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Digital Transformation

Gamification of Social Environments

Social adoption internally or externally is always a tough proposition.  Organizations to date have had a very uphill battle.  So what have software developers and product managers done? They have taken what has been historically very popular with users – gamification –  and applied that to the web.  Back in ‘the days’ it was loyalty programs today the process is called gamification.   How are people most likely willing to participate?  If they can get something out of it.  Cash, points, status or whatever – most people are willing to go to wits-end to get the highest level they can reasonably attain.

I will use a concept I and most people are familiar with; airline clubs.  Until recently, United and other airlines had always presumed that the levels they have set (50, 75, 100+k miles per year) were totally acceptable and that people were happy with them.  Then United set up a million mile club (other airlines followed suit) and NO ONE thought that they were going get people to hit it.  Then someone did.  Then they set out for a 1 and 3 million mile club and people and more people hit it.  Delta and other airlines did the same.  Then airline communities like popped up and provided mileage runs so people could get the most mile per dollar.  Recently United announce a fellow who booked his 10,000,000 miles  – since 1981 this fellow had flown crazy Asian and other flight combinations to get what amounts to the worlds most traveled airline miles.

Fast forward to the internet and enterprises. We know that most people are competitive and really, they just need a reason to join and complete.  And now rewind to the sales pitch that collaboration was going to break down silos and create a more horizontal enterprise.  That happens but that sales tactic doesn’t always sustain – it jumpstarts.  To sustain you have to create an environment that nurtures hubs and spokes as well as fosters a community of acceptance if you are a consumer of information.  Enter a new-version of gamifacation.  In the enterprise collaboration world, people need and want these badges of honor.   Also, studies have shown that applications that have trouble driving adoption gamification can help drive adoption based one people’s inherent competitive nature.  So for social software suites that are out there, a selling point is “this is business driven” and “IT needs to support this groundswell”.  That premise is correct but not enough to drive true and sustainable adoption and usage – thus diminishing the ROI and increasing the likelihood of dying on the vine.

So how does a company gain the gamification edge?  Out of the box, social solutions like IBM Connections and SharePoint 2010 don’t offer this but you can get add-ons like Newsgator for SharePoint and Kudos for Connections.  You could buy an add-on like Badgeville and integrate into your solution or you could build a basic system.  I clearly caution against the build-it-yourself because as the basic gamification process grows, you will need to build a more complex solution and often this growth can be better scaled by choosing a solution to fit your longer term needs from the start.  Also, start by reading Gamification By Design which is a great way to get some baseline knowledge on the concept and to see if this is something you can tackle in your organization.

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Jonathan Distad

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