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Blogs > MWD Advisors

Changing people's behaviour with social gamification
Angela Ashenden By: Angela Ashenden, Principal Analyst, MWD Advisors
Published: 16th September 2013
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
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While the term 'gamification' itself might make you cringe—and undoubtedly causes many of the same perceived time-wasting issues that 'Facebook for the enterprise' does in terms of reassuring senior executives of its value in a business setting—the hype around applying gaming-style concepts to business scenarios continues unabated. Of course, it’s not a new idea, with 'employee of the month' awards going back decades, for example. But with the emergence of social technologies in particular, it has seen a rebirth of sorts with social gamification technologies such as Bunchball and Badgeville, for example, entering the business software marketplace.

Having spent the last six years or so tracking the adoption of collaboration technologies and practices in business, and observing the challenges many organisations face in getting employees to adopt social collaboration technologies, I’ve been rather cynical about the real value of social gamification, both in terms of its ability to help drive behavioural change to support better collaboration, and to improve technology adoption. However, at a recent J.Boye event, I came across an interesting example of an organisation that has successfully used social gamification tools to change behaviour among employees.

DSB, the Danish rail operator, turned to gamification technology from local vendor Echo.it as a way to build morale and motivation against a background of a poor brand perception among the Danish general public. Concerned that simply creating a training course for staff would be ineffective or at best a short-term solution, the company wanted to provide a platform where staff were encouraged to share positive behaviour or stories about themselves or colleagues, in order to refocus everyone’s attention on what they did well, not what they were bad at. Colleagues can 'like', rate and comment on posts, and 'badges' are awarded for posting and being tagged in posts. Today, more than 3,000 of the company’s 8,000 staff have signed up to the platform—around 5% of these contributing regularly—with almost 5,000 posts contributed. An internal survey showed that around 40% of users thought their morale had improved as a result of using the platform.

This in itself is a great story for social gamification technology, but I think the key is that DSB has been very focused on addressing the problem at hand, not just relying on the technology to solve the problem for them. The business need was about morale, and DSB has worked hard to ensure that success extends beyond those who have adopted the platform, promoting positive stories that have emerged via the platform through other channels, such as the intranet and poster campaigns. We explore DSB’s story in more detail in our recently-published case study report.

In essence, as with all social collaboration technologies, I think the value that gamification technology can bring  depends on you clearly understanding what it is you are trying to achieve, and ensuring that the technology is just part of a broader change management process to make that happen.

Have you experimented with social gamification tools in your company? How did employees respond? I’d love to hear your stories.

(A note from the editor: This post was originally published on the AIIM community blog, where Angela posts monthly as an invited ‘Expert Blogger’.)

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