Interest in gamification has ebbed and flowed. But a new radical approach to gamification has emerged — gamification as a business strategy. Techerati spoke to the digital transformation expert spearheading this new approach to understand why and how modern the enterprise should seriously consider thinking of its business as a game.
History of gamification
According to some commentators, gamification first started when an American popcorn brand called Cracker Jack began stashing free prizes in every bag of its popcorn. However, the term didn’t cement until the 1980s when academics began researching ways that learning could be gamified.
It wasn’t until around 2011 when corporate gamification truly arrived, thanks to the runaway success of applications like Foursquare. As is the fashion, the same year the Oxford English Dictionary added gamification to its word of the year shortlist, defining it as “the application of concepts and techniques from games to other areas of activity”.
For the corporate world, gamification is generally understood as using gaming principles to engage consumers, for instance by providing points, levels and badges that unlock prizes. Candy Crush took the notion to its logical limit, by using the game itself as a vehicle for driving sales.
While the term gained traction in the business world when Candy Crush entered the scene, interest waned after many businesses struggled to design compelling applications. New technologies too, like AR and VR, have captured the corporate imagination, relegating gamification to a long list of digital transformation fads.
Now Anders Lange, head of strategic gamification at Gucci, wants to revive and extend corporate gamification in a radically new way. While until now, gamification has been conceived as a consumer-facing endeavour, Lange (an old-fashioned gamer himself) says the principles should be applied internally too. In other words, businesses should start thinking of their entire business as a game, and use the game to drive contextual business decisions.
“VR and AR are still out in the future for a lot of companies, but gamification is something you can do right here and now,” Lange says.
Gamification as a business strategy
This shift doesn’t nullify the consumer-facing aspect of gamification, it just broadens it to fully encompass the totality of business strategy. In a nutshell, it boils down using classical gaming concepts as a lens through which to view business strategy.
In order to design their strategy, game companies first identify what Lange calls the “enablers”: The game engine, dynamic world, and definition.
The game engine is all the building blocks of a company that enable it to run. Lange identifies four that cover the bases of most enterprises: IT infrastructure, HR, company culture and finance and will.