When you play it safe, staying in the comfort zone for too long, you stagnate; and that puts everything at risk, according to Doug Sundheim in his book Taking Smart Risks: How Sharp Leaders Win When Stakes Are High. Playing it safe means that you are disengaged from meaningful challenges, are not pushing yourself or your organization to grow, and are not creating your future, but rather being passively dragged into it.
A well-designed game is a guided missile to the motivational heart of the human psyche, and the lessons that games can teach can be valuable tools in addressing serious business pursuits like marketing, productivity enhancement, innovation, customer engagement, human resources and sustainability, according to Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter in their book For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business.
At the simplest level, gamification is about reverse-engineering games to discover what makes them so compelling, and then devising ways of applying those compelling features to enhance motivation in a business environment. Game elements which are explained in the book include:
- Dynamics: constraints, emotions, narrative, progression and relationships
- Mechanics: challenges, chance, competition, cooperation, feedback, resource acquisition, rewards, transactions, turns and win states
- Components: achievements, avatars, badges, boss fights, collections, combat, content unlocking, gifting, leaderboards, levels, points, quests, teams and virtual goods
The book does not provide sure-fire techniques for making the workplace compelling using gamification; instead, it outlines a range of tools and leaves to the reader the difficult design process of applying them to a business environment in a way which will increase engagement without negative side-effects. The authors recommend that the design process start with defining business objectives and target behaviours, and work from there to apply a suitable range of game elements to business processes, using a process of trial-and-error to optimise the results. There are of course plenty of things that can go horribly wrong, and a whole chapter is devoted to epic fails and how to avoid them.
True to the design of many computer games, the book is written in Levels rather than Chapters. The early levels are simple, and subsequent ones introduce more complexity. Unfortunately they read just like chapters to me, and the experience of reading the book was not quite a white-knuckled gaming experience. Nonetheless, the authors are undoubtedly correct when they say that gamification is going to become an increasingly important part of business, and this book provides a very useful introduction to that subject.