Cisco Blogs

Play Is a Game Changer for the WorkPlace

June 30, 2011 - 0 Comments

There has been a ton of commentary on the next big trend for gamification being all about the workplace. Game techniques are being called out as a key way to improve internal performance, recruit new employees, promoting employee wellness, and rewarding employee performance.

Some quotes from recent articles that stood out for me are:

  1. Gartner named it among the top CIO trends to watch and predicted that more than half of organizations wanting to encourage innovation would ‘gamify’ their supporting processes by 2015.
  2. Games are “proven to change behavior,” says Shaun Quigley, SVP of Digital at Brunner.
  3. According to author Traci Sitzmann, “One of the advantages of games is that they are intrinsically motivating, resulting in employees choosing to repeatedly engage in game play and mastering the skills.”
  4. Chief Scientist JP Rangaswami says, “Gamification at the enterprise is not a fad. It is not about providing extrinsic rewards for crap work. If work is crap, let’s fix that problem and not put any lipstick on it. It is tools that allow a significant paradigm shift from hierarchical, linear, top-down decision making work to non-linear, networked, personally selected teams, tasks, and outcomes.”

Some great examples of gamification for the workplace include:

  1. According to a recent article from FastCompany, Adam Bosworth, former Vice President of Product Management at Google, is a fan of a workplace wellness platform called Keas . Keas enables workplaces with a program where individuals or teams compete to accumulate points by completing tasks such as walking to work, eating healthier, or learning about nutrition. Winners earn badges and take home prizes, such as cash and gifts. Bosworth is quick to point out that the small rewards are not the hook, “the one thing that had a dramatic effect on engagement was being a member of a team.” The key was the teams would motivate each other, create a sense of community, and the obligation to your team peers to mutually success shouldn’t be underestimated.

  2. Marriot recently launched a Facebook game aimed at recruiting to fill their 50k open positions around the globe. MyMarriotHotel aims to entice candidates to consider the hospitality industry for their career choice. David Rodriguez, Marriott’s VP of global human resources told Springwise, “This game allows us to showcase the world of opportunities and the growth potential attainable in hospitality careers, especially in cultures where the service industry might be less established or prestigious.” See the game in action below.

  3. According to, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is leveraging Spigit’s platform to power ‘Idea Street’. In the past DWP leveraged suggestion boxes for employees to contribute ideas on how to improve processes, however there wasn’t a process to evaluate, select and develop the ideas with the most potential. David Cotherhill, the DWP’s deputy director of innovation, explains:” It’s important to have a structure in place for supporting and making decisions on ideas that come into the system. Where you don’t have that they tend to stagnate.” Idea Street enables employees to generate ideas that are of strategic importance to the organization. Staff is rewarded for coming up with an idea with points called ‘DWPeas’. DWPeas can also be earned for further developing either their own suggestion or those of colleagues. Points can be spent on investing in proposals and on support to take ideas to the next stage. The system awards for good ideas by rewarding winning ideas with yet more DWPeas, but it also discourages generating ideas just for an ideas sake as points are lost if an idea is rejected. To keep activity going a list of ideas with the most active discussions is featured in the ‘buzz index’ and the innovation team communicates weekly on Idea Street activities and provides concrete examples of innovation outside of the department. With more than 6,000 staff now active in Idea Street and over 60 proposals implemented DWP is seeing the pay-off two-fold. With an expected £20m to be saved by 2014-15 and more importantly to Cotterhil increased employee collaboration, “It helps encourage people to speak out when they see a service that could be improved or when a cost saving could be made. Just spending a small amount of time contributing (most people spend around 10 minutes) is hugely valuable in helping frontline staff and those in corporate functions to work together to solve problems,” he concludes. The success of Idea Street has resulted in the system being rolled out across a number of other government departments, including the Ministry of Justice.

CEO of Undercurrent and author of ‘Game Frame’ Aaron Dignan says, “Play is nature’s learning engine. When you break it down, it’s the act of deploying scientific method on the world around you, innately. It’s part of your basic instinct.”

The workplace has changed considerably in the last century and job roles have diversified immensely. Gone are the days were the majority of job roles provide steady and consistent activities for the worker, such as working on assembly lines. There is now a high percentage of knowledge based job roles in the work place which are “lumpy,” as Chief Scientist JP Rangaswami describes it. In other words, these roles feature peaks and valleys of intensity enabling workers to easily move between tasks. These peak and valleys introduce gaps in activity being filled by what Rangaswami calls, “this 20th century mechanism called meetings.” Rangaswami asserts that game play in the workplace may be better suited to fill the gaps.

I don’t know about you but I would welcome a few less meetings in favor of productive game play and game mechanics that rewards me for my collaboration with my co-workers sounds like icing on the cake.

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.