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Trivializing New Technologies Can be a Costly Mistake

Trivializing New Technologies Can be a Costly Mistake

Rajat Paharia

08/12/2013

By Rajat Paharia, Founder and Chief Product Officer
@rajatrocks

I'm in the process of banning the use of the following three terms from virtually all of our Bunchball materials: Badges, points and leaderboards. 

Why? Because, while they are an important part of the mechanics involved in gamification, they can act as a detriment to the general understanding of the breadth, depth and the overall value of a gamification solution. 

How many times have I seen people become totally fixated on these terms, when their focus should remain squarely on the business drivers and business benefits of gamification? 

It's almost like having a business meeting that runs well past the lunch hour and suddenly somebody walks into the room with a box of fresh Krispy Kremes. Everybody loses the ability to keep their focus on the topic at hand--all eyes, all attention drops to the box. And stays there.

The mechanics of gamification are important, and don't get me wrong--we've spent thousands and thousands of man and woman hours on the perfection of those mechanics. But they should not be the point of focus for anyone exploring gamification. They’re technical details that come into play during the design and implementation phase of a solution, and not a consideration early on in the process. 

But moreover, these terms somehow allow people to minimize the seriousness, effectiveness and the magnitude of the solution. They start to perceive it as simply, a game (another word to be banished). And that is a grave error.

To trivialize something is to greatly underestimate its value or impact. And though we can point to more than a few moments in history where underestimating new technologies has proven devastating for some large and very successful companies, we continue to do it. Examples? How about Blockbuster’s approach to digital movie downloads, Kodak’s approach to digital cameras or Circuit City’s approach to consumer electronics purchases? And who can forget Borders and online books?

The moment you start to trivialize new technologies like gamification is the moment you obstruct your own perspective of their potential value, no matter how well proven. So, I want to remove terms like games, points and badges from the gamification vernacular, to keep people from getting caught up in labels that harbor preconceived meanings and values. Without them, perhaps people can more easily recognize gamification as the high-value business solution it is, and judge it accordingly.

So, sure - we have points and badges. We also have stats all over the place--old and new--that illustrate the impact of gamification on businesses around the globe--real businesses with real implementations that have seen measurable results--oftentimes spectacular results--in terms of employee and customer engagement, increased productivity, decreased attrition, much greater levels of participation, increased revenue, improved margins and so on.

So let me leave you with this simple but critical piece of advice: Don’t get lost in the mechanics on your way to understanding the significant impact a gamification solution can have on virtually every aspect of your business. 

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