After many years of trial and error, we now know that Gamification (if designed and implemented correctly) helps to bring about a dramatic increase in engagement of consumers and workforce. We also know that this increased engagement can lead to a Return on Investment (ROI) of Gamification programs of 100% and more. So,100% more engaged costumers on your site; 100% or more people engaged in your organization. With customer engagement at an all time low and only 30% of the workforce actually engaged on the job (and 17% of all staff showing actively hostile anti-engagement behavior), what’s there not to like about Gamification?
Well, like with any other tool that impacts significantly human interaction, there are some real dangers to Gamification, especially in (quasi-) immoral work settings or business culture. Here are the 4 most dangerous pitfalls of Gamification.
1. For a Fist-full of Dollars: extrinsic motivator dogma
The availability of precise data may lead some managers to overemphasize the effects of extrinsic rewards (bonus, commission etc) on tweaking those data. With extrinsic rewards you can get fast compliance and motivation, however when you take these rewards away at a later stage (or simply not increase them enough regularly) motivation may plummet and the Gamified project will fail miserably.
2. One Size Fits All: Ignoring player dimensions & lessons learned
Another ‘epic fail’ in Gamification efforts happens when we try to implement blanket approaches for diverse groups of users. Let’s realize that not all users are the same. Although most people like strong social interaction, only a very small group of people like competition. It’s a stubborn myth that if you just create some competition, you will see a dramatic increase in engagement. In fact what you will often see instead is most users going back to the comfort of Facebook.
3. Big Brothers: Behavior control, micromanagement and manipulation
Gamification creates an enormous amount of data about your users. This is great and it gives actors like companies, HR executives, health care providers, and marketing departments complete new levels of insight into user behavior. On the one hand this means that products, services and policies can be adjusted to really fit the wants and needs of the users of these programs.
On the other hand, such ‘exquisite’ data, in the wrong hands, opens opportunities for less benevolent actions. One example is bosses trying to control and micromanage workers in everything they do (“Hey Julie, I see that you spend 4.2 seconds on a customer call. Don’t you know the standard is 2.6?”).
4. NSA R’ Us: Data Abuse
The last pitfall of Gamification occurs when HR, Marketing or other departments implement Gamification just for the sake of data gathering. Gamification should always be about increasing engagement, motivation and people’s happiness and satisfaction with products, websites and work environments. THAT is the objective. The data gathering that is a result of the increased interaction is seed money for creating even more engagement and fulfillment. It is NOT meant for further control and black hat strategies.
As we all know now, the NSA has been sidestepping its mandate to safeguard the security of the American people and has been behaving in immoral behavior by tapping into your telephone data. Luckily there were enough concerned citizens to successfully monitor, protest and counteracts Big Brotherness of the Government. It now looks like the Government has been toning down the NSA operations (as far as we know 😉 ).
We need to have the same activist approach towards Gamification as we have with agencies like the NSA (or companies for that matter) that are trying to spy on us. Gamification works and will help mankind in bringing about amazing changes in well-being for people in the coming decade. Just think of the reach we can have in education, environmental awareness, and health care applications alone.
Let’s protect our baby and stay alert for attempts by people to abuse the successes of Gamification for darker purposes. If you are doubtfull about Gamification efforts in your company or Government, please share with me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep the faith!