The six categories of gamification delivered via the intranet or social platform


Gamification or the use of gaming mechanics for work purposes is a topic that is still getting a lot of attention, provoking conference, books and even attracting academic interest. An example of the latter was a summer seminar organised by Dr. Patrick Stacey at Lancaster University which is   available for all to view.

One of the themes of the seminar is why gamification is not being used for its full potential. The description of the event states:

“There is enormous interest in this phenomenon and equally different interpretations and evaluations of it. Current practice is rather fixed on ‘badgification’ or ‘pointsification’ and is not exploiting the full potential of game design thinking. Why not? How do we make sense of this? What is the full potential and spectrum of ‘big’ gamification?”

Badgification not gamification?

I agree with this sentiment about ‘badgification’. When “gamification” is delivered through the intranet, collaboration platform or enterprise social network, it invariably tends to be about badges, points and leaderboards.  Whether this is “true” gamification or not is largely down to semantics, but the use of these three mechanisms has become more and more prevalent inside companies and it is often what the term “gamification” refers to.

There are many reasons for this increasing use. Some of it is because of general interest in the topic and some of it stems from the experiences of users on the consumer-driven web. Another major driver of growth is also the availability of points and leaderboards out-of-the-box in popular enterprise platforms such as Jive and SharePoint 2013.

Six categories of gamification

When points, badges and leaderboards are enabled through an intranet or ESN they are commonly implemented for one or more of six distinct but sometimes overlapping areas.   These are:

  • Ideation:  idea management or innovation platforms
  • Training and learning:  potentially “formal” and “informal” learning
  • Campaigns and events:  usually with a specific purpose or limited timeframe e.g. a campaign around environmental ideas
  • Online contribution and influence: usually points-derived based on an algorithm reflecting online activity and ratings of contributions
  • Offline contribution: where points are rewarded for contributions or actions not carried out online (and therefore not measured by an automated algorithm) e.g. sales
  • Employee recognition systems (online feedback and gratitude from peers, management and customers)

In practice, an initiative involving gamification may fall into more than one of the above categories. For example I recently wrote about Virtuos who have introduced a gamification effort which covers formal training and learning, as well as measuring online contribution.  Meanwhile luxury eyewear group Luxottica introduced a “Zero Waste “ campaign to cut its carbon footprint, which also involved an ideation platform. Russian retailer Enter’s use of gamifcation covers multiple categories.

A simple framework for considering how to implement intranet-based gamification

If you are thinking of introducing points and leaderboards it is worth thinking about your efforts in terms of these six categories.  For example the temptation might be to design one over-arching system that perhaps starts off measuring online contribution and / or influence, and then introduces other elements such as employee recognition.

While this can work, the way points and leaderboards relate to each of the six categories may need to be slightly different, particularly around incentives and rewards.

For example if peer recognition is an input into performance reviews and your gamification involves any rewards, do you want to treat the incentivisation of this the same as an ideation platform? Peer recognition is much more likely to be tied to the normal expectations of a role, than say ideation which is much more standalone.  Does giving points for both these areas in the same system effectively equate their value, and is this the message you want to give?

Over the coming weeks, I’m going to be writing a lot more about gamification and undertaking some research, so I’d be grateful for any thoughts and contributions. Perhaps I can establish a leaderboard…


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