Michael Wu and the enterprise gamification opportunity for software

“Enterprise software is not designed with gamification in mind,” Michael kicks off our interview, “even the latest enterprise software like Yammer is not gamified yet. This presents an opportunity.”

“Enterprise vendors are too focused on the tech and they overlook the fact that people still have to use that tech in order to bring value to the organization.To a certain extent, the technology we choose actually determines the way we work.”

What is the opportunity for enterprise gamification?

“Enterprise gamification provides the opportunity to drive adoption. How many times have you heard ‘I bought this or that technology and it doesn’t work – my people are not using it’ – well maybe if people were using it then the value would be clear. Gamification can help us drive enterprise software adoption within an organization.”

Michael is Principal scientist at Lithium  technologies, a software service  that the company describes this as turning your customers into a “brand nation.”

Ok cool, so tell us about the day job

“Lithium is a fully gamified enterprise social software that help brands engage their customer externally. We drive adoption and engagement by our client’s customer. That is a harder problem because after all employees should work together, but customers on the other hand are under no obligation to do so.”

“Our platform drives customer engagement and turns them in to part of the company. They help other customers and influence other consumers via the platform. I work on analyzing the interaction data from these customers and develop algorithms that predict their behavior.”

“How we do that is the magic potion of gamification“. Check out Michael’s slides  from the Gamification Summit. Michael’s was one of the best talks of the conference condensed with nuggets of wisdom.

Magic potion? Aha. So what’s the best way to get customer engagement?

“I don’t think there is a best game mechanic, you have to apply the right ones to the right situation. Like an appointment dynamic (offering an incentive to be at a specific place at a specific time) is good for bars in the form of a happy hour, but it may not be appropriate for every business situation. ”

And points? Surely we all love points here?

“I think that blindly giving points is a danger. If we only hand out an extrinsic rewards, this makes people over justify what they are doing, and it will ultimately decrease their intrinsic motivation.”

 “I think that blindly giving points is a danger” – Michael Wu

Isn’t this what Lithium is up to?

“We keep our points mechanics under the surface and instead surface a rank. This keeps an air of mystery around our reputation engine. The way users value their rank is that they get special permissions as they go up. It shows that the company and the community trusts you more. You might get permission to upload a photo for your avatar with a higher rank. This is because we know you and trust that you aren’t going to put an inappropriate picture up there. Companies may give their high rank members the opportunity to participate in a beta test drive of their latest and greatest features, or give them the opportunity to co-design new product that benefit future consumers.”

What are the challenges for enterprise gamification?

“What is holding enterprise back is that a lot of people don’t see the ROI yet. The ROI of social media more generally is still hotly debated. So that’s the first hurdle to seeing value. The second, I think, is a fear of losing control. Once a program is in place, you are dealing with real humans with very complex emotion and psychology, so you won’t have full control of the system anymore.”

“To mitigate this we need education to explain what’s going on and demystify the human dynamics at play. This can be difficult for people brought up with motivations as being limited to either a stick or carrot but it is possible.”

Is anybody going to lose out from gamification?

“Not really. Gamification presents an opportunity for a win-win. For us, as the customers collaborate so we deflect user issues from the customer support team. It helps people with self actualization – something I define as “living up to your own ideal”. So if someone sees that their answer is viewed 1000 times, then that’s good for them. If they post an idea and the company actually puts into action, then even better. I guess the only one that’s going to lose out is those who are too conservative to take a leap of faith.”

What’s next then? What are you excited about?

“I’m most excited next about the opportunities around analytics and social. How will we quantify the effectiveness of collaboration? It’s all back to graph theory and social network analysis. After all it all starts with measurement.”


Toby Beresford

Toby is founder and CEO of Rise the success tracking network to track, publish and share success. He was the 2013 chair of Gamfed.com - the International Gamification Confederation and organises the UK Gamifiers meetup. As a gamification leader, he speaks at conferences and hosts workshops. Follow him on twitter @tobyberesford and Subscribe to this blog at Gamification Of Work blog feed

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook