Building trust in your team (Gamification of work)

At your service poll result (July 13, 2013)

At your service poll result (July 13, 2013)

Howdy Folks!

How are you? Has been a long and exciting week for me, especially because an article about me winning the trip to the IGIP conference in Russia has been published this week in the local news. I described how I came to wining the trip in my last post.

Today, I want to tell you something about “Building trust in your team (gamification of work)” as you voted in my customer service poll (see image at the right).

One important thought first: Avoid blaming the others, especially blaming a whole department for delaying your work. Blaming the others (and especially blaming a “anonymous” group of persons, e.g. a department) bins the fault in a problem stack that is never solved or even recognized to exist. If you catch yourself blaming someone, think about why you blame the person(s) and how to change yourself and to communicate with the person(s) to solve the problem. This way, work will be much more fun because you will realize how things can be done much more faster if you work as a real team in a real enterprise (instead of fighting each against others).

But how to gamify your work?

In my opinion, many issue tracker (e.g. JIRA) and ticket systems (e.g. iET) are already like role playing games. You get tasks (“quests”) to complete and you have a role (e.g. “1st Level Support Employee” or “Java Application Developer”). But why do these tools annoy us so often?

Adult Ralph in Bart to the Future, annoyed at ...

Annoyed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First of all, they lead us to simply completing the tasks without listening to our inner goals and motivation. Changing this is simply a question of personal philosophy but can be supported by gamification (see “Working on your personal goals” below). Secondly, these tools are often full of features and have a rather poor design which results in a bad user experience, so it is already feeling like work to use the tools (see “Some thoughts about user experience” below). Finally, these tools tend to isolate us in our workplace which is a bit related to “Working on you personal goals” but can additionally changed by gamification (see “How to make your workplace become more social” below).

Working on your personal goals

A simplified example of a skill tree, a common element of role-playing games. (credit:

A simplified example of a skill tree, a common element of role-playing games. (credit:

Think of a skill tree in role playing games (see image at the right). What if you had this skill tree in your daily work and could level up by completing tasks to get skill points? With this skill points, you could go to workshops and coaching to improve a special skill you find important to improve. Additionally, you can create tasks and watch them get completed and give the person who completed your task particularly well an additional experience points bonus.  What do you think about it? I think we don’t need to talk about the fact that simply giving points for something with no related meaning is never leading to anything…

Some thoughts about user experience

Good games are very easy to play and get more and more complicated with you getting better so they always are neither boring nor annoyingly complex to play. If you think of user interfaces of business tools, you wish sometimes it would be similar. As a beginner, you need more help (guidance and feedback) and less possibilities. As an expert, you need more possibilities and less help. So a good user interface adapts to the skill level of its user. This can be done by an intelligent enterprise role management giving beginners less roles (and therefore less complexity in the user interface). The tool needs a good tooltip and on-demand (shortcut) context help function. Help and tips can appear automatically based on your skill level, so a beginner gets more help and tips than an expert.

How to make your workplace become more social

Bazar Bizar 2010 @Rotterdam

Bazar Bizar 2010 @Rotterdam (Photo credit: wot nxt)

In times of tools and computers, it is important to create space to meet up with other people. This can happen both in real life and in virtual life. I think of “Marketplaces” for working together and sharing or trading your tasks and of “Lounges” to communicate with people who do the same work or have the same interests.

English: Jack Daniels Lounge

Lounge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Therefore, augmented reality could be really helpful to navigate you inhouse (e.g. for meeting a working mate in another office), showing the status of your working mates (e.g. “Struggling hard with that damn satisfaction calculation method” -> you decide to help your working mate) and to synchronise the communication and actions between reality and virtual reality. Therefore, a tool like a “DocuBuddy” could be quite helpful. I imagine that I’m talking with a working mate about how we’re gonna implement a particular function and we have a great idea. I say “DocuBuddy, please note” and then “DocuBuddy” writes down what I say and adds it to the corresponding task.

Building trust in your team

Finally, the trust in your team will result from a skillfull, improving team that helps each other, shares work and ideas with each other and consists of self-concident and rather happy (inner motivated) people. Getting both recognition for working and a feeling for personal progress will shorten the (felt) time to retirement very much…

So what do you think? What are your ideas how one could change your work to become a better activity you’d love to do?

May the force be with you,




Gamify later or Why Gamification needs to be rethought

A powerful light shines in the dark.

A powerful light shines in the dark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you still remember that little Dishwasher game I wanted to let my work mates play? For those who don’t. Well, you remember, my boss interrupted at the mention of gamification so we couldn’t play. I had a great and long discussion with him this week and I can tell you: Gamification needs to be rethought. You might wonder if I’m being a bit too rude to sweet innocent gamification now but let’s take the popular example of Foursquare:

They just gave their players points and badges for checking in and had leaderboards (“The Mayor“) for every place. But after a several time, players quit. Do you know why?

They now changed the design completely and I think they are getting one step closer to the light side now. You can read the whole story here.

So if you already read my page “The light side” and maybe even the short Foursquare story, we can start to think about the new, sustainable gamification. I want to develop such a light side application called gamma. Gamma stands for gamified non-manipulative mmorpg-like application. So what does that mean?

