February 26

Got Gamification?


An introduction to business games for rookies, a review for the rest of us.

If you’ve been keeping up with all of the latest change management training trends you are probably no rookie to the term “gamification.” But if you are still wondering about this concept, or have just started looking into it, the best definition I can provide you with comes from Scott Nicholson (director of Because Play Matters game lab): “gamification is the use of a gameful or playful layer to motivate involvement in a system.” Gamification, of course, is not specific to the world of management. It has been and is being applied as a whole to the world of business as well as education. This article post, and posts in this Got Gamification? mini-series will concentrate on gamification as a management tool within the corporate world. Because of this, I will refer to it as business games in order to avoid confusion.

What we love about business games

Why are business games all the hype? How did they become the new honorary solution to our business management problems? Think back to your last training. Did it involve a presentation in which you listened to someone speak, while you sat there for 1 to 6 hours? Did you retain much out of this training, after the training? Do you look forward to any of these trainings? If you are like me, you either think one of two things: Yes! I get to catch up on my sleep or great, now I will be even more behind on my work. What if your next training was like a game, in which you were able to actively interact and see theory at play in front of you, and not just defined on a screen? What if you were able to see some of the troubles and difficulties you could possibly encounter in the future, while playing it safe on a board game? Wouldn’t you feel more confident, like you are ready for whatever endeavor you need to affront? This is what gamification does and why it is becoming a trend in management. Professionals of different fields were smart enough to tap into the gamification concept to make use of it in the office setting as an administrative tool. It turns out games can not only engage you but also help you learn and motivate you in the work sphere.

A glance into the games themselves

You are probably wondering in what sort of medium business games come in and if it is an actual game. Yes, it is an actual game. And there are two main types of business games, there are application based games (these involve your electronics) and then there are board games. Board games center on “live” in-the-moment action, in which a group of employees sit around a board game. Because of this, board games are all about interaction with fellow team members. Application based games are more individual, as they entail a single employee playing either on a computer or cellphone (although some application based business games call for the formation of virtual teams). The goal of both games is not only to motivate your employees but address their emotions and intellectual intelligence. One of the biggest attributes from business games is their ability to address people at different levels, while still remaining playful. Among other examples of this game tool, these can range from either changing the way employees perceive company culture to helping them engage in the work place.

Go, start playing!

In a nutshell, the purpose of business games is to engage employees, with a concentration on their responsiveness as well as rationality, through the base layer action of fun. Now this sounds easy, and honestly amusing. What better way to incite your employees than through play? How easy of a sell does that sound like? I personally would much rather play a game than sit through a motivational meeting or training. However, this probably isn’t enough to persuade you to start using business games in your office. What if I told you that business games are all about social and cognitive development? That because of this, according to The Huffington Post, it is estimated that by the end of 2014 seventy percent of Global 2000 business will already have implemented some sort of gamification tool. And while CMS Wire has reported that 71% of workers are not engaged, some of these business games have been known to increase engagement by 90%. Do these figures peak your interest? If so, isn’t time you get onboard?

“Gamification: The Hard Truths” – The Huffington Post article
“Gamification: Game With the Concept?” – CMS Wire


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  1. I love the concept.

    What kind of games do you suggest we incorporate at our office for let’s say bringing morale up or simply interaction among all departments?

    These games must be through our computer or break room and must only take 1-2 minutes.

    Great article. Thanks.

    1. Liz,

      I believe it would be hard to have a game or game-like concept that takes 1-2 min. But you can increase interaction amongst your employees by creating groups and competitions to promote positive team behavior and compel certain actions. But don’t keep these limited to people of the same department. You can give a group of employees from different departments a task or project, which will force them to collaborate with one another.

  2. Just found your blog because of the Gameday in Berlin.

    I love classical business games. I really do. But I think for the sake of all different approaches you should really differentiate better between what is Gamification? What are serious games? What are Business games? What is Game Based Learning? And so on.
    Business Games, like you are defining it is definitely something different than Gamification. And only if you sell them as what they really are -Games – it will be successful in the long term because the customers get what you are promoting and not something different.

    The basic difference, for example between Gamification and Business Games, is easy: What happens inside a Business Game stays in the game. Of course the users and the companies can learn from the outcomes but than the learnings have to be transferred into reality.
    Looking at Gamification: What happens within a gamified activity has real consequences.
    Gamification is applying game-mechanics & -dynamics to activities with non-game-context. But playing a Business Game like you are describing it, is a real game. Its activity happens inside an artificial environment and not the real world.
    Interested about your thoughts 🙂

    1. Roman Rackwitz,

      I understand where you are coming from. You are correct in saying that there should be a differentiation between gamification and business games. At the moment, from what I have seen, these two words have been more or less mushed together; perhaps as more people become aware of this, more specific terms will be used to separate the different fields. I can tell you, that as I read articles on business games and how they are used as a management tool, blog writers and the like more often than not also referred to it as gamification. Do you believe there is a lack of awareness?

      The basic principle behind gamification is to use a gameful concept in order to motivate others to get involved. With that in mind, you can have a business game that does just that. You can have a training incorporated into a game that really pumps up your employees and engages them, which can have an effect on the way your employees interact with one another once the game is over. If during the game your employees build on their camaraderie, then this can affect the way they interact outside of the game and even outside of work. Under this principle, I believe that you are gamifying something. 🙂

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