Gamification is about value not output

gold panning
Photo credit: Gold panning in Kildonan (by alan souter) / CC BY-SA 2.0


It may seem obvious, but the statement is important: “Gamification is about value not output

When we apply Gamification – game mechanics – in an enterprise setting we must remember our goal is to track and motivate value creation not output.

Or to put it in words we are familiar with “it’s quality not quantity

Too much gamification today is output tracking – how many points have I earned for doing this or that- otherwise known “pointsification”.

Let’s take knowledge sharing as our example function we wish to gamify. Our overall objective is to ensure that knowledge is spread quickly through a community or organisation to the points at which it is needed.

Now there are two ways we can gamify knowledge sharing:

1. Reward output

This is the points and badges approach. The more files a user uploads, therefore the more knowledge he or she is sharing and therefore the more we should give points.

2. Reward value

This is achieved through the reciprocity mechanic. The more times a file is read, commented on or re-shared the more points are awarded to the creator.

Approach 1 is wrong in two ways:

Firstly the person who produces much, but much of which is garbage, would find themselves higher in status than the person who produces less but of better quality that is shared more widely.

Secondly, as Michael Wu pointed out at the #gamificap round table, approach 1 is “gameable” – that means you can aim to get the extrinsic reward (higher status in the organisation) simply by producing more output of lower quality. Having a reciprocity mechanic, while still ‘gameable’ without time bounding, reduces cheating.

What does this mean for enterprise gamification in practice?

I think this gives us  three main take-homes:

  1. Awarding points for output is usually wrong
  2. Gamification needs a social network platform in place first, otherwise reciprocity cannot be tracked easily. (Good news for the guys at Yammer)
  3. A gamification project must first clarify what is of highest value and structure rewards accordingly to that value.

Both 2 and 3 sound like subjects for future blog posts… ;o)

Toby Beresford

Toby is co-founder of and a serial web applications entrepreneur. He has developed social games such as Buzz! the Friend Quiz and Powerbrands as well as employee software for Performance Development Review and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.

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One Response to “Gamification is about value not output”

  1. [...] are based on reciprocity mechanics that are facilitated best via a social network. (see my post on why gamifying value is better than output for [...]

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