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Gamification of the Intranet

[ 14 ] January 5, 2012 |

Intranet discussions have been dominated by the subject of social tools since 2009: Twitter and Facebook for the enterprise; increase rapid productivity with rapid connectivity; break down silos with social tools; capture implicit employee knowledge; build knowledge communities using social; etc. The list goes on.

However, I am not entirely convinced that social tools ala Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (status updates, following colleagues, commenting, and news feeds) can provide measurable business value. I’ve heard colloquial accounts and give merit to the arguments that they help capture organizational knowledge, that they contribute to the organizational story and that they connect employees across boundaries (both physical and hierarchical). Still, I’m on the fence.

I can barely keep up with my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn streams; scratch that, I can’t keep up with my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn streams. I use lists, and groups, and sign-up for summary emails and notifications; I use HootSuite and have apps on every mobile device I own. Not matter what tools I am using to try to synthesize the information, I have been unsuccessful to date (and I have no kids, only 1 job, and a decent amount of free time). I’m young, technically savvy and really love the connectivity of these platforms. I’m totally behind the idea and yet, I kind of suck at it. I just can’t keep up; the amount of information is exhausting.

So, in terms of consuming, I don’t do a great job. And in terms of contributing, also not so hot. With so many ways to contribute, and no measurable impact tied to any one specific avenue, it’s hard to know where to focus my effort. Because I’m not a active contributor (multiple interactions a day), I feel that when I do contribute, it just falls into a black hole of data.

This begs the question, if I can’t even keep up with social communities in my personal life, how on earth do enterprises get their employees to adopt and effectively use social tools within the organization? Personally, I think they will have a pretty tough time doing so.

I think that social tools would provide real business value within the enterprise if users were only exposed to information that was relevant to them, if they were better able to filter the information available to expose only what they need and if they had better parameters given to them about what type of content they should be contributing. I believe that it will be the gamification of the intranet that will help get us there (especially in terms of what type of content users should be contributing).

Gamification

So what’s so exciting about gamification? Game theory has long been used to explain economic behaviour and is used to explain political and sociological behaviour as well. It is not a new idea. What is new however, is the application of gaming techniques to everyday tasks and behaviours.

Gamification is the infusion of game mechanics, game design techniques and/or game style into anything (gamification.org). The term is typically used to describe situations where  game play elements are incorporated into non-game situations to solve problems, change behaviour or engage audiences.

Some common examples of gamification are:

  • Loyalty Programs – for every dollar you spend at our store, you collect points. Enough points and you get a prize.
  • Black Credit Cards – if you’re special enough, you get a black credit card. You get special status, status that others are also trying to achieve.
  • Foursquare – if you visit a location enough you earn a badges and points, and you can even be granted a mayorship for visiting more than anyone else.

Most online social communities also have some form of gamification built into their system: CNN iReports hands out badges, Twitter displays the number of followers you have, etc.

So if marketers have been using these techniques for years on consumers, what is the next frontier? The corporation and the internal consumer! I believe that gamification will be a significant component in the next evolution of intranet design.

Gamification of the intranet will allow the business to assign value to certain tasks and reward those that perform those tasks most efficiently, most often, and most successfully. Reward systems automatically imply which tasks are of the highest value. This will allow the business to chose which user activity is most important to their success and build an entire game around achieving it.

Gamification in SharePoint

For example, if knowledge management is an important component to the success of your intranet and an important factor in helping users better perform their jobs, metadata is extremely important. Making sure that users always tag content with the appropriate metadata though is easier said than done. Users are busy and don’t always see the value in spending additional time tagging their content. Here’s an example of how metadata tagging could have gamification elements applied to it:

Game:

  • Metadata tagging

Rewards:

  • Users that assign the most metadata earn the most badges
  • Users with the most badges are featured on the homepage or receive other rewards (i.e. money, gift cards, extra vacation days… in can be anything as long as your user base values it)
  • Users with certain badges become leaders of a metadata community of practice (COP)
  • Users with the most badges are featured on the metadata community of practice (COP) leaderboard

Badges:

  • “The metadater” – Tagging x percent all of their uploaded content with metadata
  • “The metadata groupie” – Ensuring that x percent of content that they edit is tagged
  • “The search sheriff” – Submitting x number of search feedback forms to improve findability
  • “The metadata adventurer” – Tagging x number of pieces of content on their team site
  • “The taxonomy professor” – Submitting x number of taxonomy feedback forms suggestions or corrections

Now, not everyone in the organization is going to fall over themselves to start tagging content with metadata. However, those with either a propensity to do so, or those that are attracted to the rewards offered by the game, will. And your intranet content goes from being haphazardly tagged with metadata to systematically being tagged with metadata by educated and enthusiastic users.

Besides having better metadata, a great side benefit of this game is that you start to build organizational capacity around taxonomy, metadata, and search. You build a community of users that care about this as a component of the intranet and will advocate for it on your behalf. They are more likely to educate their peers of the value of metadata and those that are most keen will start to search out additional information on taxonomy, metadata and search. And eventually, you will be able to recruit your metadata power users to developing new badges and new components of the game.

This is just one example of what I believe to be boundless opportunities for gamification within the enterprise.

