Idea: Game Mechanics for Businesses

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In my last post I talked about how I would openly share some of my ideas. This is one of those half-baked ideas and like all of my ideas, it was cobbled together from a number of conversations I’ve had with a number of people.

Over the past year and in very infrequent intervals, I’ve been thinking about how a system could be created that would incent people to do things with non-monetary incentives, while at the same time, surfacing the creativity out of people all within a corporate setting. I’ve been thinking about how cool it would be if you could create a system that fundamentally changed the way corporate america works. A system that could change the internal processes, the reward systems, the compensations and the bonuses of business cultures, that from what I hear, simply suck. And I’m interested to see if this can all be done using game mechanics.

It’s been proven already that people do things when they feel a sense of reward and “sense” doesn’t necessarily mean dollars. Just look at all the people starting projects or donating to projects on Kickstarter. Look at all the people freely answering questions on Quora or StackOverflow. Look at all the people that build, and spend money on, ridiculous virtual items to build virtual farms in Farmville.

A common theme here is the use of non-monetary rewards systems. Game mechanics to influence a certain behavior.

So my thinking is, why can’t this same approach be used to influence certain behaviors in the corporate setting? Freeing the minds from the cubes and adding a healthy dynamic to the work at hand. Extracting the creativity and entrepreneurship out of everyone using some new rewards system. A new type of integrated consulting.

Am I on to something or should I go play Farmville?

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  • Hi! This is such a great article and I am sure a lot of entrepreneurs are going to benefit from this. I have been giving advice like these to many up and coming business people and have been successful so far. I am Donald Brownlie Fleming, an Australian Entrepreneur, ebook author (Master Selling by Donald Brownlie Fleming) and a Philanthropist. If you have time, maybe you can visit me too.

  • While I disagree with your classifications of ideas as “free”, because ideas always cost time and work to implement before they’re worth anything (and we need more people who do that), I think you’re right when you look at game mechanics as playing an important role in the future toolkit. There are already entrepreneurs looking to use game mechanics for the greater good, or at least their greater good. One of them can be found here: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/seth_priebatsch_the_game_layer_on_top_of_the_world.html

    I myself came across your post looking for answers to problems I’m having with implementing game mechanics into a business tool I am working on. Aside from obvious technical challenges, there lies a great difficulty in introducing social aspects into business game mechanics. There is no predefined set of actions that can be rewarded and compared, and even if there were, a layer of obfuscation is necessary so we’re not making public all of our company processes. For the moment (and for prototyping purposes) I’m trying to avoid adding the social benefits, which leaves me with another problem: Aside from design choices and playing on basic instincts, all rewards and pressures game mechanics could bestow upon the user are pretty much hollow.

    The question, accordingly, isn’t whether game mechanics will be used in business settings. But how.

    • Great comments. In regards to the game mechanics for businesses topic, I
      think the very point is that there are no predefined set of actions that can
      be rewarded and compared. Businesses operate in different ways and instill
      different goals or behaviors on their employees. I think this particular
      idea would (i) allow for a custom set of actions to be defined by any
      business and (ii) would have permissions set up so that the “rewards” can be
      hidden and/or visible to certain internal and external shareholders.

      Obviously, this is all very abstract and the “how” is indeed the most
      important question as you pointed out, but I think just like a Salesforce
      for example, where different businesses can configure different fields and
      processes to meet their needs, I think this game mechanics for business idea
      could be utilized in a similar way: customization and configuration of
      “rewards” to drive behavior through non monetary incentives.