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Gamification Over? No Way – We’re Just Getting Started

Gamification Over? No Way – We’re Just Getting Started

Rajat Paharia


By Rajat Paharia, Founder and Chief Product Officer

Apps Are Obsolete. Email Is Dead. Facebook Is Dead. Books are Dead Again. And remember? “Time’s Up For Jack Bauer.”

When I see headlines like those, I can’t help it: I’m instantly skeptical. I know editors and writers craft them for effect – to grab the reader’s attention –and not because whatever they’re claiming is necessarily 100% true. (Did anyone really think Kiefer Sutherland’s character wouldn’t “live another day?”)

So, when I first ran across Fortune’s article titled, “Looks like that whole ‘gamification’ thing is over,” I’ll be honest, my gut reaction was something like, “Oh, boy. Here we go, again. Another trumped-up headline. I bet the article has nothing to do with gamification being ‘over.’”

I was right.

Let me explain . . .

In the first half of the article, contributing writer Heather Clancy makes the point that businesses are having a hard time using games to engage employees. That’s true. But, it has little to do with gamification. Why? Because gamification isn’t about using “games.” Gamification is about motivating people through data – capturing the big data that your customers, partners and employees generate as they interact with online experiences, and then using that data to motivate better performance.

In other words, to say that games can’t engage employees is completely different than saying gamification can’t engage employees. We know that games don’t. We also know that gamification does.

Clancy goes on to imply that gamification solutions won’t work if they’re poorly designed and implemented “without well-grounded goals.” Once again, I couldn’t agree more: Any technology that’s poorly designed and implemented without well-defined goals is doomed to fail. That’s true for every kind of enterprise software application, and it’s true for airplanes . . . and smartphones . . . and virtually everything else. But saying that bad technology doesn’t work tells us little about the future of gamification –and completely ignores all of the good gamification solutions that are at work right now, creating real value every day for businesses throughout the world.

Need a few examples of good gamification solutions? Take a look at these results from Coca-Cola, Bluewolf, Ford, T-Mobile, SAP and many others – in each and every case, these enterprises have structured gamification strategies that have delivered stellar results. 

These and other companies that are reaping business value from gamification certainly don’t think gamification is “over.” Far from it. That is why analysts predict that the global gamification industry will grow significantly – with some predictions surpassing $5.5B by the end of 2018.   But like anything else, gamification can be done well . . . and it can be done poorly. As in any new field that captures the collective imagination, solution providers have popped up, driven by the novelty and hype. They copy what others are doing – or they think, “this looks easy…let’s just build one of these.”  Like many things in life, what looks simple on the outside is actually quite sophisticated. These providers end up doing it poorly, and then they fail, dragging down their clients.

How can you avoid this kind of failure? Simple. Learn to look beyond the headline bait, wherever it may be. Put your trust in people who have experience, the ones who have seen what works and what doesn’t, the ones who truly understand how to craft compelling motivation programs.

Once you do, you’ll find yourself spending less time musing about what’s “dead” or “obsolete” or “over” and more time focused on what’s really newsworthy –namely, where and why gamification is succeeding and how it can drive better performance for your business.

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