge@Wharton has published an excellent article outlining some of the pitfalls that can derail your gamification project. Lets have a brief look at these challenges.
Mandatory Fun 🙂
Here is an abstract from “Mandatory Fun – Gamification and the Impact of Games at Work” a paper by Ethan R. Mollick and Nancy Rothbard of Wharton.
“…gamification is well-intentioned, but managerially-imposed, ‘fun.’….In our study, salespeople were assigned to one of three experimental conditions, the game condition and 2 control conditions. In the game condition, we also measured employees’ level of consent to the game. We find that games, when consented to, increase positive affect at work, but, when consent is lacking, decrease positive affect and to some extent performance. These findings highlight the important role that consent plays in how managerially-imposed games at work change the experience of work for employees.”
A key point that this paper brings out is the need for employee engagement, consent and participation when the game is designed and rolled out. The interesting finding from this study was that even when there was consent, there was no positive impact on job performance! People just felt good about the job.
Chocolate Covered Broccoli
Personally, I love broccoli. But as we all know most of us may not agree with my taste and may need other condiments to make it palatable. Here is an extract from the Knowledge@Wharton article. “According to Mollick and Rothbard, gamification does not change the task, but rather sets a game on top of it. The authors say the game provides an ephemeral “game layer” that changes the experience of work without redesigning the actual job, a phenomenon that has been described as “chocolate-covered broccoli.”
The takeway here is no matter how you dress up the job, its not going to make it any better.
Rewarding Destructive Behavior
Here is an interesting point made in the Knowledge@Wharton article, Jesper Juul, associate professor in The School of Design at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts pointed to the subprime-mortgage meltdown that fueled the U.S. financial crisis in 2008 as an example of how rewards can motivate destructive behavior. Employees were getting bonuses on the number of loans they approved, regardless of their quality.” Beware of extrinsic rewards and rely more on intrinsic rewards.
In summary, careful game design with well thought-out game elements, consent from the audience, and focus on intrinsic motivation are fundamental strategies to a successful gamification project.