Gaming is fun, it’s collaborative, and it’s motivating. I believe that by appropriately injecting it into our work lives (rewarding the most valuable business behaviours), we will see an increase in productivity and efficiency.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

Further reading

Gamification for the intranet:

Gamification startups:

Gamification articles:

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Comments (14)

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  1. Wes Hackett says:

    Great article. I agree with your point about internet based ‘social’ over powering users, I also have a hard time keeping abreast of the various streams of information coming from the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

    However I’ve seen different experiences within the corporate intranet. Natively the activity feed within SharePoint 2010 doesn’t really cut it and I found it provides plenty on noise to a corporate environment. Once enterprise content begins to surface through this feed it becomes a good way to inform users what is going on. But it all comes down to context, a user has to understand how to filter and associate themseleves with people they really want activity from. This is down to the quality of the adoption and training apporaches for the solution.

    So the ‘Facebook’ wall experience has its place, but needs supporting with other elements. As you rightly point out the gamification of the whole intranet experience is a successful way of improving the user experience.

    I think the key thing is to look at the holistic approach to ‘social’ for the solution and not individual elements of the technology.

  2. moya watson says:

    great post and i like how straightforward yet provocative it is to admit that social tools aren’t miraculous and are hard to consistently stay on top of.
    i fantasize about being the same person inside the company as outside, and having no social walls – but that is of course not feasible. by turns, it turns out i’m a different person not only on Twitter vs Facebook vs LinkedIn, but i’m a different person inside vs outside the company. is that good?

  3. Awesome post! Fantastic contribution to the community on a topic we will soon see explode in the SharePoint world.

  4. Excellent article.

    I’m obviously off the fence on the one, convinced that these social tools lower the technical barriers that inhibit team collaboration.

    My enthusiasm though may be the result of earlier skepticism concerning the role of “cutting edge” social tools, like “ICQ”, in the Enterprise. I can’t image working without IM today. We will think the same about these tools I’m sure.

    But what needs to happen at the same time, is as the tools emerge, new ways of helping us “keep up with them” also need to emerge. After all, I’m sure people felt they had an “Information Overload” problem the day after the printing press started rolling out new books. But we dealt with that, socially, via book clubs and book reviewers.

    For me, today, this is the Social Analytics space, a space that works to make the best content bubble to the top. But that is a new space.

    I think it’s also important to view these tools from not just the perspective of the individual, but from the team, department or organisation. There is an enormous amount to be learnt by looking at the output of many individuals in aggregate. But I digress.

    The nice thing about Gamification is that it fits in between (Social Tools and Social Analytics). Its a new approach to driving adoption (without doubt the biggest challenge in IT) by hacking our human brains in such a way that we end up wanting to use these tools in a *meaningful* way. Its a great way to think about the problem, beats traditional approaches like “User Adoption by Policy” or “Executive Order” or other types of compulsion.

    Once you get to adoption, Social Anlytics can take over, help us keep up, and make us better at what we do.

    Thanks again, enjoyed the read!
    Daniel

  5. Thanks for the great comments! I’m happy to hear that I’m not the only one who is overwhelmed with information as a result of the socialization of everything.

    I agree with everyone’s comments in that it will be the integration of social tools, social analytics and game elements that will help surface the right information for users, limit the noise, and promote meaningful contribution. What this ends up looking like… well, we’ll see.

  6. [...] user activity is most important to their success and build an entire game around achieving it. via sharepointanalysthq.com Comments [...]

  7. [...] to @the_real_p_k for a twitter reference to a great short article on gamification at SharePoint Analyst HQ.  I’ve seen gamification come up a lot lately.  Newsgator adds it [...]

  8. Gamification of the Intranet – SharePoint Analyst…

    This article has been submitted to Intranet Lounge – Trackback from Intranet Lounge…

  9. Anne-Louise says:

    Sounds like a truly interesting concept which could engage end-users. Do you have any examples how to solve this technically in SharePoint? Preferably out-of-the-box :)

  10. Dan says:

    NewsGator has a badging solution baked into their Social Sites product for SharePoint. http://www.newsgator.com/products/social-sites-for-sharepoint-2010/spotlight.aspx

  11. [...] Ellisa Calder spiega come usare la gamification in Sharepoint. Ad esempio, dice Ellisa, se vogliamo che le persone inseriscano bene i metadati nei contenuti [...]

  12. Very interesting approach. Have you already experienced it? Haven’t you you seen any distraction from the content while the focus to the game is razing? How have you managed the fact that certain people in the organization are by their function much more elligible to badges?

  13. Ellisa Calder says:

    I haven’t actually seen it implemented in an organization and I’m not sure how much of a frenzy would ensue from the game. As with any intranet project, I think that incorporating game elements would take significant planning. One would have to ensure that the game elements are appropriate for the audience and that the game elements actually drive beahviours that the business desires. This article mentions a few real world examples: http://www.ibforum.com/2011/08/02/gamification-and-intranets-from-passing-fad-to-permanent-feature/

  14. [...] konsultantów, lecz na pewno będzie ona obecna w intranetach. Pokazuje to chociażby przykład SharePointa, w którym wbudowane są funkcjonalności rankingów, punktów i odznak dla użytkowników. [...]

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