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IF11: Gamification a Natural Fit for Innovation and Sustainability

Organizations that understand and embrace the concepts of gamification design can help drive innovation in their companies, says Mario Herger Technology Strategist & Community Manager at SAP Labs.

Herger took attendees at the GreenBiz Innovation Forum through a series of "quests" -- giving Angry Birds dolls as rewards -- to identify real-world problems in their company or organization to be solved.

For organizations involved in sustainability, Herger believes gamification is a natural fit. "Gamification is about intrinsic value and rewards. Sustainability appeals to lifestyle and behavior, and organizations can build and exploit that value."

The most effective gaming apps are designed to accomplish specific objectives, encourage new behaviors and demonstrate to employees (or players) why they should care. The goal is to design games that will inform and engage employees.

"Gamification makes information available in another context," Herger says.

When developing gaming applications for the workplace, Herger recommends these important ground rules:

  • Think social rather competitive. In corporations it's all about collaboration, sharing, and retention.
  • Don't focus on pure business objectives such as customer acquisition or monetization. There are pitfalls to trying to achieve too much from gamification.
  • Make it personal and about a collective experience. The game needs to be fun in order to develop loyalty among the players.

SAP developed its own gaming application, TwoGo, launched in July, to encourage carpooling for 15,000 employees in Germany. Players tally points based ride-sharing activities and receive awards such as preferred parking.

Herger admits gamification is not always the best solution for every problem ("Gamifying a bad application only makes it worse," he says) and noted that gamification has almost reached the peak of Gartner's hype cycle. The potential for creating unintended consequences is an additional risk for game designers.

Still, Herger believes when employees are engaged in game-playing activities, it can become a valuable tool in measuring employee performance and managing personnel.

"Gamification provides a track record of your performance," Herger says. "[Companies] have a another basis for who gets promoted and creates a more objective and more fair corporate world."

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