Gamification Works

Give a Sense of having Contributed

According to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs all humans have a need to feel respected; this includes a need for self-esteem and self-respect. Esteem satisfies the normal human desire to be accepted and valued by others. People often engage in a profession or hobby to gain such recognition. These activities give the person a sense of having contributed and of self-worth.

A common issue for knowledge base deployments is how to get users to contribute; how to motivate the average user to write and give feedback when there's no extra money for it. At Semanta we wondered if one way to overcome this obstacle might be to make use of Maslow's insights and provide users with the tools to both receive recognition for their own contributions and give credit to others when it was due.


The Hall of Fame

For this reason, we incorporated some of the popular ideas from today's social networks - liking, commenting and sharing, into Encyclopaedia. We hoped that it would be fun and also a motivating factor. From the beginning we decided to rank likes and shares etc and present the results on the homepage in a Hall of Fame. Letting people see who's creating the most valuable content would, we hoped, encourage visits to that person's pages and in turn collect more likes and become more richly commented on etc.


Did it work?

I recently returned to one of our Knowledge Management System (BI Encyclopaedia) installations at a clients after a six month break. I was delighted to see highly motivated individuals contributing to the system's common knowledge-base with their own content. After chatting with them it became clear that the gamification patterns worked!

The person who'd received the most likes for his contributions had tried to follow users' expectations. He'd wanted to make his knowledge about cubes available for others. He created a simple page named something like "Essbase Help" and watched the page's "page visits" history - it only got a handful. He tried to rationalise why that should be and decided that the title wasn't very tempting and probably too technical for the broad audience he was trying to attract. In the company, everybody is using "cubes" so he renamed the page "Cube Tips and Tricks". Page visits increased dramatically, followed by page likes. It became the most "liked" page for months.



Achieving Milestones with Gamification

Gamification can be used in other ways too. Imagine for example, you need to increase the level of documentation for all of your company's reports. One way to do this would be to give the various pieces and aspects of documentation ranking levels, e.g. a report definition would get one point for every documentation criteria it fulfills. The more points, the better the report is documented. An internal campaign could then be launched to improve the documentation quality of your reports and reporting teams would compete with each other to finish the task. Announce some reward (dinner or drinks) for the best team or for all the teams if more than 90% of all the reports are well-documented and you'll be surprised how well it works for you.

The State of the Report idicates its documented quality.

Each Team has its own Dashboard with documentation quality status.


Measuring the Report Documentation

Sample Rating Criteria for Report Definition

  • report definition has at least short business description

  • report definition got business owner assigned

  • report definition got analyst/guarantor assigned

  • report definition got link to live report

  • report definition got screenshot

  • report is assigned to category(ies)

  • report format is defined

  • report frequency is defined

Level of Documentation Quality

  • poor: definition has got less than 4 points

  • standard: definition has got at least 4 points and less than 8 points

  • rich: definition has got at least 8 points


Find a few good men

From our experience implementing our BI Encyclopaedia, gamification really works. People have a natural desire to be given recognition for their contributions. Bringing social networking tools into the workplace can really help to achieve this within an IT system.

In the real world it's usual to say "Thank you" when somebody's helped you. You enter a discussion when you feel you can contribute something. In the real world you're probably delighted when somebody recognises the contribution you've made towards goals and tasks. There are similar options available for those who work in the IT "cloud".

However, from our experience, gamification works best of all when you have some exceptional contributors who are willing to build a solid base for your organisation's Knowledge Management System. Let me finish with a note to these unsung heroes -  listen to these people, cuddle them, support them and give them the tools to promote their ideas to everyone. They are the role models who others will follow and from their work you'll generate the necessary daily interaction that your knowledge and data desperately needs. Attracting users is the key issue when introducing a knowledge management system into a company. Systems introduced without gamification suffer from slow adoption rates or aren't adopted at all.