Working in the technology industry means I am constantly subjected to a barrage of assaults on the English language. But few make me shudder as much as “gamification”.
“That’s not a real word!”, I hear you protest. And I’m with you on that (and so is my spell-checker). Unfortunately, many leading lights of the social networking scene don’t agree.
Wikipedia describes gamification as the use of game design technique and mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences. Typically gamification applies to non-game applications and processes, in order to encourage people to adopt them.
It’s not the principle or technique that I object to - it’s the word, and in particular the application of it to business. If you’re talking about Foursquare, Facebook and other consumer-focused social networks, then yes, turning these into some sort of game is fun. Hideous though the word is, “gamification” does describe the principle fairly well.
But when applied to business, typically in the form “enterprise gamification” it does something far more serious: it trivialises the concept, and deters people.
Analysis of user behaviour of enterprise social networks can provide a rich source of intelligence about the most respected members of the network and most valued content. Publishing these in leader boards can act as an incentive for employees to increase the quality and quantity of their contribution to such networks. But suggesting that this is a “game” does absolutely nothing to help the credibility of social networking in the workplace. It perpetuates the common prejudice that social networking is simply a drain on company time.
Yes, there are places in business social networking where a game is fun and useful, for example in customer communities where there is no compulsion for customers to participate. But inside a company it can even alienate many employees. I have often heard the opinion that “I don’t come to work to play games”. A game suggests something optional, whereas active participation in an enterprise social network should be part of everyone’s job.
Encouraging the use of enterprise social networking is a serious business and can deliver serious benefits. Rewarding the best contributions is a great way to get employees to start engaging through networks. Don’t trivialise it by calling it a game.