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Gamification and Leadership April 18, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gamification, play.

The Harvard Business Review is – as far as I know – a monthly business journal with quite high reputation. In 2008 they published a study, amongst others by Byron Reeves, a professor with Stanfort University and the founder of Seriosity, a startup around games or gamification in management.

In the study, the authors compared management skills in online games – mainly MMORPG – to real life management skills. For this study, they interviewed players and real life managers and came up with some interesting conclusions:

A number of our conclusions about the future of business leadership were unantici- pated. For one, individuals you’d never expect to identify—and who’d never expect to be identified—as “high potentials” for real- world management training end up taking on significant leadership roles in games. Even more provocative was our finding that successful leadership in online games has less to do with the attributes of individual leaders than with the game environment, as created by the developer and enhanced by the gamers themselves. Furthermore, some characteristics of that environment— for example, immediate compensation for successful completion of a project with non- monetary incentives, such as points for commit- ment and game performance—represent more than mere foreshadowing of how leadership might evolve.

Some insights – rather important from a manager’s perspective:

Risktakingisencouraged.Trial and error play a big role in accomplishing game tasks. Failure, instead of being viewed as a career killer, is accepted as a frequent and necessary antecedent to success.


leadership in games is a task, not an identity [comment: to avoid burn-outs, to have the best person in place for a certain task and to involve also shy or reserved players]


We pinpointed at least two properties of games that we believe facilitate and enhance leadership: nonmonetary incentives rooted in a virtual game economy; and hypertransparency of a wide range of information, including data about individual players’ capabilities and performance.

In the article the authors then discuss about synthetic currencies as dragon kill points, or DKPs to motivate team members, sometime even on a extreme short range as “I have an additional four DKPs for those that can clear the dungeon in under three hours!”

The authors than suggest to transport this concept into real life management problems. Here their example:

We have seen virtual incentives affect digital communication in other ways. In a study done at a Fortune 100 company on methods for reducing information overload, employees received an allotment of a virtual currency, which they could use to indicate the relative importance of e-mail messages they sent. Attaching a large amount of the scarce currency to a particular message would draw attention to it or even serve as a feedback mechanism: You send me an e-mail you value at 100 units, and I respond with one valued at 200, giving you a credit of 100 units to validate the usefulness of the information you sent. One experiment showed that the currency, as a marker of information importance, in fact influenced how quickly colleagues opened and read different messages in their inboxes. Other gamelike elements were also tested: For example, the ability to win publicly visible digital badges in return for efficient communication helped reduce unnecessary e-mail.

I think that ATTEND (demo video) by Seriosity is the tool they talk about in above chapter.

The article closes with a nice statement:

At the very least, digitally enabled environments and techniques could increase productivity by making many aspects of work simpler, less tedious, and—dare we say it?—more fun. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.



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