For most of the last couple of decades, business software has been pretty much the same – a series of forms that essentially automated the company procedure manuals, which preceded the days of computers. Yes, with Windows and the Mac, those forms became prettier, but they’re usually still some kind of form. And, aside from down lists of things like the list of countries or states, there isn’t much intelligence behind those forms.
It’s time to change that approach and learn from enormously popular digital games. Learn what exactly?
For too many people, games are all about vicarious shoot-em-up scenes or, at best, fantasy adventures. Business software designers could have some fun applying those techniques – imagine a “killer sales” app :-). But there’s a deeper level of interaction with technology that game designers have discovered.
Game software does three things well. First it motivates people to continue to play the game. Second, it’s conversational, offering frequent bite-sized interactions with users. Third, it adjusts to the user’s behavior, indeed learns from what the user does – while the user is also learning.
Compare that to typical business software. The motivation to use it is mostly external – your paycheck or your desire to get something from an unfeeling bureaucracy. The form is big and long, like a lecture or sermon, not a conversation. And the course of the interaction varies little from person to person; there’s little learning on either side of the interaction.
Is it any wonder that game players feel so much more engaged than users of business software?
But the three aspects of good game software can easily be adapted to the business world and anyone undertaking a major development of business software today should learn from those techniques.
Three additional observations about this:
- Motivation is not just about how many points you can rack up compared to others. The best game designers provide support for the range of human motivations in order to help the many different kinds of players. So, for some, the motivation is very much about winning the competition. For others, social approval in the form of likes and other recognition is more important. For others, getting it 100% right is the goal.
- More generally, it’s important to realize that there is a sophisticated use of this tool and also a simplistic use. Indeed, not every game that’s sold is a good example of the value of gamification.
- The funny thing is that many of the people I meet who have some control over the development of software in their organizations are avid game players. Yet they ignore the lessons of their personal life when planning what will happen in the business. Does that make sense?
© 2013 Norman Jacknis