  • Gamified because it uses game elements to support players by providing immediate feedback and a skill board to
    Gamma - The light side of Gamification

    Gamma – The light side of Gamification

    see where they stand.

  • Non-manipulative because players are intelligent enough to discover real manipulation and will oppose against it as I do against using manipulation techniques. The application will provide information and allow players to communicate so that they can make a decision together instead of getting a decision.
  • Mmorpg-like because I was inspired by Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games to develop an application which allows players to create quests and accept quests (or tasks) to get experience points and skill points to know where they stand and what they want to achieve.
  • Application because it will be a piece of software that enables the players to enjoy the light side.

So much for now, I will come back to gamma in a later post.

Now I still want to discuss an interesting point Joe Cool (btw the first commentator on my first post, you are a brave one, thx!) made yesterday:

Our whole life is about influencing, or if you want to coin it in a negative way, it is about manipulating

(Joe Cool, July 5, 2012, comment)

I replied to him that we need to differentiate between 1) giving arguments plus the chance to make a decision AND 2) “giving” a decision. 2) is manipulative without doubt. 1) is what we call in my company the “way of making a commonly accepted decision”. The idea is that everybody tells why he or she wants to do something and given all this motivation, you can make the right choice. Sometimes it takes a bit longer but well, at least most times results are quite profoundly thought-over.

Pirates thumb

Pirates thumb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think to be clear about where discussion ends and manipulation starts is a very essential point also for gamification. In my oppinion manipulation starts if you decide to keep knowledge private to avoid getting a possibility killed (e.g. telling the world you only need 100k € to get back on your feet and not telling that you already bought a one-way flight to a little island in the Caraiban).

Thx for reading, I appreciate your comments very much!

May the force be with you…

The two sides of gamification or May the force be with you



A dishwasher containing clean dishes

A dishwasher containing clean dishes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the moment, I am developping a little prototype for my gamma-study. The idea is implementing a “clean of the dishwasher“-game which provides three simple use cases to motivate me and my working mates to clean of the dishwasher:

  1. “I (x) cleaned of the dishwasher and were seen by mate y“.
  2. “I were in the kitchen and saw x cleaning of the dishwasher”.
  3. “I need to know my working mates to tell who were in the kitchen. Show me five images and let me guess who it is”.

Quite simple, but with the third use case I provide some intrinsic motivation (well at least I suppose you’d like to know names and faces you are working with) besides the motivation of getting points for guessing names and matches of first and second use case.

But when I told my boss what I wanted to do, he already interrupted at the mention of gamification. In his opinion, gamification is not compatible with our company’s philosophy because gamification “targets the manipulation of the behaviour of people” and our philosophy is very based on individual freedom and self-responsability.

This led me to tell you about…

The two sides of gamification

I think of gamification as the jedi do of the force:

There is a light side and a dark side.

Let’s start with the temptations of the dark side:

Gamification Ethics (by Kes Sampanthar)

Gamification Ethics (by Kes Sampanthar)

  • You would never do a task like this if you were not paid for.
  • Let the players feel a pressure to play or get them addicted of the game.
  • The problem you try to solve by using gamification is only a symptom of an organisational or social disease that you will never heal.
  • You just add points and badges and that’s the magic that makes everybody happy (ever heard of the Cargo Cult?)
  • Manipulation of the ethical conscience of the players.
  • Gamification for gamification and as a religion to make everyone believe in your strategy.
  • If you can think of more darkness, share your ideas by commenting here please. Thx!

Now the light side:

A powerful light shines in the dark.

A powerful light shines in the dark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • You can support the players by immediate feedback about their recent work instead of demotivating them with a “What the hell did you do?!” after two weeks of hard work.
  • You can support the players by creating a transparent skill board so that they can see, where their strengths and weaknesses are.
  • You can support the players building a team and creating a good team atmosphere by creating a transparent team-wide progress board to show them what they achieve together.
  • You can let your players elect a “senat of players” by which they can decide about changes made to the rules and game design.
  • There are transparent and precise rules and a code of conduct for both players and quest/game-designer so that you work together more transparent and objective.
  • Your players will always know what they already achieved and will be more self-confident.
  • Players can motivate themselves and support themselves reaching their aims.

Conclusion and perspective

Gamma - The light side of Gamification

Gamma – The light side of Gamification

In my opinion, the dark side is tempting because it is easier to implement and you don’t need to worry about the players, you can simply see them as a black box giving you money or work time.

But as always easy and fast success, especially if it is reached by manipulation, is not the long-term winner. So if you are really serious about gamification, please think about what players get back for investing their time in using your gamified application and stay on the light side. Never said it were easy, but your players will feel at ease and there will be a healthy, continuous progess and growth.

With gamma, I will try to implement the light side for employees, so that your boss can design a quest and by reaching a certain level, you can design quests for your colleagues. You will get skill points and experience points depending on the quests you completed and can apply for quests.

Comments and questions are appreciated very much!

Hope I can open my boss’ eyes for the light side…

And never forget: May the force be with you!